Job hunting in Medellin and Bogota

After trying Mexico City, San Jose in Costa Rica, looking at the map of South America, I considered “Brazil, Chile and Colombia”.

But taking into account that my portuguese brazilian was an absolute zero level and that I would prefer a tropical country, Colombia stood out. Also for the reason that I knew the place from previous travels.

Medellin was the most appealing place given it’s climate, people, culture, transport, and safety, this is the reasons why I targeted this city. But although Paisas (people from Medelin) will welcome you with open arms and are extremely friendly and social, trying to find work here is a complete different story.

Medellin

 

Having my TEFL in hand I looked in two directions : teaching languages, and working within the advertising-marketing field.

On the teaching field, I have tried the following for both French and English :

  • University teaching
  • private institute
  • private teaching 1 to 1

My conclusions are the following:

To teach in a university you will usually need a license in the language you want to teach. And, you will need a working visa upfront. (knowing that you can get a working visa only when you have you contract signed, this made no sense).

Teaching in private institutes pays peanuts, if you expect to be able to live comfortably with roughly 1 mio pesos (500 dollars) a month. You’d better go back home and come back on holiday, unless you want to live in a very modest situation. FYI the minimum salary in Colombia is set at 600’000 pesos.

Some do pay better than others obviously, then it depends a lot on when you apply and if they have any vacancy.

Teaching private 1 to 1 became extremely frustrating, because you cannot count on people. After meeting the student (who called me initially because he/she needs some private course), and having set a first course. They just don’t show up, not even writing a text message or calling because they may have something unexpected. I don’t know if this is cultural, but it even happened with the most willing students, so after 5-6 examples I just gave up, tired to prepare courses for unreliable people.

Looking for work in the marketing – advertising field became quite constrained, while most of the international advertising agencies with such clients are in Bogota, but some of them may have an office in Medellin.

I also realized that Medellin is an extremely regionalist place, where companies would only hire people from Medellin. Even people from Bogota will have a hard time getting a job there. So, being a foreigner doesn’t really help much. I managed to get a few interviews, but nothing concrete leading to a proper job offer.

After loosing patience and hope in Medellin, I decided to try my chance in Bogota.

Bogota is definitely not as a appealing as Medellin in terms of place to live, security and climate, but, in terms of work opportunities, this is the place! And even if as a tourist it’s not a big destination, it’s more a city to live and experience.

What also appeals me a lot is that Bogota is only at 1h30 flight from the Amazon, 1h30 from the Caribbean. So given all the long week ends that exists on the Colombian Calendar, this is a great place to be.

Bogota

My experience so far has been a good balance between interviews leading to a proper job offer and some interviews where people were “interested in getting to know me”, which was nice and friendly, but didn’t help me much to get a job.

I also realized that there is almost no foreigner in the big advertising agencies of Bogota, or just a few from the nearest latin countries. So having a Swiss guy knocking at their door is of course, out of the ordinary and creates interest.

Whereas the Candelaria is a good spot for 2-3 days as a tourist, it’s also the center where by night it becomes insecure and full of poor people opening the garbage to try to find some food rests. So the main business center remains close-by to the more upcoming and trendy neighborhood where you will find all the bars and expensive restaurants. And also, nice apartments in a safe and clean area.

So it’s been a month that I am in interview’s process, it does take time and it’s sometimes difficult to “read” the potential employer and be sure of their intention.

Aside of this I quickly realized and heard that corruption, although it’s not something you see, remains strong and very present also in the process of getting a job. That’s why having a few contacts, definitely helps.

I am now roughly living my last attempts, because truth is, money doesn’t fall from the sky.

To be (hopefully) continued…