Where can I find work?
Though finding work may seem a difficult task, it is very possible to be successful since Dominican employers have a flexible attitude about hiring foreigners who demonstrate particular skills. Even if you do not need the money, look for a job. There is no better way to inmerse yourself in the local culture and enhance your stay here.
Is Spanish necessary to get a job?
It is quite possible to obtain work without knowing Spanish. International businesses and the tourist industry need people with the ability to speak many different languages, including Chinese, Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese and so on.
Learning Spanish, however, does have its advantages. It saves you from the bother of not understanding what is going on, reduces the stresses of everyday tasks, which leaves you with more energy for other matters, opens up a wider range of employment possibilities and allows you to meet and converse with Dominicans in their own language.
Take advantage of any opportunity you have to learn the language before you arrive; even if you just have time to memorize two words, do it. If you are already here and have not learned Spanish, it is well worth going to classes or having private tutoring sessions.
What preparations should I make before I arrive?
In addition to learning at least some Spanish, be sure you have an up-to-date resumé or curriculum vitae in the language you intend to use. If you will be sending in your CV in Spanish, it is a good idea to have a native speaker check it, as some peculiar terminology is used on the island.
If you are thinking of teaching English—or other languages—at least try to take a short course or locate relevant materials. Depending on your employment goals, it may be worth seeking out additional training or related experience as a volunteer.
Find out everything you can about the Dominican Republic. Investigate whether companies from your own countries have operations here. Ask your acquaintances if they know anyone in the Dominican Republic. Look up relevant addresses from a reference library and send as many advance letters as possible, introducing yourself and outlining your qualifications and experience.
Read back issues of the DR1 Daily News that are available online. They will give you an idea of which business sectors may be faring best, or of which companies have just arrived or are expanding and will be hiring.
If you are a teacher, try and contact schools in advance. Some pay better salaries to employees who are recruited from abroad, possibly even including travel expenses. See the list of schools in English in the page on Education.
It may be helpful to have a few 2" x 2" photographs taken, as they are required for some job applications. There are many places to have them taken in Santo Domingo, but being prepared will save you time running around a strange city.
What do I need to know before beginning my job search?
The key to employment in Santo Domingo can be summed up in the world “flexibility.” Having a wide range of options will make finding work much easier in a society which is not oriented towards specialists. If you question your Dominican acquaintances, you may soon find a graphic designer who works as a special education teacher; a psychologist who works as a hair dresser; an airline employee who works as a dancer on the side, etc. The wonderful thing about this system is that you may have the opportunity to obtain experience in areas you never thought possible.
The first step is to consider your qualifications. What are your interests? These could be areas in which to seek employment. Hobbies, such as cooking or quilting, could become your livelihood, either through making and selling the end-products, or by teaching other people.
Think about your personal qualities. How do they make you employable? If you are particularly patient with children, a nursery school or play group might appreciate your services. What are your specific skills (e.g., using Power Point or doing Japanese flower arrangements)? What are your general skills, which can be applied to numerous positions (e.g., speaking in public, writing clearly, or managing budgets)?
Do not be timid: the Dominican concept of “expert” is very generous.
You should consider what your priorities are in seeking employment. Is money the most important factor? Flexible working hours? Being able to work from your home? Do you want to gain experience in new areas? What fringe benefits do you expect? Where would you like to work? Considering these questions may help you to decide how and where to direct your search.
How do I look for work?
Some aspects of job hunting are similar everywhere. Look through the local newspapers. The Listín Diario is the one with the largest circulation, and it often has a wide range of posts advertised. Some are found in the classified advertisements supplement, either under “Empleos” or scattered here and there. Many of the biggest advertisements are found in other parts of the paper; it is a good idea to scan the entire publication. This is a good source even if you are looking for a job with no Spanish language element as advertisements sometimes appear in English, German, French, etc.
Those which do not describe the type of work involved may be somewhat dubious. One foreigner called in response to a request for a creative person with a good knowledge of American culture. It turned out that the job was for an English-speaking telephone psychic.
Contact your embassy or consulate. Most have certain posts which are open to either local people or citizens living abroad. They also may have a list of all of the businesses from your country which have operations in the D.R.
Another source for lists of companies are organizations like the American Chamber of Commerce, 544-2222 (located on the fourth floor of the BHD Tower on Calle Luís F. Thomen, near Winston Churchill and 27 de Febrero). Most countries with businesses here have a Chamber of Commerce. For a complete listing of the European chambers of commerce, contact the Federación Dominicana de Cámaras de Comercio through the chamber of commerce of Santo Domingo, Calle Arz. Nouel 206, Tel. 682-2688 533-2854.
