Looking for a job in Spain? Start by forgetting the employment pages

Networking is 80% of the work, say the experts who advise graduates on kick-starting their careers

Ana Torres Menárguez

Spaniards are barking up the wrong tree when it comes to finding work, say the experts. Sending a CV out to dozens of companies may have worked 20 years ago, but no longer. It’s still what most people do, though, say the experts, despite their advice that the key to finding that dream job lies in creating a good network of contacts and then accessing companies through them.

“Most graduates spend 80% of their time looking at job offers and sending off their CV, dedicating just 20% to making contacts. What works is exactly the opposite,” says Carolyn Magnani, career advisor at Lausanne University, Switzerland.

The experts suggest contacting employees from companies through social media platforms such as LinkedIn

Magnani suggests contacting employees from companies they’re interested in through social media platforms such as LinkedIn, allowing them to find out about the selection process and share information.

“I’m not saying they should contact the company’s CEO, but they should be looking for profiles similar to their own in a similar age bracket. If they make contact with 10, at least two will reply,” says Magnani, who also works with students on Skype for Ivy Educational Services.

Networking should be incorporated into a jobseeker’s daily routine after they’ve established an online identity reflecting their experience, skills and references. It’s also a good idea to attend events related to their field of interest.

“They shouldn't be embarrassed to admit they are looking for work. The more people who know, the more likely it is that someone will recommend them for a job,” advises Magnani.

Nowadays, in a job market saturated with graduates, some kind of recommendation is essential, says Rich Grant, a career advisor at Southern New Hampshire University in the United States. “The job is there, you know the job description, you have the email address to send your CV to, and you can almost smell the office, but nowadays to open the doors to the job market you need a code,” he writes on a LinkedIn post. “What's the code? People, your network contacts, you have to find someone inside. Companies take on people, not pieces of paper.”

Be prepared

Assuming candidates have cracked the door code, they will be expected to have worked on their personal profiles and to be able to discuss the skills and experience they’ve picked up outside university. “It’s responsible for 90% of the outcome,” says Magnani. “It doesn't matter what they’re asked, they have to know how to project themselves.”

The stumbling block for most graduates is talking about their opinions and responding to questions that reveal who they are. “They don’t know who they are because they have not been taught that in school; they find it hard to express themselves,” says Magnani.

Top tips for finding work

1. Decide where you want to work. Make a list of jobs that match your training and experience.

2. Tell all your acquaintances that you’re looking for work. You never know when something might come up. Explain in detail what you have to offer a company. Make use of any opportunity to network.

3. Search for companies in your field. Don’t wait for opportunities to come your way; go out and look for them. Go online and identify the companies that match your profile. Websites such as Glassdoor have information on new trends in the job market. Find out how relevant what you’re offering is and what opportunities are open to you.

4. Make an impact with your CV. Think hard about who you’re sending it to before you sit down to write it. A CV doesn’t need to list all your work experience; it should reflect your achievements and highlight the work experience most relevant to the job you are applying for. Voluntary work and periods abroad show independence, initiative and responsibility.

5. Prepare for your job interview. Don’t be scared to let the company you’re applying to know who you are. Tell them about your strengths and how they would benefit from taking you on board.

Drawing up a good CV, writing letters that convey motivation and answering emails the right way are just some of the skills instilled by educational coaching – a series of sessions aimed at reinforcing identity and self-confidence.

Over the past five years, companies offering educational coaching for fees of around €180 hour have mushroomed in the United States. “Students are more confused than ever about taking the next step,” says Nicole Oringer, co-owner of Ivy Educational Services, which was set up four years ago in New Jersey. “We help them to identify their strengths and believe in themselves and discover what kind of job would suit them. We also teach strategies for finding work and interview techniques.”

In Spain, this kind of educational coaching is finding its way into both the public and private sectors. The town council of upscale Madrid dormitory town Las Rozas was the first to use it in its free employment guidance service. “The attitude is what counts,” says María Martínez, one of the coaches at Las Rozas, and a former professor at the capital’s privately run Carlos III University. “Overprotection by parents often stops young people from coping with the challenges of the outside world. They have an enormous problem with self-confidence and a fear of expressing themselves.”

She recalls cases of parents doing the university enrollment for their children when she lectured at Carlos III. “They haven’t been taught to take charge of their own lives; that’s what we do here; we fill them with the energy and motivation to find work,” she says.

A survey carried out by California State University  found overprotected students were less able to take decisions

In 2014, a survey carried out by California State University involving 480 students found the more overprotected the student, the less capable they were of taking decisions. One of the most striking findings was how badly adapted young people were to the work environment. To avoid this kind of scenario, the Junior Achievement Foundation, a US organization with a presence in Spain since 2001, organizes workshops in which students role-play work situations. “These young people are completely divorced from the reality of the workplace,” says Laura González, the foundation’s educational psychologist, who has worked with around 500 Spanish educational institutions. “A university education ignores this side of things.”

When the time comes to find work, self-doubt often creeps in. People with little or no experience will ask themselves whether they are good enough to stand out from the crowd or if other candidates are taking a better route.To answer these questions, Madrid’s Complutense University has also set up a coaching service in departments such as education. “They’ve never been asked what their talents are, and perhaps the career advice they received at high school fell short,” says Cristina Jardón, who coordinates a specialist course in coaching and emotional education. “They have to work on their identity because it’s what makes a difference during the interview.”

English version by Heather Galloway.

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