How to get a job in Spain

If I knew the answer to this question I wouldn’t be sitting writing this blog…

However, I can share my experience managing to get sponsored for working papers and getting a full-time job in Madrid nine years ago. (Note: the Spanish labor market back in 2006 was definitely a bit different than the current situation with unemployment rates at 8.5% and 24.1% respectively. Getting sponsored to legally work here if you don’t already have EU work permission is very difficult nowadays as companies have to first post the job and then prove that there is no one native in the country that can fill the role. Of course there are ways around this and companies – and people – find loopholes all the time, but it’s not easy.)

Determination, persistence, and patience. These words are key to describe how I managed to find a company that was interested in hiring me and finalize the nine-month process (yes, one could have had a child during that time) to legally work here in Spain. I started investigating when I was still living in the US and thinking about the possibility of moving over here. This was before the days of mass LinkedIn. My advice is to reach out to anyone you might know who could have information or a connection over here. Or just be creative; for me, this meant looking on MySpace for Americans in Madrid who could maybe give me some helpful tips and through a professional organization that I had joined while at my last company. Through this organization I found a company based in Madrid that specialized in user experience consulting, the field that I had worked in for 4 years in Boston. I reached out directly to the CEO and was lucky in that he responded and agreed to meet up with me during an upcoming vacation trip to Madrid. That was my first contact, a quick meeting for him to get to know me and for to explain my future plans. Once I finally did move to Madrid I got in touch again and eventually started working there as an intern until the whole working papers process got underway.

Easier said than done… I think I definitely had a bit of luck in that the company in Madrid happened to be looking for a native english speaker and was in the process of expanding its business. As this was such a specialized role, it just happened to fit perfectly. Before this all worked out, however, I really had no idea if I would be able to work here and tried out a number of different types of work, hence the determination and patience:

Teaching English. This definitely was not the route for me. I think some people just have a natural teaching tendency with patience and a listening ear. I, on the other hand, find it very difficult to hold back a chuckle when I hear a word that is grossly mispronounced (of course the same could be said for my spanish accent, but at least I’m being honest).

– GMAT professor. As it turns out, Kaplan was willing to take me on as a GMAT professor without legal working papers (not sure how that works…). However, as it also turned out, after having suffered and taken the GMAT back in Boston less than a year earlier, I wasn’t loving the idea of reliving all the tricky questions.

International Study Assistant at the Fulbright Commission (internship). Of the three options, this one was by far the best. Interestingly, I found this opportunity through a connection on MySpace who, to this day, I have still not met in person but would like to thank her for sending this my way. The best thing about this job was that it gave me a sense of purpose and daily commitment to start off my time here, as well as a small stipend. And by small, I mean very small. All of a sudden I went from earning a decent American salary to earning 500€/month… This job also was humbling as part of my responsibilities were to answer the phone and field incoming questions. As my level of Spanish left much to be desired at that stage of the game, let’s just say that there were a number of unintentional hang-ups.

In any case, this job served as a great way to start my time over here and as an intro into the Spanish working world (or so I thought, although I would later come to find out that having long coffee and breakfast breaks and strict schedules was not a universal theme in the Spanish working world).

My advice to start out looking for a job in Spain:

1. Do your homework and investigate any possible leads before making the move. Of course the easiest option would be to have a foreign company from your country send you over here, but that’s not an easy option.

2. Be persistent and be prepared for letdowns. I remember knocking on the door of various companies whose work was related to my past work in the US and actually having a few interviews. Unfortunately, as soon as it became clear that I didn’t have working papers and that my Spanish was quite below par, nothing came to be. But without a lot of rejection and humility most things won’t happen.

3. Try out different options. You never know what might work or what contacts you might make.

4. Give yourself a clear timeframe. My plan was to give myself 6 months-1 year max to see if I could find a professional job that was interesting and that made sense for me to stay over here for my CV. If not, it was back to Boston. Of course I had no idea that there would be no end to the timeframe nine years later and counting…

Check out this link for some useful info:

Good luck!

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