The job search process is a challenging task, as it requires full-time dedication. And in a new country, with limited language skills and knowledge of local business customs, it becomes an even greater challenge. However, as people say, seek, and you shall find! Today, I would like to give an overview of the main points that can and should be used when searching for a job in Portugal.
Disclaimer: This article is intended for those who are likely to build their careers in Portugal in a new field or take their old one to a new level, starting from the very first step. The lack of work experience in a Portuguese or other European company often hinders the ability to obtain a more advantageous and highly paid position immediately. This is because the employer is buying a pig in a poke and needs to see you in action first.
- job seekers with no experience working with a foreign employer
- job seekers who do not have any super skills or a sought-after international profession with the possibility of remote work (such as IT, for example)
These recommendations are not suitable for the following people:
- specialists in the field of medicine and education (a separate qualification confirmation procedure and enhanced control).
Following the line of least resistance
So, like in any other country in the world (Portugal is no exception), there is a national diaspora, many members of which arrived long before you did and have managed to establish businesses and business connections. If you need a job urgently, even if it is not highly paid, it is logical to turn to compatriots. Such jobs may include being a kitchen assistant, construction helper, housekeeper, governess, and so on. The absence of a language barrier is already half the battle, and you will also have some time to deal with bureaucracy and household assimilation while having some money in your pocket. Contracts for such jobs are quite rare, mainly because they involve unofficial income or are based on a service contract (recibo verde, as a self-employed person). We will return to this last point later in this article but from a different perspective.
In selecting employment options among fellow countrymen, all methods are good: from searching for job vacancies in groups and chats on social networks to posting your own ad specifying all your strengths and desired job requirements. Surveying acquaintances in person will also not be superfluous. By the way, many people do not want to assimilate and prefer to rely on such cooperation for a long time, or even their whole life, in order to not learn the language and not immerse themselves in a foreign environment.
Hard physical labor without languages proficiency
An article has already been written about this. We won't go into details, but we'll touch on the main points:
- in the spring, summer, and fall, people are recruited for harvesting (berries, olives, chestnuts, etc.) - they usually don't ask who you are and where you're from, and payment is usually given in an envelope. This work can be considered moderately difficult.
- factories and production facilities constantly need both general laborers and loaders, as well as packers, sorters, and other professions that do not require separate qualifications or special communication skills (at the factory, you will most likely be asked for documents proving your status in Portugal and offered a contract), the conditions at the workplace are not resort-like, the work is low-paid and usually physically demanding and shift-based.
- on construction sites, auxiliary workers, or "servents" as they are called here, are almost always needed, and the employer often doesn't care much about documents. The pay is very modest - 5 euros per hour, and the work is physically demanding, which is why Portuguese people refuse to work under such conditions.
Joining the labor market
If you have legal grounds for staying in the country (each person has their own document), then one of the most common ways to get a desired job is to register with the job center - IEFP. In Portugal, in my opinion, it is more like a job fair. You need to go through the verification process. I must say that in specific cases there may be exceptions, but here we will describe the standard practice, so to speak, according to the instructions.
To register, you need a social security number (NISS) - this is mandatory. The initial access to the platform for registering a personal account on the exchange occurs through verification on the Segurança Social Direta portal. To start on IEFPonline, you need to create your profile - fill out a full-scale resume (you won't be able to upload it, everything is filled out online on the website). By the way, here the resume is called a CV or CURRÍCULO, and there are HR communities, CV builders, like Canva, for example, that can help you properly structure and make it more attractive. You can find a lot of information about formatting online, so we won't get distracted by that. Let's assume that we have our CV prepared and we will just be copying information from it to different resources (there will be plenty of places where it will come in handy). So, after successfully navigating the exchange website in Portuguese (the translator often translates nonsense, so you may need to guess what is required in some places), you press the button to confirm/send, and... nothing happens, except for a mocking message stating that your request has been received. This is because an exchange employee will later request scans of your education documents confirmed in Portugal through email.
