How to Get a Job in Spain: Nine Tips for Working in Spain as an American

It’s better to rip off the Band-Aid, so here goes: getting gainful employment when you don’t hold an EU passport can be difficult, though not impossible. Spain is slowly emerging from a half-decade financial crisis, and the market is opening for several sectors.

It’s a common misconception that teaching English is the only job you can get in Spain. While it certainly is a surefire way to make a paycheck and, hell, we do it, there are other jobs for the ambitious expat in the files of IT, customer care, marketing and social media, and even health care.

Even if you’re a pro at job searches, Spain’s job market and the hunt for ‘un curro’ is different than in the US or Canada. Here are our top tips:

 

Move to Bigger Cities in Spain

Barcelona downtown

While living next to the beach in secluded Galicia or joining the expat community near Benidorm might sound appealing, consider heading to a bigger city to work. Many international companies like Ernst & Young, Accenture or GE have international hubs in Madrid and Barcelona, though Costco and Loyola University have set up in Seville this year. Bilbao is also a heavy industrial city, and Málaga’s expat community is buzzing with jobs in tourism.

If your current company has offices in Iberia, start learning español and talking to your superiors.

Barcelona Skyline

Prepare a European-style CV

Though you may have your resume perfected, you’ll want to adjust your experience and add any pertinent courses or even if you poses a driver’s license to your Euro-style CV.

If you’re looking for examples for formatting or word-choice check out the Europass template. Simply input your personal information and work history, and you’ll have a PDF made in less time than it takes you to make a tortilla española. 

Put a color photo of yourself on your new European CV

European CV example

European CV example

Another thing that is striking about European resumes is that they often ask for a color photo to be pasted to the top right-hand corner. Awkward, sure, but if you don’t attach it right away, you’ll be asked to send one to HR anyway. These photos should be carné size (European standard passport size) of your face and shoulders with a white background.

 

It’s all about networking in Spain

You may be used to nepotism in the workplace but Spain takes it to a new level with enchufe. Literally meaning to plug something in, in Spain it’s a metaphor for having connections, most usually in the work world.

I've organized a Spanish networking group to help people find jobs in Spain

I’ve organized a Spanish networking group to help people find jobs in Spain

Spain is regretfully rather infamous for hiring candidates based on their professional connections and word-of-mouth, rather than on merit. Get an edge in by amping up your LinkedIn game – join in on professional discussions in your field, following businesses with a strong presence in Spain and ask people to endorse you. Spain is modernizing quickly to social media and many interviews are offered over LinkedIn, one of Spain’s fastest-growing social networks.

And don’t be afraid to network face-to-face. There are many expat groups active around Spain, from professional women’s networking to social outings to entrepreneur think tanks. Join, get active, and mention that you’re looking for work.

 

Be a Jack- or Jill-of-All-Trades

So, you think you could teach English but need something to supplement your income? Consider marketing a skill you posses for extra euros. You could freelance write or translate, tutor [Turner side note – English copy-editing as well], give yoga classes, or become a tour guide. Spain’s black market is alive and well, and though it won’t give you health benefits or social security, you can support your tapas habit with a bit of creativity.

 

Working restaurants part-time in Spain can help float you while you look for a job

Working restaurants part-time in Spain can help float you while you look for a job

In fact, it’s common for Spaniards (and expats) to do more than one thing to make it to the end of the month. This may mean less siesta, but more cash.

 

Be a Highly Skilled Worker or an Entrepreneur on your Spanish Visa application

Believe it or not, Spain is one of the leading countries in medicine, solar and wind power and oil. That’s good news for highly skilled workers  who have more of a chance of a visa and gainful (if not lucrative) employment.

The company that wants to hire you must have at least 250 employees and jump through a number of hoops on your behalf, though if it’s a large enterprise, chances are they’ve got the infrastructure in place and have sponsored other expats in the past.

Entrepreneurship is a hot topic in Spain, with nearly 94,000 new businesses registered in 2013. The federal government enacted a special work permission visa in early 2014 for those looking to create a business to spark employment and revenue.

