Those of you who know me, know exactly how difficult it was to find an appartment in Barcelona. It was not once that I have heard them say – ¨There are two Marias¨, basically the BEFORE and AFTER versions, which would look something like this:
A living HELL!
Yet that was nothing in comparison to finding a job in Barcelona. I have been looking for a job in Barcelona, Spain for the past 4 months, starting while I was still studying. Although you might consider this is not such a long period, when you are young and ambitious (as I pride myself to be) I want it all and I want it NOW! This is why after all the effort and research that I have put I do consider myself a sort of an expert on the topic of how to get employed in Barcelona. Moreover, as I currently work in a recruitment company called Talent Search People, I have come to see many many talented people with qualifications and knowledge who have been bumping their heads into the same wall as I have.
I have prepared a killer CV (well, at least with what I had to offer) and I started sending it around to companies in Spain. As my Spanish still needs to be upgraded to convincing, I felt much more comfortable writing my CV and motivation in English, so that I can express myself well and defend my case, right? WRONG! A big part of the spainish population are still struggling with foreign language mainly because of their recent history. Moreso, in Catalunya where the people are already bilingual and some feel enough is enough. Thus, the chance of your CV ending up with someone who does not speak English (the secretary in an office, the intern who just started sorting out the mail, or any other employee´s email that you found online) and your letter will never be understood to be transfered to the relevant person. It is not because they do not appreciate your knowledge that you remain unnoticed, it is simply because they do not understand you. As you are in the position of asking for something, you are the one who will have to adjust and it is not that scary.
Ask a local friend to take a look at your CV and to translate it in Spanish (as much as a Catalan CV would be appreciated, you can never be sure it will end up in the hands of someone who speaks it, while Spanish is considered in most places the official language for dealing with external communicaitons).
While writing your motivation letter try to pinpoint exactly your Unique Selling Points (USP). These are what would answer the only question that the recruiter or HR would ask themselves to give you a job in Barcelona – ¨Why should I invest my time (and remember TIME = MONEY in business) in this professional?¨ As much as we would all like to believe it, we are hardly unique. Except if you have not specialized in a very peculiar area – astrophisics, for example, there are hundreds of CVs with similar profiles like your own. Especially since we are talking about a country with a very serious unemployment rate at the moment. Luckily, this is not a reason for dispair, rather, it is a reason to bring up your creativity and to make your brilliant mind work in your favor.
Next define very well the types of companies you might want to apply to. Sending 500 CVs is worth nothing if they are not targeted to the right recepient. There are many big international companies in Barcelona where the official languages are English and/or French. So with an limited knowledge of Spanish, those would probably be your top choices, right? WRONG!
These would be the choices of all your competition and you will have a minimal chance to stand out in the crowd.
Rather, spend a month or two building up some Spanish (or Catalan, yet be aware that you´re risking with it in an innitial stage. Mind you it will be invaluable once you find a job, so keep it on your To-Do list). Once you are able to give a brief presentation of yourself start looking into SME for jobs. These are the companies with huge hunger for foreigners with profound knowledge of different languages. There are recruitment companies focused on looking exclusively for such profiles. All an SME will ask of you is that you have some knowledge of the local language to get around in the office. They are much more willing to tolerate low local language, since you would be put in charge of maintaining the communications, winning new customers and increasing sales internationally, and that value is irreplacale.
Next thing, once you have the type and possibly some names of the companies you want to go, you research their websites and once you have found their email you send them your CV, right? (guess) WRONG!
After pinpointing which company you want to apply to, put a face to the company. Find a person who works there and start talking to them.
Having the inside knowledge is always irreplacable. I mainly use some social networks to find the people I am interested to talk to. I am impressed by Linked In because everyone I have contacted has been unbelievably helpful and supportive with advice, directions, other contacts, information, materials, etc. I was not prepared for such a positive reaction. I was prepared, from what I had already been through when I sent all those 500 CVs to companies, that I will get a response or two, saying that they are not interested. Yet, I had an unexpected success. Professionals in Barcelona are open to communications as long as you deliver it in the right manner. We have a saying in Bulgaria about going too fast, ¨that someone has just entered the door and you are already trying to hold them by the legs¨. Present yourself and just say that you are interested in the area that they are working in and since you have been looking to enter the same field any advice from a professional would be priceless. Once you get talking, if you manage to impress them they would themselves ask you to send them your CV, or would refer you to their HR department, but think about it, which sounds better to start a request for job letter:
¨Dear Sir/Madam, I am a recent graduate who just moved to Barcelona and I am looking for a job¨
¨Dear Ms. Smith, Thank you very much for the valuable advice on XYZ topic. It is always eye-opening to talk to a professional who has been working in the field. As discussed, I am attaching my CV so you can have a better idea of my knowledge and experience… I am looking forward to your reply. Meanwhile, I will stay alert for any useful information on XYZ topic that I believe you could find intersting. I hope that we can stay in touch¨
Obviously the second one – it is addressed to a person, not an information center; it is reaching a real person who already knows you; it is refering to their own request for your CV; it discusses information useful to the receiver; you already know one thinkg (XYZ) which will help you relate to the person and maintain the connection.
Now, as good your CV is and as strong contacts you might have build, there will be people saying No to you. There are numerous reasons for that but none of them are just because they are evil aliens which do not care about you at all. Rather, it is because there is no real possibility to find something useful for you to do in this specific moment. But as we know, that is no reason for dispair (now go back and look at the BEFORE photo, looks familiar, no?). So moving forward, lets find another company to conquer, right? WRONG! (*OK OK, sorta right*)
Never lose contact with the people you have been talking to! They already have an impression of you that you MUST maintain.
There is no job for you today. There will also probably not be one next month… or next six months, but always consider this – these people have spent some of their time talking to you and answering to your needs. These people have tried to help. These people have trusted you enough to take in your request. You have built up a relationship with those people. These reasons should be enough to realize that although your primary priority is to finding a job, a decendent priority from that is to guard any opportunity that you might have had or you might have. Here is one thing to consider these people also have friends and colleagues in other companies. They could easily recommand you, refer you to other people or invite you to events. But they will NEVER be able to do that if they do not remember that you exist. Thus, stay on top of things and talk to your contacts as much as possible. Depending on the situation request to meet in person. Refer valuable information to them. And NEVER give their personal contacts to a third party. Your friends are also intelligent and they can find their way through. If you really think that such a contact will be valuable first talk to your professional and suggest that may be you could introduce them to someone with valuable experience in ABC, or who has been working for JKL, yet do not give your friends personal contacts that you have not been explicitly permitted to.
I will tell you my story in the next post since this blog came out too long.
But this is just an outline of what would be a MUST in finding jobs in Barcelona, Spain. As I have said with my job now in the Recruitment agency, Talent Search People, I have come to realize that there are many people who still need a bit of guidance.