Are there employment agencies in Santo Domingo?
There are a number of employment agencies in the city. Most require you to bring your resume or CV, along with a 2" x 2" photograph. You will not usually have to pay anything because most of the agencies charge the companies for referrals.
The larger ones are:
G.A. Tavarez y Asociados. Calle Recodo No. 1, Edificio Monte Mirador. Tel. 535-5808, 535-4886. This company works with executive, management and secretarial positions. They receive numerous requests for bilingual staff, but some are also suitable for people who do not speak Spanish.
Psicología Industrial Dominicana, S.A. Calle 1, No. 27, Rocamar (off Av. Prolongación Independencia), Tel. 533-7141. This agency does considerable work with the Free Trade Zones: personnel managers, industrial engineers and bilingual secretaries are some of the positions with the greatest demand. The agency has found work for persons who do not speak Spanish.
What other steps should I take in seeking employment?
Networking is probably more important in finding work than you would imagine. Tell all your friends and acquaintances about the work you would like to find. Dominicans are generally tremendously helpful in the area of providing possible leads.
It is better to try to make appointments to see people personally, rather than holding telephone discussions. (One Dominican quirk is that you often must telephone someone first in order to make an appointment to telephone again. Once you have called a second time, you can make an appointment to see the person if it is appropriate.) If you take the time to meet with people, they will often give you a list of contacts, even if they cannot help you themselves. Be persistent. The fact that people fail to return your calls does not mean that they prefer not to talk to you, as it might in other countries. They may have been very busy or simply lost your number.
Because of the importance of personal contacts, it may be worth taking a job which is not exactly perfect as a step in the whole process. You will be meeting people both from your company and others, and thus may hear of something which is never advertised. (Many vacancies are not publicized.)
You may also consider taking a lesser desirable job with a reputable company or working with a well known person just to get the necessary job and personal references to then move on.
Companies here are also flexible. If you like a specific kind of work, and a job in that area does not seem to be available, accept another position in the company. Chances are that, if you are talented, you can work yourself into the job you are seeking within a year’s time.
Are there any “sure bets”?
If you would like to teach languages, particularly English, there are many immediate opportunities. For instance, the Instituto Cultural Dominico-Americano, Tel. 533-4191, is always looking for English teachers. Ditto for APEC’s English Department, Tel. 686-0021. English Speaking Specialists, Tel. 547-7375, is an agency providing English teachers. It pays higher rates than the ICDA and provides all of the necessary materials. Look up language schools in the telephone book. Almost all of them will welcome you with open arms (if not pocketbooks) if you are a native, or a very good English speaker.
Most of the primary or secondary bilingual or English-language schools need substitute teachers. A teaching certificate is not always required if you have a university degree or its equivalent.
New facilities for those under six are opening all the time, and many would like people with skills in other languages. Check the most recent telephone directory, ask the parents of small children, or look around your neighborhood to see if there are any nursery schools nearby. Many do not require advanced degrees.
If you are fluent in Spanish, there is a great demand for translators, particularly from Spanish into your native tongue. In addition, many individuals and organizations want someone to check their translated materials—a possibility even if you do not know Spanish. These jobs are primarily available through personal contacts, although you could try advertising your services as well.
The Ministry of Tourism offers a once-a-year course (in Spanish) which, if you pass, qualifies you to be a tour guide. Once you have your tour guide card, many agencies can make use of your services, including Prieto Tours, 685-0102 (Attn. Ramon Prieto) and Turinter, 686-4020.
There are numerous other companies (shipping companies, importers and exporters) and hotels that are always on the lookout for qualified people. In a country with a large tourist industry, there are jobs for those with good foreign language skills (relevant prior experience will also be of help).
What salary level should I expect in the D.R.?
This can be the down side to employment in the Dominican Republic. The private sector minimum wage is RD$3,415 per month for businesses with a capital of over RD$500,000; less for smaller companies, and the public minimum wage is about a third of that.
Teachers are paid from RD$3,000 per shift in the public sector to over RD$12,000 per month in the private sector, depending on the school and the contract.
In all jobs, the amount of training and experience possessed by the employee has great influence on the salary offered. A secretary might make RD$4,000 per month, while a full time bilingual assistant might earn RD$10,000-20,000. Technical personnel could earn RD$6-8,000. Middle managers might earn RD$8-10,000, depending on their responsibilities, and executives will earn over RD$10,000.
Salaries for positions in sales and marketing are often dependent on commissions, with bonuses for obtaining new clients or selling certain quantities of a product. Advertisements in these fields which make spectacular claims about earnings should be regarded with the same healthy dose of skepticism necessary anywhere else in the world.
