- Download our Moving to Colombia Guide (PDF)
Working in Colombia is becoming increasingly attractive to expats as word gets around about the country's natural beauty, welcoming locals, and easy-going lifestyle. Despite political instability, Colombia has made impressive economic progress over the last 15 years.
The abundance of natural resources, the relative stability of the economy, the low cost of living and the country's promotion of free-trade agreements have led to substantial foreign investment in recent years. As a fast-growing major economy, Colombia remains an attractive destination for foreign investors and entrepreneurs.
Expat entrepreneurs often find that starting a business is much less tedious than searching for a traditional job in Colombia. Entering the Colombian job market is often quite difficult for expats, though some knowledge of Spanish will make the process easier. Securing employment before arrival is uncommon.
Obtaining the necessary visas can be a lengthy and frustrating process as well. If a company wants to hire an expat, it will need to submit a document detailing the employment offer. It must also explain why it isn't hiring a Colombian for the position. Smaller companies may be reluctant to sponsor an expat's visa.
Job market in Colombia
Due to the increase in tourism in the country and an increasing emphasis on locals learning English, a great many expats in Colombia work as English-language teachers. These jobs are plentiful and are relatively easy to secure for native speakers. Teachers can work in government-sponsored programmes, in language schools, or they can give private lessons. The pay tends to be relatively low, though. Many expats start off teaching in an effort to make connections and adjust to Colombian culture in a more relaxed environment.
Other positions can be found in industries such as information technology, mining, construction and tourism. Expat job markets are primarily centred in Bogotá and Medellín, but expats can find jobs nationwide.
Finding a job in Colombia
It can be challenging to find a job before arriving in Colombia. Colombians value face-to-face contact and prefer meeting prospective employees in person before making hiring decisions. However, expats can begin the process from home by making contacts via social media, professional networking sites and expat groups or forums.
Other expats may prove to be the most helpful resource in searching for opportunities, although job advertisements can also be found in local newspapers, on noticeboards and community forums or through online job boards. International sites like LinkedIn, Indeed and Glassdoor are quite popular in Colombia, as are local sites like OpcionEmpleo and ElEmpleo.
Spanish fluency will be crucial when searching for a job on Colombian websites and local classifieds. Many employers won't speak English either. Ensuring all necessary documents, including resumes, have been translated into Spanish is essential.
In some cases, starting a new business in Colombia may be easier than finding a traditional job. The country is actively promoting entrepreneurship and seeking foreign investment.
Work culture in Colombia
Fostering good relationships with friends and colleagues is central to Colombian work culture. Inland cities such as Bogotá and Medellín are more formal in their work culture, while in coastal areas like Cartagena, locals have a more relaxed approach to business.
Time and punctuality are not generally of great importance. Expats should be prepared for meetings to start late and run overtime, but they shouldn't be offended if colleagues are not punctual for appointments.
►To find out which visas are required to work in Colombia, check out Visas for Colombia
"Regarding the work culture in Colombia vs the US, there are good and bad differences. Generally speaking, things tend to be much more slow-paced and disorganised than in the States. That has its perks and drawbacks. While expats will generally have it much better, employees are generally also not valued or treated as such by management here."
Check out the rest of American expat Adam's interview with Expat Arrivals here.
Are you an expat living in Colombia?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Colombia. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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