While teaching may not be your thing, it’s a flexible job that can combines with other ventures. In fact, both Cat and Hayley work full-time in language academies, but also have found the time to start COMO (as well as drink our fare share of beers together).
This week’s Careers spotlight features Claire, an American whose love of language and background in journalism made her not only a good teacher, but a great translator. She’s recently launched her own translation agency in Málaga while continuing to work as a teacher, and offers sound advice on shifting careers and following your passions:
Name: Claire Conrad
City and Comunidad: Málaga, Andalucía
Job Title: Translator
Why did you initially come to Spain?
I first came to Spain for 8 months as a language assistant after graduating from University in the US. I wanted to improve my Spanish before returning to work or going back to school in the States. But, life got in the way and my 8-month teaching gig has turned into five years! I found that I was very happy living here. Also, in my first year here I met my partner and I really didn’t want to leave the life I was starting. So, after three years of renewals as a language assistant, I found work as an English teacher outside the language assistant program, but I have never considered teaching my long-term goal.
How did you transition into your current position?
I love languages and I’ve worked very diligently on learning Spanish since my arrival in the country. After lots of hours of studying and living daily life in Spanish, I passed the C2 DELE exam, which certifies a near-native level. I then started to consider translation.
I had helped friends and students translate documents and really liked it – it’s like a crossword puzzle. I looked into getting trained as a translator and found an online Master’s from the University of Córdoba. I liked the program because it fit with my work schedule and is an accredited program from a public University. When I finished, I started setting up a website and working on getting the word out.
What was the interview process like?
As I am setting up my own business, so thankfully there wasn’t one.
How are you legally working in Spain?
My partner is Spanish and we did pareja de hecho, which allows you to work and live in Spain for five years and is then renewable.
How does working in your field in Spain differ from your home country?
In the US it’s very easy for a person with a University degree, particularly a degree in the liberal arts like mine, to change careers. In my case, I studied journalism and Latin American studies and would have had no problem finding a job at an international organization in communications, at an NGO or any number of other companies. In Spain, if you have a degree in a certain field, such as journalism, you cannot look for work in other fields. Many see English speakers as a one-trick pony and don’t realize the advantages of having a person with a background in writing, critical thinking, problem solving and languages, as companies in the US do. I find that very difficult and frustrating. Therefore, I am starting my own business to be able to do what I want to do.
Salaries in Spain, particularly since the economic crisis, are a fraction of what you make in the United States as well, so saving is hard.
Translation is also difficult for non-EU members as we are not eligible to become certified sworn translators. One of the requirements is to be a citizen of an EU country. As a non-citizen but a permanent resident, it is frustrating not being able to access this part of the translation market.
What has been the hardest part of working or starting your own business in Spain?
I have worked as an autónoma before and the amount of taxes you must pay makes it very difficult to get started. Though they offer discounts for first-time self employed people and for young people, the monthly costs of just being able to do business is often several hundred euros.
The hefty taxes combined with Spain’s never-ending paperwork headache can make starting a business a challenging, particularly in the beginning when you’re not sure how much income you’ll be able to generate. I’m hoping to transition into translation full-time in the next year or two, but for the moment I’m keeping my teaching job until I’m sure I can make it!
Any advice for non-EU citizens seeking a job outside of teaching?
I was dissatisfied with my career for a long time but felt afraid to look for other options. When I was thinking of career possibilities, I wasn’t sure that I was making a good choice. After discussing possibilities with my family and my partner’s family, they essentially told me that my choice doesn’t have to be the perfect, but simply good enough. Any move forward was good.
I would tell anyone who is looking for a job outside of teaching to do your homework on what you want to do, but when you make a decision to be fearless and to run down your dream career with everything you’ve got. You may be afraid to make a career change in a bad economy or leave a secure job with a steady paycheck, but don’t let your fears dictate your future.
What are your plans for the future? Will you stay in Spain?
I plan to stay in Spain. My partner and I are fortunate to both be working and I wouldn’t change my long, sunny, Sunday lunches or a drive down the coast!
Claire has just begun her company, and you can find her site at Conrad Translations.