Where there’s a will there is very much a way, as is evidenced by Stacey’s Spain story. Her advice for moving out of teaching and into the Spanish working world? List your skills, research your market and don’t look back.
Your Name: Stacey Taylor
City and Comunidad: Madrid, Spain
Job Title: Digital Marketing – SEO/SEM Assistant
Why did you initially come to Spain?
I initially came to Spain as a study abroad student, once in high school in 2003 and again my final year of university in 2007. After meeting some incredible EFL teachers during my studies in Sevilla, plus the meeting of a special someone during my time in Madrid, I decided to make the leap and move to Spain to teach English and figure out my “adult” life overseas.
How did you transition into your current position?
I taught in language academies for four years and then transitioned into the world of private primary school teaching. I was a full-time teacher and really loved my students but sadly was not very happy with the way the Spanish private schools treated their employees, especially their foreign employees. For some reason or another they decided to let me go, sadly on the last day of school and without letting me say goodbye to my students.
I used my unemployment benefits over the summer while I did some soul searching. I realized maybe I didn’t want to teach anymore, or at least not in Spain. I wrote a list of all of my other past job experience, skills and things that I thought I would love to do and began to hunt like crazy for those types of positions. I actually almost didn’t even apply for my current position in Digital Marketing. In the end, I found my job on LinkedIn and they chose me! So now I am adapting to my first office job ever and learning new skills which I hope will help me in the future.
What was the interview process like?
The interview process was a bit crazy as it was happening in the middle of the summer and the department was moving to another office. I had my initial interview in English and Spanish with the person whose position I would be taking over, along with the manager. I was asked to take a short test, mostly based on the basic skills that would be needed for the position. Several days later, I was sent an email confirming that they wanted me to meet with the director of the department, but that I would have to wait almost a month since he was on vacation. After meeting with the Director for the final interview I received a phone call one afternoon confirming that I had been chosen for the position. Two weeks later I began working with them. All in all it was a 2 month process.
How are you legally working in Spain?
I was “irregular” aka illegal for 4 and a half years and was able to get a working permit and temporary residency thanks to a process called Social Integration or Arriago Social that the Spanish government has for foreigners who want to regularize their situation in Spain by proving they have been integrated in Spanish society for at least 3 years. For more info on the process read here.
How does working in your field in Spain differ from your home country?
From what I know via online research, my pay is a lot less than what I would make and my hours are a lot more compared to what I would work in the USA. What I can tell you about work culture is that my office is quite “typically Spanish.” We work from 9am-2pm and from 4pm to 7pm with a mandatory 2 hour lunch break. In general, almost all of the workers hate it, except for the bosses who find it very convenient to come back to the office in the afternoon and find us all here. There are also several workers who are all about the Spanish presentismo or “keeping the seat warm,” basically coming early and leaving later to show the boss how hardworking you are even though you aren’t doing much of anything related to work itself.
As this is my first office job ever, I am taking it with a grain of salt, but I do know now why many young Spaniards are going to other countries to find work. Right now I am using this as an opportunity for experience and training. I truly believe there are better schedules and work cultures in Spain, especially in Madrid. I am just waiting to begin my hunt for the next chapter of my professional transition.
What has been the hardest part of working or starting your own business in Spain?
For me the hardest part of working in Spain (outside of teaching) has gone from being on my feet all day and moving around the city to different classes and students to being centralized to one location. I sit for 8 hours a day and working with the same people and yet spend most of the day not speaking to anyone and just working on my computer. As someone who is extremely sociable and who likes flexibility, this is still an issue I am dealing with on a daily basis. I also hate the Spanish 2 hour lunch break, but I am trying to do my best to look on the brighter side of that downside in my schedule.
Any advice for non-EU citizens seeking a job outside of teaching?
I would think of all of the skills you have either from your past work experience or hobbies and start putting yourself out there. Definitely while teaching, try to volunteer, work on a project, get an internship, take an online course or take a presential one (education training is pretty affordable in Spain).
Make sure you have an advanced level of Spanish. It will be very difficult for you to work solely in English – even in a big city like Madrid. The more languages and skills you have the better off you will be when it is time for you to transition. And remember: you most likely won’t make a killing but if you ever do go back to your home country you will have this work experience on your CV/Resume.
What are your plans for the future? Will you stay in Spain?
Right now I will most likely stay in Spain. As an only child, I know the time will come for me to go back to the US and deal with family matters when they arise. I want to gain as much training and experience here as possible. As for my future professional career, I am currently getting trained in Digital Marketing but I have a lot of other ideas and interests and I feel like my generation will be constantly redefining who we are as professionals. I know that at some point in my life I will own my own business or go freelance. What I know to be true is that I love waking up and getting to do something new each day, something meaningful to society and going to a job where no two days are the same.
Stacey is also an avid blogger and music fan, and pulls her two interests together on her personal page, La Guiri Habla.
Stay tuned as we feature more expats who have made a successful transition from teacher to trabajador, or check out profiles from past participants. If you fit the bill and would like to be featured, drop us a line at email@example.com