Here begins a new chapter of your bureaucratic practice in Portugal - the validation of diplomas. However, there is a catch: many (not particularly high-level, but still) job vacancies require only a minimum educational document - incomplete or complete secondary education. Bringing your high school diploma up to the Portuguese standard is much easier than a diploma obtained outside of Portugal, and especially outside of the European Union. It seems like a solution - everything is quick, easy, and wonderful, but tell me, when was the last time you saw your high school diploma? A survey of acquaintances showed that none of them have their high school diploma on hand because usually they forget it in their higher education institution, where it is filed in the archive. Life hack - find or request a duplicate of your high school diploma and go through the simple process of validating it, it may come in handy at the most unexpected moment. If there are no educational documents brought into accordance with the Portuguese system, then in most cases, the process is simply suspended, the office is dead, and you have no access to job vacancies that you could apply for. There may be some other approaches and solutions depending on the human factor on site if you personally visit the employment office, but the general rules are as follows.
If you're lucky enough to complete the registration process, you'll have access to job vacancies, partially paid training, and some other bonuses.
You can seek assistance from CNAIM, which is the National Centre for Immigrant Support. The staff, who speak many languages, provide assistance in negotiations with various institutions, including the employment exchange, assist you in collecting the necessary documents, and provide all kinds of support. However, they do not guarantee employment.
LinkedIn and other relevant resources
LinkedIn is a very popular and effective tool for job searching. It has the ability to change language, an intuitive interface, and a convenient job search engine. It is designed as a standard social network where users can post, follow profiles, message each other, and search for job opportunities.
The registration process won't take much time, but here you will again need to fill out your profile in the form of an online resume (returning to our pre-prepared CV and getting ready to copy). By the way, just like in the profile, a photo is welcomed in the CV as well, preferably a live and positive one, not a passport format.
If you are creating a profile for the first time, it is better to do it in Portuguese with all local contacts attached, or at least in English. The more you work on your business card, the better your chances of success (there is a training section in the application that will help you). Once you have filled out your profile, you can use the search system - by keyword, region, or otherwise - and accordingly respond to the offers you like. You can use the "easy to apply" or candidatura simplificada filter, where there is no need to go to the employer's website to apply (you will have to fill out all sections of the resume again), or you can use your profile as a business card and attach your resume in document format and a cover letter, if required. You can order notifications for specific vacancies, subscribe to companies of interest, view their current vacancies and make a "cold sale" - send your resume on a chance for an assumed but unpublished vacancy.
There are a decent number of both local and international HR agencies (such as Kelly Services), the list of which can be found by searching for "agências de recrutamento" or "recursos humanos" in a search engine. If you are looking for something more appealing in terms of ease of use, search engine results, and the number of job opportunities you are interested in, you can register, post your resume, track job postings, and send applications.
The popular OLX portal has a section for job listings (emprego), which is actually quite effective. The search engine is not as functional, although you can apply filters to narrow down your search. The system for applying to job postings is poorly designed, as you need to call or email the employer, otherwise your efforts may go to waste. However, the platform is lively and functional, and with some skill, it is easy to use. You will also find the personal account useful, as this helpful portal is used for buying/selling items and real estate, cars, and furniture.
By the way, a distinctive feature of Portuguese job offers is the absence of expected salary in 80% of cases. Only a few companies specify the gross annual income before taxes and sometimes the possibility of progress in numbers. Somewhere there may be an indication of "salário mínimo," which will mean your income at the level of the minimum wage currently in force before taxes (I remind you that as of today, it is 760 euros).
