Trabajo, similarly pronounced as trabaho in Filipino, means work. This is perhaps the word my Spanish friends overhear and somewhat understand most of the time every time Filipinos converge in plazas or cafeterias or when they bump into another kababayan in public transport.
I did not come to Spain to look for trabajo. I came here to study, finish my master’s degree. But like many of my countrymen before me, I eventually found myself lured to the assumed promise of better opportunities of my host country.
My first job in Spain was a weekend work in a three-story house with an elevator outside Barcelona. It was easy: You just stay in the house, don’t let anybody in, heat the lunch and clean the toilet. I got paid 50 euros per weekend. Back then, a euro was equivalent to 70 pesos.
Besides, I had a lot of free time and free food courtesy of the señora. The señora, happy with my work, offered me longer working hours as substitute to her vacationing maid. There I improved my cleaning skills. I find out that vinegar was good to clean glass windows and that fixing a bed was not an easy task.
I imagined how far more taxing the job would be if you were fixing beds at five-star hotels. I also learned to cook my first Spanish cuisine: Tortilla francesa (sounds French but it’s just a regular omelet).
I got another job in another house and then in another. I was lucky to land in a kind of work that is normally reserved for women and it paid well.
I finished my master’s degree while working on the side. Even then, I was not in a hurry to get home to the Philippines. I needed something more challenging.
An opportunity came when the señora of the house I was cleaning that time offered me an administrative work at her real estate company.
I worked there for more than a year before landing another job, which I easily found through the Internet. This was before the slump of the Spanish economy.
My work involved taking care of company logistics like preparing orders, controlling stocks and answering international calls.
And since I still had the time and energy to earn more, I moonlighted as a waiter at a Spanish restaurant. I juggled two jobs for six months.
Then it came to a point that I realized I wanted to try my luck at jobs that provide “equal opportunities” especially toforeigners who graduated from academic institutions in Spain.
Not surprisingly, I went through a series of rejections and realizations. I could not get a job commensurate to my degree. I could not even get a clerical work in an Asian institute operated by Spanish, local universities, NGOs or private companies with human resources headed by locals.
I switched strategies and tried sending applications to international companies. After competing against more than a hundred candidates at an American company, I was rewarded the job of a researcher.
Having the right attitude
Finding trabajo can be hard, wherever you are. It is especially harder to find trabajo in Spain nowadays. An estimated 27 percent of the Spanish working population is said to be unemployed. It is so difficult to find a job that even Spanish nationals are migrating to other countries like Germany, Switzerland, and even to Latin America where many immigrants in Spain come from.
To those who still want to try their luck in Spain, I would recommend that one should have the right attitude, the necessary qualifications and the needed information, just like anywhere else in the world.
Master the Spanish language
You might speak and write perfect English but in Spain, it’s not good enough. Some survive with their English alone but at some point in time, you will need to learn Spanish.
For instance, the researcher job I got required someone who spoke Spanish. Fortunately for me, I speak and write both languages.
Other opportunities include translation work –Spanish to Filipino or vice versa for instance.
Note also that all documents pertaining to immigration, labor laws, job contracts, they are all in Spanish. Believe me, it always pays to learn the local language wherever you find yourself in.
Know the basics in job hunting
If you’re a professional and you claim that you’re a college graduate, show it. If the company asks for a resume in English, send it in English. If it’s a Spanish company, then do as required. If it’s a Spanish company but wants to know your level of English, send them a resume in English.
Remember to make it simple, short and tailor fit to the job. Attach a cover letter as well. If you get a call for an interview, prepare for it.
Beforehand, research about the company and ask questions that show your interest in the job.
Don’t be late.
After the interview, ask for the interviewer’s email then send a letter thanking them for the interview.
Where to find work?
The Internet makes access to information so much easier nowadays. It just takes time, patience and some researching skills.
Visit sites like Infojobs.es. Employment agencies like Manpower, Randstad and Adecco have their websites but you can also drop by their offices to turn in your resume.
Some local government offices can help you search for jobs like in the town hall or Ayuntamiento or the Ministerio de Empleo.
Register here if you are jobless. Registering certifies that you are actively looking for work. They can help you find a job and could save you from losing your job permit.
When you renew your residence card but you are unemployed, you need to get a certificate that proves that you are actively looking for a job.
Participate in various activities in the city, attend Filipino gatherings, talk to people. The Filipino community in Spain is so big that it is impossible not to bump into our kababayans.
Some of our kababayans get a job from another kababayan. I easily got my cleaning job from referrals by other Filipinos.
One Facebook group in Barcelona which used to campaign against the closure of the Philippine Consulate has since become a platform for people to share information about job opportunities and other tips for Filipino immigrants.
Here are more tips:
Start a business – If you are a risk-taker and want to be your own boss, you might also consider starting your own business. Admittedly, there are many businesses that are shutting down nowadays but surprisingly, there are still a few enterprising individuals who are braving the economic climate.
Here are some of the questions to consider:
What kind of business you want to put up?
Who will be your market?
What are you going to offer?
Government offices can help you in this regard especially now that they are promoting the creation of businesses. It is important to have the passion for what you want to do.
This article was first published in the 2nd edition of The Filipino Expat Magazine.
Daniel Infante Tuano has been living in Spain for eight years and recently acquired his Spanish citizenship. He is very active in the Filipino community in Barcelona where he gives free Spanish lessons to kababayans. He is also Barcelona’s correspondent for ABS-CBN Europe. He is one of the editors of Ang Bagong Pilipino, an online magazine for Filipinos in Spain.