No, not every Juan teaches English in Spain. As the country’s industry begins to pick up after financial crisis, entrepreneurs are turning ideas into companies, making it far easier to find opportunities outside the classroom.
Our newest COMO series, Careers in Spain, will feature expats who are not teachers and working successfully in all corners of Spain.
First up is Kate, an enthusiastic American who came to Spain to be a language and culture assistant. After deciding that teaching wasn’t for her, she landed a job in PR and Media at a start-up in Seville, and now works from home with a London-based company, splitting her time between oceanside Sanlúcar la Barrameda and the UK.
Your Name: Kate Shoaf
City and Comunidad: Sanlucar de Barrameda, Cádiz
Job Title: Campaign Team Manager/Social Media Manager at Fabrily
Why did you initially come to Spain?
After graduation I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life and decided to go abroad for a year. I participated in the auxiliaries de conversacion program and got placed in Sanlúcar de Barrameda. I worked at a public primary school with the program and offered private English classes on the side for extra income.
How did you transition into your current position?
I got placed in Seville my second year in the program, however a girl who had taught at my school before told me that the school wouldn’t be able to pay me until January… I didn’t have enough funds to live in Seville for five months without pay, so I explored other job options.
My friend was a manager for an app developer based in Seville and told me they were looking for an American/UK intern. I sent in my application and was brought in for an interview.
What was the interview process like?
The interview was a little difficult; my Spanish wasn’t as good as it is now, and I wasn’t accustomed to the accent in Seville (even though they spoke more clearly than the people I knew in Sanlúcar!). It was more of an informal chat and overview of my resume. Overall it went well and I was offered the position. Eventually I became the Public Relations and Communications Manager for the company.
How are you legally working in Spain?
My fiancé and I did pareja de hecho which is like a civil union. It’s not too complicated to do (in Cádiz anyways) and I’m legally able to live and work anywhere within the EU for five years. We’re getting married this year, so I’ll apply for citizenship after that.
How does working in your field in Spain differ from your home country as far as culture, pay and hours?
When I started working in Seville I noticed the working environment was much more relaxed. We regularly had parties at the office (with alcohol) and everyone socialized outside of work too. My hours were pretty standard compared to the US, 9am – 6pm with an hour break for lunch. The pay was average for an entry-level position at a company. Had I stayed longer, they most likely would have increased my salary each year as they did with other employees.
What has been the hardest part of working in Spain?
I would say the language barrier is the hardest part. Sometimes people don’t understand what you mean or vice versa; you really have to make an effort to communicate efficiently with your colleagues and clients. I’m also a very plan-oriented person and sometimes staying on schedule wasn’t the biggest priority for other people at my company, which was something I had to learn to accept.
Any advice for non-EU citizens seeking a job outside of teaching?
Make local friends and network! All of the great job opportunities I’ve come across were because I knew someone who knew someone. You can have a killer resume, but if you don’t have any connections it’s difficult to land a good job.
What are your plans for the future? Will you stay in Spain?
After living in Seville for over a year I decided to move back to Sanlúcar and explore opportunities in the tourism industry; I have my real estate license and my family works in the Florida tourism industry, so it’s something I’ve been interested in for some time.
However, soon after arriving to Sanlúcar I was offered a position at a new startup company in London named Fabrily (someone I met in Seville was part of this new company and contacted me to see if I was interested in the position – again with the connections!). I currently work from my home in Spain and commute to London every few weeks. I just celebrated my one-year anniversary at Fabrily and in the same month our company was acquired by one of the largest custom apparel platforms in the world.
As far as what the future holds, I definitely plan to stay in Spain…there’s no place I’d rather be!
Stay tuned as we feature more expats who have made a successful transition from teacher to trabajador! If you fit the bill and would like to be featured, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org!