South African journalist
South African journalist and Barcelonian-by-choice, Chené Koscielny, asks Barcelona’s networking experts how to find the right connections. Chené writes regular posts for Barcelona Global – which aims to make Barcelona one of the best cities for talent and economic activity.
One of the best things about being an expat is that you get the chance to reinvent yourself. Every time you settle somewhere new, you start with a fresh slate and get to choose who you want to be all over again.
But opening new doors, starting a business, or finding a job in Barcelona, also means you need to know the right people. So, how do you meet people if you don’t speak Spanish or Catalan and when networking has shifted online because of COVID?
We ask three of the city’s top networkers to share their tips on how to make friends and look for jobs in Barcelona for English speakers during a pandemic.
Professional networking ‘strangled’ by COVID
The Spanish are known to be smooth networkers and in normal times, lunches and after-work networking events in Barcelona are great opportunities to mingle, do business and catch up on office gossip, provided you speak Spanish. See my previous post about a lack of English.
Normally, there are more networking opportunities in Barcelona than most people need in a lifetime: from international meetup groups to Spanish networking events for every interest or industry.
“Things have changed a lot,” admits Tony Anagor, a local entrepreneur and international leadership coach, who moved to Barcelona from the UK 20 years ago.
”Everything happens outside of the home in the city and networking has been strangled by COVID.” The way the Spanish network doesn’t easily translate online, he believes.
At a typical networking meeting in Barcelona, you’d usually get to speak to everyone and there would be many separate break-out conversations, which is not possible on Zoom. A lack of attention online is another issue. “You see people disconnect after a few minutes to look at their phones or check their emails on the screen while pretending to listen to the conversation.”
On the positive side, though, interactions now tend to be more focused as you only connect with people when you really want to speak to them. What this means for networkers, says Tony, is you need to do your research and seek out connections with people who can really make a difference. He warns against only mixing in expat circles, also because the community is transient.
“Make an effort with the language and don’t limit yourself to typical expat groups and events,” he says.
How to network with the Spanish – it’s about who you know
Who you know is very important in Spanish circles, says Tony: “The Spanish first assess if they like you and share common values. Only then will they consider doing business with you.”
On the flip side, the community is small and once you get a ‘bad name’, news travels fast, so be professional and don’t make enemies. The Spanish are also more relaxed and less pushy in business.
“In London, if you travel for an hour to meet someone, they’re not interested in having a coffee. They want to do business straight away. Things are a bit more relaxed here and I like it!”
Tony recommends two business networking communities, which he found to be most effective:
- Barcelona Global – “A powerful network and a great place to connect with locals.”
- BizLunch – ‘You go there to be social, but business is a byproduct.”
Networking online comes more naturally for expats
Seasoned networker Victor Horcasitas, president of the American Society of Barcelona and publisher of Barcelona Metropolitan, a magazine for English speakers, believes expats in Barcelona have a distinct advantage when it comes to networking online.
“Expats are more accustomed to using technology to access online networking events in other cities or countries, so for them, the shift to virtual networking has not been such a big change,” he says.
He agrees, though, that attention spans online are short and that a short, punchy personal pitch is even more vital now: “Clearly state your name, company and what you would like to achieve when presenting yourself online,” he says.
“One of the common mistakes I observe is for people to be too informal online,” says Victor, which can affect your professional credibility.
His advice is to invest in decent online lighting and a good quality microphone, which doesn’t have to be expensive – to help you make the best impression and which will also enable you to repurpose content more easily for other channels.
‘The Spanish are less direct online – they bury the lead’
When it comes to networking with locals, Victor has observed a tendency for the Spanish to be less direct during video calls than they are in person. They tend to ‘bury the lead’ – in other words, to go around in circles.
His advice is to “embrace technology and keep conversations focused regardless of which channel you’re using. Instead of sending a long WhatsApp or email message with 5 questions, send 5 messages, each with one question.
Victor’s favorite networking groups in Barcelona are:
- The ASB and Metropolitan – which help English speakers integrate into the city, enjoy the culture, and enable companies to advertise to the international community. The organizations usually host monthly social functions where they share info relevant to expats.
- Metropolitan also has a page matching companies looking to fill jobs for highly qualified English speakers in Barcelona with jobseekers.
- Startup Grind Barcelona: #SGBCN A group for entrepreneurs and techies wanting to start their own businesses or looking for investors. They now offer virtual sessions to showcase the most exciting early-stage companies and investors shaping the local ecosystem.
- Barcelona Expat Life – an online resource for expats by expats.
- Nordics in Barcelona – an online resource for expats from Scandinavian countries.
Women’s networking in Barcelona
Meryam Schneider, Co-vice President of Mentoring at PWN Barcelona, Professional Women’s Network Barcelona, believes Barcelona is the perfect place to reinvent yourself.
“Being an expat means being open to new experiences and the city is very inspiring. Take your time to work out who you want to be in Barcelona. You have the opportunity to unfold in so many different directions here,” says Meryam, who hails from France and Morocco.
She works in the luxury and wealth management industry and spends half her time in Paris. Her advice to women keen on advancing their careers in Barcelona, is to be open to new opportunities and to join the PWN’s networking meetings, now virtual, to meet like-minded women. The organization has chapters in over 30 cities, which provides women with a powerful, international network.
“Our members are used to communicating online and attending virtual events, as we offer many expert talks focusing on professional development across chapters.”
Mentoring for women – learning to be more self-aware, set boundaries, and deal with challenges.
One of the best ways to learn and connect is through PWN Barcelona’s mentoring program, which this year takes place in a condensed form online.
“We match mentors and mentees who work together to achieve short-term goals during a minimum of four one-to-one sessions and they have access to workshops with high profile speakers.” The program is open to anyone and provides an opportunity to improve self-awareness, learn to set boundaries, and deal with new challenges. The only aim is to develop mentees – there is no other agenda, she says.
Other English speaking networks for women in Barcelona include:
The Barcelona Women’s Network – which offers more informal networking. They support charitable institutions.
BARCELONA GLOBAL – CONNECT WITH LOCALS, HELP BUILD A BETTER BARCELONA
As a member of Barcelona Global, a private, non-profit organization, expats get to plug into one of the most powerful local networking groups, comprising of over 200 of the city’s leading companies, research centers, universities, business schools, and cultural institutions, as well as thousands of international and local professionals.
One of Barcelona Global’s great challenges has been knowing what international professionals who live and work in the city think about Barcelona and identifying how to attract and retain them. To this end, they send out an extensive survey – International Talent Monitor – every two years to gauge opinions about:
- Working Conditions
- Doing Business
- Social Integration
- Financial Times
- Living Conditions
- General Perception
Barcelona Global analyzes and uses the survey results to help integrate international professionals into the Barcelonian society and business world.
If you want to participate in International Talent Monitor 2021, please EMAIL US.
Want to become a member of Barcelona Global?
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Do you have tips or anecdotes about networking in Barcelona? Please share your comments below. We love to hear from you.