Teaching languages, such as English, or providing individual therapy or tutoring services can command from RD$100 to over RD$250 per hour, with the higher end of the scale being less common. Many free lancers have a sliding scale based on the economic circumstances of their clients.
How can I find the better paying jobs?
The best salaries are offered to employees who are recruited in their home countries; if possible, try to find work before you arrive. It may be wise simply to tell companies that you are interested in the Dominican Republic. Saying that you are planning on coming here anyway may result in them telling you to contact their local operations once you arrive—a more uncertain procedure, which will, no doubt, result in a local level of salary. On the downside, many companies may not even consider hiring you unless you are already in the DR.
If one employer offers you what seems to be a very low salary, do not presume that this is standard everywhere. Pay conditions vary greatly, depending on a multitude of factors with how the business is doing these days counting a lot.
If all of your offers seem low, try negotiating better hours, more interesting responsibilities, additional training or benefits.
Your language abilities in addition to your professional skills may be both marketable and lucrative. Try to find out if there is a niche for your special skills: Cooking classes in German? Art lessons in Dutch? If you are working independently, you can charge as much as your clients are willing to pay.
How much money will I need to support myself in the D.R.?
As everywhere, the answer varies according to the lifestyle you wish to lead. Housing may be the single largest expense. It is possible to find very modest housing for RD$3,000 per month, so one person should be able to live very austerely on RD$8,000 per month. RD$15,000 per month will allow you to live in reasonable comfort, while RD$25,000 per month will allow you to indulge in some luxuries—and perhaps save enough money for your plane ticket home for Christmas.
Will accepting a lower salary hurt my employment history?
It is not advisable to convert your salary into the currency of your home country for the sake of comparisons. A better practice is to think in terms of the minimum wage. If you earn RD$12,000 per month, you are earning four times the private sector or ten times the public sector minimum wage. Recording your earnings in this way, in multiples of the minimum wage, is better for your self-esteem and makes your CV look very respectable.
Furthermore, the flexibility of life in the Dominican Republic makes it likely that you will be able to gain valuable experience both during and outside of working hours. Less cash is more than compensated for when you manage an entire department instead of just your own desk; take charge of new projects; exhibit your artwork for the first time; take (affordable) lessons in a new sport and so on. The Dominican Republic is a wonderful place to do those things you have always dreamed of doing.
How will I be paid?
Some employers pay once a month; in the case of the government, on the 10th and 25th. Others pay twice a month, on the 15th and 30th. These are good days to avoid going to the supermarket or the bank, where there are long lines and crowds. You will most likely be paid by check. If you do not have a Dominican bank account, this can be cashed at any branch of the issuing bank. Dominican banks have varying procedures, so ask before you spend half an hour in the wrong queue. Many employers now deposit their employees pay directly into their bank account, that can be accessed with cash cards.
What deductions will be made from my pay check?
Up to RD$120,000 - exempt
RD$120,001-RD$200,000 - 15%
RD$200,001 to RD$300,000 - 20%
Above RD$300,001 - 25%
The scale is to be adjusted for inflation every January.
You are also subject to deductions for payment of social security, pension plan, private medical plan insurance, life insurance or other benefits depending on your salary and your company policies. Some benefits are taxable. Note that these deductions will be made to your pay check regardless of whether you are a legal or illegal alien or a Dominican.
What benefits can I expect if I work full time for one company?
All of the mandatory benefits are listed in the Código de Trabajo, the Dominican Work Code, which is available from the Ministry of Labor’s office on Calle de Los Heroes for RD$120 (Tel. 535-4404). You can download a pdf version of it at the Ministry’s web site at http://www.set.gov.do
If you have worked full time for a company for a year, you will receive an extra month’s salary (regalía) in December, up to five minimum salaries. If you earn more than this per month, your employer is only obliged to pay up to five times the minimum salary. Some employers may pay the entire sum. In this case, the amount you receive over five times the minimum wage is taxable. Many private companies pay up to two months salary (bonificación) as a bonus, if it has been a profitable year.
What about holidays?
Policies vary from company to company. After a year, you are eligible for 14 days of vacation. In some cases, these must be taken over Christmas. In other cases, a schedule is established in January detailing when each person will have their days off. After three years of working, you should be eligible for an additional three days vacation per year and so on.
Unless the nature of your work makes it difficult, for instance, if you work for a hospital, hotel, supermarket or newspaper, you will be given Dominican holidays, traditionally including half a day on December 24 and 31. In certain jobs, such as teaching, you will have more days off—but do not assume that you will be paid for 12 months if you are only working for nine. This is an important detail to clarify before accepting work.