The Buenos Aires Job Hunt

The San Martin Plaza in Buenos Aires.  The statue represents the Job Hunt


First let me introduce myself to the readers of this conversation.  My name is Amos Budde and I am a ´10 graduate of the mathematics department at Brown University.  After graduation, I spent the summer working in Bolivia on an Agricultural school thanks to the International Service Fellowship of the Swearer Center.  I blogged briefly about that experience here at the Global Conversation.
Since the end of that project, I traveled a bit through Argentina and have since moved to Buenos Aires, where I have decided to find a job here or bust, with "bust" meaning a long plane ride back to the United States to look for a job / something to occupy my time for the for the next 1 - 80 years of my life. The city is beautiful, the accent is charming, and the people are fun, so staying was a priority. And I´m already on the continent, so why not give it a shot?
For personal and financial reasons, I gave myself two months to do the Buenos Aires job search, and that was one month ago.  Since that time I calculate that I've spent 2 and a half days of cumulative time on the job hunt, and I've learned plenty about how not to get a job and with that a little bit about how to actually get one, which I want to share with you now. Clearly, the situation will be different for different people in different cities, but there are some universal lessons about working abroad to be learned. First:  Make clear your goals.  Can you afford to be making less than you are spending?  How many hours a day do you want to work?  Do you want to teach?  Is your work there to enable you to live abroad, or do you have professional goals you also want to meet with this job?  With a clear goal in mind, we continue.
 At the outset I had these two main goals: To live in Buenos Aires in with a net-positive (or very close to it) income, and to further my professional goals by getting some research, economic, or business experience.  I also wanted to be living in a way that would allow me to meet people, go to tango classes, and occasionally go out during weeknights.  Thus, teaching English or tutoring was almost out of the question.  Though it would give accomplish all of my secondary goals, it wasn't the professional experience I wanted, nor would it likely fully finance my life here.
 So we've got that cleared up.  How to actually apply for jobs that I find?  Here are some methods that typically don't work:

  • Applying for a real job.  And by that I mean, if you want a job that will pay you to come into an office or office-like environment, applying for it is not the way to go.  The reason being is that they will never respond to you, which limits second-round interviews substantially.
  • Trolling websites.
  • Asking people you know who work in the city about openings.  They just don´t really know stuff.  But hey, you could get lucky?

Use the following to your advantage:

  • Craigslist.  I got a surprising number of positive responses from employers on Craigslist.  The jobs were not the best, but people who post on CL generally are looking for skilled English speakers.  Go figure.
  • A willingness to work for little or free.  If that describes you, yay!  You will not have much of a problem finding work.
  • An Ivy League Diploma.  It's terrible that potential job opportunities are so much easier to come by based on my qualifications in HIGH SCHOOL to get into Brown, but that's the way life is.  People recognized the title, and I got a good number of interviews that way.
  • You Speak English.  Everybody wants to learn English.  You will have to be a bit of a self-starter, since this requires motivation and networking.  As I explained, tutoring English was not really an option for me, but it can be done.  Do it with a company and they will
  • Any particular skills you have, the most specific, the better.  For a company to either take the risk of hiring you under the table or to embark on the immense task of getting you a work visa, you need to show to them that only you and not any of the thousands of local unemployed college graduates can do this work.

And finally, the golden rule for finding a job in a city abroad

  • Talk to people in your field.  Search them out personally.  Use LinkedIn, or find people with emails addresses at the company in which you want to work and just ask them to sit down and talk with you for a while about the field.  It will put you in contact with other people in the field, and sooner or later, something may materialize.

In conclusion: find your niche and network network network.
I recently got a job offer from a media consulting company this way.  People told me was impossible to find a decent, not tutoring job in Buenos Aires.  I knew that I had a particular research skill, namely using GIS software, and I wanted experience working with it.  I did a LinkedIn search, found a guy who had "GIS Specialist" on his page, and sent him an email asking him all about the GIS world in Buenos Aires, attaching my most recent GIS research paper.  Without responding to me, he forwarded my paper and interest to a company that he consults for, but no longer wants to work with, basically creating a vacuum of GIS work they need.  
 They emailed me for an interview, and just yesterday I got an offer!  It seemed too easy, especially considering all the hours and hours I spent writing cover letters and tweaking resumes.  But that's my story.
 I hope this Buenos Aires-specific information generalizes for all you expat job hunters out there.  I would love to hear your stories of your attempts or successes to work abroad!  Leave a comment below or add your own story to this conversation.