Creative approach is a working option, but for the patient and diligent
You are looking for contacts of companies where you would like to work - restaurants, factories, farms, for example - by simply searching on Google Maps, if you don't have a specific company or industry in mind, then you choose all the businesses that come up in your area. Or you sort by industry using a translator and search engine (if you're a beauty specialist, then you search for "salão" or "cabeleireiro," if you're looking for a job as a barista, then "cafetaria," and so on). After creating a list of contacts from your search, you send them emails or make random phone calls. If you are not in a major city or applying to an international company, it is recommended to write in Portuguese, using an online translator if necessary. Just be sure to indicate your actual level of Portuguese proficiency and other languages to avoid any confusion during the interview. It should be noted that the Portuguese are not very responsive to emails, and recruiters don't seem to surf the internet for valuable candidates unless they receive your resume directly. So, if you feel confident, don't hesitate to follow up with a phone call or send a message on LinkedIn - it can't hurt.
A little more about educational documents: a practical case, a way to get around the issue of missing diplomas.
Not only the job center, unfortunately, is interested in the educational documents of potential candidates - many employers also request certificates and diplomas. But not always. There is a case from personal experience: working for over a year in a fairly large Portuguese company in a field that generally requires mandatory confirmation of qualifications and relevant education, on a contract basis. To be hired immediately after a face-to-face interview, he arranged the experience and education mentioned in the CV outside of Portugal, and they only asked about the physical presence of the diploma a year later, but in a calm manner - if you have the opportunity, please bring us something when you finish the confirmation. Of course, this is more of an exception than a rule, but this case once again confirms that anything is possible in Portugal!
How to get by without a diploma? It is possible, although it will require some effort and paperwork on your part. You won't have a contract, but you will have the opportunity to earn money. Here's how to do it step by step: Create an individual entrepreneur (IE) account (not everyone can do it online, so you might have to go to a tax office in person), add the CAE/CIRS codes from the classifier of types of economic activity needed for your anticipated services, and then offer yourself as a worker or contractor. In this case, the company-employer will either sign a contract with you for the provision of services or not sign anything at all (which is more likely), and you will simply invoice them for completed work. In this scheme, nobody is particularly interested in your diplomas or other paperwork. The point is that you are selling your service, not yourself as an employee (though you can still work in an office alongside hired employees). The employer won't hire you, won't have to maintain records, pay into social insurance, give you leave or other benefits usually given to an employed worker. This option is suitable for those who work in construction or repairs, remote (or in-person) office work, consulting services, real estate services (agency), beauty industry, and other areas. Many clever companies are currently looking for such unencumbered workers to outsource their work, without any paperwork or tax burden. You may understand the employer's situation, but it would be helpful for you to understand taxation, forms, and reporting deadlines so that you don't get fined.
Job search is not a very rewarding task, it will require a lot of time to study the labor market and its specifics, to send out resumes and check all your accounts, channels, and groups. I think this is an international rule - believe in yourself and even if you think the job is not for you, it is worth sending your resume. Firstly, requirements are often overstated, and secondly, you can be noticed and offered another position that is more relevant to your experience and education. Undoubtedly, you will have to learn Portuguese in one way or another, at least to the level of being able to communicate at a basic level and read/write with the help of a translator, otherwise, the absence of even a basic level of language proficiency will significantly narrow the range of suitable job opportunities. And keep in mind that the response rate here is the same as the speed of everything in Portugal - slow, so don't worry if you don't get an immediate response.
Portuguese random is an established, albeit humorous, but very realistic term. Your task is to try, search, knock on all doors, and preferably visit all necessary institutions, personally establishing contact with everyone with your existing or missing documents (from the employment office to the desired employer). By the way, regarding the visit to the employer - if you are invited to an interview, you only need to prepare from the point of view of presenting your skills and abilities, as the style of conducting interviews in Portugal is quite informal, and it is not common to fasten all buttons and wear a tie. Sometimes the company owner himself, after the end of the working day, invites potential employees for an interview, as not every enterprise has an HR specialist on staff. Another feature is that Portuguese people do not consider it normal to commute to work for more than an hour in one direction (the standard acceptable time for the road in their understanding is half an hour), so you can compete with them and earn a bonus if you choose a job in a remote location. The Portuguese prefer a lower salary to waste time on the road, the principle of the balance of life and work - no one canceled it.
Anyway, good luck, I'm sure you'll succeed.