The biggest catch to the ‘Ley de Emprendedor,’ under which the aforementioned workers fall, is that you have to have been living in Spain for at least a year and register your business plan with the local trade union.

 

Consider keeping your current job and applying for a non-lucrative visa

©iStockphoto, Thinkstock (2)

While working in Spain might sound awesome, people here do work hard and hold weird work hours (though their vacation time is awesome). If you’re concerned about taking a sabbatical, why not apply for a non-lucrative visa to live in Spain, but telecommuting [Turner side note – see Location Independence] to your current job? You get the best of both worlds – an awesome salary with the Spanish lifestyle.

 

Speak Spanish

Cat and Hayley going full Spaniard as expats living and working in Spain

Cat and Hayley going full Spaniard as expats living and working in Spain

This should be a no-brainer: if you’re going to work in Spain, you should know Castillian Spanish. Even an intermediate level will take you far in understanding company culture, your boss or internal company communication. While English is becoming a lingua franca in some of Spain’s bigger cities, it’s still got a long way to go in the South and smaller municipalities. Plus, how will you order a strip steak from the butcher after finishing a big project if you can’t speak any español?

You’ve secured a job. Now what?

Moviing to Spain

Visas and residency are complicated, but we’re here to help. After fighting the law and cutting through miles of red tape, we’ve found ways to live and work in Spain legally for 14 combined years. Our success securing residency and finding a job in the Spanish workforce led us to found COMO Consulting Spain, your one-stop shop for residency, visa and work issues as a non-EU citizen in Spain.

Moving to Spain preview

Plus, we’ve just released an eBook about getting set up in Spain, which covers everything from applying for your residency card to looking for a flat. It’s the resource we would have loved to have when we moved to Spain in 2007. You can buy the book until October 15th for 25% off by entering the promotional code “MoveSpain.” Click here to check out the Moving to Spain E-book.

 

Cat Gaa
cat@comoconsultingspain.com

Cat Gaa left the skyscrapers of Chicago for the olive groves of Southern Spain six years ago, lured away from a job offer by the opportunity to teach English in Seville. When not running a small language academy, she also teaches private classes, does translations and writes for various publications, including her own blog, Sunshine and Siestas

3 Comments
  • Ana
    Posted at 10:33h, 07 October

    Although I won’t deny that most of what you wrote here could be helpful for someone looking for a job in Spain, as a Spaniard I find it kind of insulting. You talk about nepotism and black market as if they were something legit here, and they are not. They exist, of course, but I would dare to say that most Spanish people are strongly against them, so reading how you encourage that kind of behaviour on people coming here is quite outrageous.

  • Turner
    Posted at 10:52h, 07 October

    Hey Ana, Turner here. I am sure Cat Gaa will chime in later as she wrote the article and knows more about Spain than just about any expat I know. I didn’t read the topic of nepotism to be that of embracing it as ‘legit’ or encouraging it. It is a reality. From my working experience everywhere, especially Europe, knowing who’s who and taking the time to network is essential in landing any gig, particularly in a competitive market. Maybe the term ‘nepotism’ in this case has a strong connotation with ‘undeserved’, however, while that maybe the case, I think the idea here is to network with people to increase opportunities.

  • Cat of Sunshine and Siestas
    Posted at 11:47h, 07 October

    Hi Ana, thanks for chiming in. I certainly didn’t mean to imply nepotism, but it IS a reality and those fueling it are, at the heart of it, those who live here. It’s often cheaper to pay a babysitter or nanny to watch a child than send them to a guardería, or pay a native to come to your house and help with English than send a child to an academy and incur the cost of matriculations, materials and the classes themselves. And I believe that enchufe helps people land jobs more than skills do.

    I pay taxes in both countries (yes, in the US for my freelance work) but know plenty of people who work under the table here – and that includes EU citizens. I know many other people who claim in the US while living here to be able to avoid being taxed double, and that is the idea here, not to tell people to move here illegally and work in the black market. It is, however, something that has functioned in Spain for ages, and I don’t see the government stepping in to stop it – not with clases particulares, not with cleaners, not with people who paint your house for extra cash.