The positives and negatives of hustling in Barcelona, plus 5 tips for success when looking for work as an English Speaker.
It can be pretty daunting to pack your life down into a suitcase before moving to the other side of the world, as I did at the start of 2019. To make things interesting, if you’re moving to a place like Barcelona, you can never really be sure of what you’re going to get, especially if you don’t speak any Spanish.
I moved to Spain without a visa or any understanding of the native dialects. While I was trying to get these two roadblocks out of the way, I enrolled into a local maritime college to get some yachting tickets for future job prospects.
One thing you quickly learn while living in Spain is that nothing gets done in a hurry. I ended up with all of the yachting licenses before my residency was approved so, through a friend, I was offered a cash in hand job as a local charter skipper.
Around eight months after the initial application, I received my social security number and immediately commenced the hunt for my first contracted role in Spain. On the same day, I came across a facebook post seeking hospitality professionals for a new restaurant so, I got in contact with the manager and was asked to come in for an interview. Three days after commencing the job hunt, I commenced my first job in Spain, at Barcelona’s Le Leopard Restaurant.
After spending that Christmas in Australia and getting stuck during the lockdown, we were finally able to return to Spain for the following summer in 2020. I thought if I started looking for work around a month out from the flight, I would have more than enough time to land a job before touching down in Barcelona. That was a slight miscalculation on my behalf.
We returned to a ghost town. The streets were empty, stores were closed and the formerly high unemployment rate was just continuing to climb. The tourism and hospitality industry was in forced closure, so I applied for any jobs I could find.
I’d sent over 500 applications before I finally received my first response, an invitation for an interview with an international real estate advisory firm. Four months of job searching had come to an end with a favourable outcome and after just two months in the role, I was also offered a promotion, just in time for Christmas.
You don’t need a high level of Spanish, or any at all, to find a job in Barcelona, just a good attitude, patience and the right to work. In such a multicultural and diverse city, there are always going to be opportunities for English speakers who have a bit of flair or a broad skillset to offer. Read on for the pros and cons of working in the capital of Cataluña.
Positives and Negatives of Hustling in Barcelona.
(+): I’ve genuinely enjoyed cruising through the Mediterranean waters, waiting tables and more recently, managing a sales team, in order to pay the bills. Not only have I learnt so much from this incredible city, there is also a pretty good life on offer with warm weather and close proximity to numerous beaches and other incredible destinations.
There is a large expat community as well as a large startup community which provide many opportunities for those who can utilise social networking.
Aside from the restaurants, bars, hotels and entertainment venues, there are also numerous corporate giants who have recently decided to call Barcelona home, including Amazon, Nestle, Facebook, Volkswagon and PepsiCo, creating a consistent stream of opportunities for English speaking professionals.
(-): Why is Barcelona home to so many call centres, startup companies and now, corporate giants? Spain’s super low wages, of course, along with a few tax incentives.
One of the biggest downsides of living and working in Barcelona is its famously low, minimum wage, contrasted against an inflated rental market. Spending most of your paycheque on rent isn’t fun, but at least everything else is pretty cheap!
Numerous barrios of Barcelona are also known to be very dangerous as the city is plagued by uncontrolled crime and since the death of tourism, anyone is a target for thieves.
Here I talk about my advice for staying safe in Barcelona, as well as the positives and negatives of working in Barcelona.
5 Tips for success when Job Hunting in Barcelona.
There is so much talent in Barcelona and there is also so much competition for work so it is important to follow a few important principles when starting your job search.
The biggest piece of advice I can give is to learn a little bit of Spanish. You don’t have to be fluent but, in such a multicultural city, the need for effective communication skills becomes a lot more important for an organisation so, looking like you are making an effort goes a long way with potential employers.
Market Yourself as Expandable
Focus on your strongest skill(s) when writing your CV but it is important to let prospective employers know that you can expand on this. I got a job driving boats because I could drive the boat, but also because I could look after the guests at the same time. I got a job working in a restaurant because I could wait tables, but also because I could make good coffee. I was working in a sales position but got asked if I wanted to be a manager because I learned the job and now I can help the rest of my team improve.
Have a skill which you would like to focus on, but also diversify and let employers know that you are flexible enough to be a real asset to a rapidly changing environment. There are countless opportunities for sales, marketing and web professionals in the current climate but the tourism and hospitality industry will also open again one day so don’t stress if you don’t feel like there aren’t many options right now.
Be different, or at least interesting! Barcelona is such a diverse place, full of strange and wonderful people. Try to stand out when it comes to who you are and what kind of energy you would bring to a team. Whether it be through sports, the arts, or a quirky hobby, show your potential recruiters why you would be fun to work with.
You never know where your dream job is going to be posted so it’s important to make sure your’e networking at any opportunity you get. Join relevant facebook groups for regular posts about companies who are hiring, as well as networking opportunities with their staff. LinkedIn is also a fantastic place to directly apply for jobs.
Never Give Up
Consistency is key. New jobs are posted every day so make a routine of getting online and sending out your CV’s regularly if you do not want to miss out.
If you are not having any luck then try changing your approach. Make sure your CV looks clean, and interesting, and get someone you know to check it for any ways it could be improved. Start applying for jobs in different industries, through different search engines, or broaden your search through social media. If all else fails, try the old dock-walking approach after printing off a few paper copies, people appreciate the old school.
Be patient though, it does take some time to hear back from employers, especially here in Barcelona. Good things come to those who wait but just keep active and your opportunity will present itself.
The time I’ve spent working here has been an experience and a half. If you are looking to experience life with a mix of fun, chaos, culture and tradition, come spend a summer in Barcelona.
About the author: Harrison has more than five years experience transacting both residential and commercial assets in Australian property markets and is currently the trainer and supervisor of an international sales team based in Barcelona.
If you are looking to start a career in sales, don’t hesitate to get in touch.