The job market in Spain is still one of the toughest in Europe with 20% unemployment rate (2016), in fact it’s the 2nd worst country right now after Greece. This doesn’t stop expats from wanting to live the Spanish Mediterranean lifestyle. Here are 9 things that will help you find a job in Spain. Read what no one tells you before moving to Spain.
The good news is,
you will always find a job if you speak several languages or if you’re an English, German or French native. However, this may not be what you originally trained for. Times are tough and you have to adapt to the job market: you may have to start with a badly paid position or in a call centre until you find something better.
The unemployment rate has come down 5% since I first moved here in December 2013 and I have definitely seen improvement with more job openings coming up.
It’s not easy to find a good job but it’s not impossible either.
9 tips to tackle job search in Spain
- Speak Spanish: initially you probably don’t need to speak Spanish but it definitely helps to get employed! Language exchanges are the best way to fix that. 😉 It’s free and you get to make friends.
- The best place to find work as an expat will be Madrid and Barcelona.
- Use LinkedIn and Infojobs – their apps are great, too. Don’t rely too much on head-hunters.
- Find a niche or differentiate yourself to be competitive in your field by:
- Your education: certificates, additional qualifications and experience
- Speaking several languages
- Aiming for international companies.
There are always openings in the IT sector, call centres and online marketing.
- Sell your experience. If you’re planning a career change (which you may have to consider in order to find work) or while studying, start with an internship. It’s not unusual in Spain to work as an intern in your 30s. It allows you to work on your language skills, make contacts and get your foot in the door.
Or start your own business: Barcelona is a start-up hub!
- Build a network. It’s often down to who you know and not how qualified you may be. Most job ads get 300-500 applications; use your network as “enchufe” (bridge person) to get on top of that pile.
- Take whatever you get to start with and ALWAYS keep looking for a better option.
- It’s best to apply from within Spain, it’s way more difficult to get hired from outside of the country.
- Show you’ll stay for a while. I often got asked why I’m here to rule out I wasn’t just in town for the summer.
What you should know before working in Spain
Spain has a great quality of life, especially here in Barcelona with really friendly people, great weather, the sea and the mountains. It would be too good if there wasn’t a downside to it, right? Unfortunately, that’s finding well-paid work. Here’s what to expect:
When working full time you’ll do 40h weeks starting at 9am, with probably 22 days holidays per year. However there’s a huge percentage of people working part time jobs up to 30h per week.
There’s a general tendency of being unorganized at work, newbies won’t get much of an induction but a “just do it” attitude.
The Spanish themselves often say there is an attitude of hanging about longer at work to show their presence but without really doing much. I’ve mostly worked for international companies or as a freelance so I can’t really confirm but I did notice fairly long and frequent coffee and smoking breaks in some Spanish teams. 😉
Reckon on 30-50% less salary than what you would have gotten in countries like Germany, France, or UK. Earning some 30K EUR a year (before tax) in your thirties is good in Spain! (and would probably be embarrassing in other countries) but you’re in for the great weather and sunny beaches, right? 😉
The cost of living is cheaper, yes! You can get a decent flat for 700 EUR (+ charges) or a room in a shared flat for around 400 EUR. Food is much cheaper, too. Though, I always wondered if that’s because Spain is big in GMO food or their extensive use of pesticides? If you want to eat organic, grow your own or spend a fortune!
Minimum salary regulations may be gracefully avoided by calling it an internship, or by hiring you on a freelance basis (as “autónomo”). In fact it’s totally normal for companies to ask you to register as freelance before hiring you to work full time in their office. I’ve had very good and some not so good examples of that.
It’s not uncommon to see more interns than permanent staff in marketing teams. Many companies will try to prolong the internship contract for as long as they can take advantage of university conventions before offering a contract (if at all – small companies might even offer to work black for them!)
In Barcelona many locals rely on only one safe salary per household with just over 1000 EUR a month net. Many people I know here never go away for their holiday: one salary won’t allow for huge trips for two. Being self-employed or having your own company doesn’t leave you time to switch off either. The competition never sleeps – if you’re not available right away, someone else will take your slot.
As a multilingual skilled expat you’ll probably be a bit luckier. But as a couple it’s likely that one of you is only working part time, doing something they don’t like or looking for a better job. Sometimes they´ll find a great job, but it’s probably a limited contract or the boss might be under so much pressure that their insecurity turns them into a control freak to make an “indefinido” (or unlimited contract) hell for you.
In other words you’ll always find something, but you may have to keep looking…
Good luck with your job search! Please share your experience in the comments below.
You’d like to read more about working abroad? Read 4 insights into overseas work mentalities.