Moving to the world’s most expensive city means you’re going to need to find a job while living in London.
When I moved to London I had no interviews lined up nor any industry connections, but yet I scored a permanent well paid job in my dream environment in two weeks. I had no UK experience (which I was told I *must* have by recruiters to get work), I negotiated a higher pay than was being offered and the dream environment I wanted to work in was one I had never worked in before.
This isn’t a humblebrag (fast forward 6 months and I quit the job because the it wasn’t for me), but just a positive reality check that sometimes the worst won’t happen. That sometimes we will be okay.
Six months later I realised the job wasn’t for me and so I quit. With the knowledge that I found a job two weeks after arriving, I figured that with six months experience under my belt I would have no troubles finding a job.
It took me six weeks.
Now I can say it took the right job and that I’m glad none of the other interviews worked out, but at the time I was desperate for a job.
Having now had a taste of the easy and the hard roads to get a job as an expat, here are my tips on finding a job in London.
Note: I work in communications which can cover marketing, internal communications, public relations, events, social media, digital communications. My tips will have a heavier focus on this industry than on mining for example, but some of the tips are relevant for any industry in London.
1. Get your CV right
This is pretty standard for anyone applying for a job, but after speaking with dozens of recruiters and getting lots of feedback here are the tips they gave me:
- Use the beginning of your CV to dot point out key pieces of experience that directly relate to the job spec. For example if the job spec is asking for someone with event management experience, one of my dot points would say ‘Event management for a charity event that saw positive media coverage in two national print publications and six e-newssites and blogs.’ Don’t turn your whole CV into dot points, no more than 10 is good.
- Use language that they use. In my old life I was an Assistant Director in-house, in agency speak that’s a Junior Account Director, so on my CV I listed myself as a JAD. Sure I still had to explain how a JAD could be employed in-house, but they at least saw a job title they recognised and could comprehend the level of responsibility against.
- Always include achievements against your role and make them quantitative achievements, i.e the video I produced resulted in 1,300 views on Facebook, a reach of 20,000 and engagement from 600 people.
- Some people will say to keep you CV to 2 pages. I say fuck ’em. It’s all relevant to what you do and what you bring. Don’t waffle. Keep it to the point. But with ten years experience, my own business and a blog (all relevant to comms), plus my education and training and references, my CV stretches to near five pages.
2. Tailor your CV for every job
Okay, so you’ve got a good base CV but now you need to make sure the skills for the job you’re applying for are front and centre.
You cannot expect a recruiter or employer to shift through your CV looking for the relevant experience. You need to pull it out.
As an example say you come from a corporate environment but now you want to work for a charity. The CV that got you your corporate job may not fly for a charity role, but if you pull out tasks that are relevant–your role in CSR, managing the yearly blood drive, ensuring your projects were always under budget–the employer will see your relevant experience straight away without having to shift through all the corporate tasks you did.
3. Get yourself out there
In the UK there are quite a few online resources that recruiters use to find potential employees. Upload your CV and some of the work is done for you!
Of course you have LinkedIn, then Hays and Hudson (each international recruitment agencies) and in the UK there’s CV-Library.
4. Actively hunt down a job
In a city like London there is a job board for every sector. A few good general ones and niche for marketing, communications, PR and events are:
5. Contact every recruiter in town
Recruiters are not uncommon, but what I found interesting was how much getting a job requires going through a recruiter and how an employer will contact multiple recruiters for the one role. For the job I’m now in, I was contacted by two recruiters to be put forward for it.
Register with every recruiter you can find in your industry. Search for recruiters in your industry and also look at the job boards and see which recruitment company listed it.
I found a good way to ‘not just be another CV’ was to email or call the recruiter with a question about the job being advertised. By having a conversation with the recruiter and possibly a face-to-face meeting your CV isn’t just one of hundreds or thousands in their inbox applying for the role.
For those in marketing and communications a few London based recruiters I was registered with include:
- Major Players
- Creative Recruitment
- Morgan Law (more corporate)
- The Industry Club
- Better placed
- Gordon Yates
- Imagine Monday
6. Prep for the interview
You got an interview! Amaze, congrats! But if you thought getting to this point was hard, wait for the interview. The interview is more 45 minutes of a solo Hunger Games where you prove your worth to the employer who gets to sit back and judge everything about you.
Yeah, it’s not nice.
My first interview, which resulted in my first London job was just a chat with the agency owner and Client Services Director. It was quite nice, until the owner asked me ‘why he should consider hiring me’. To be honest, I was quite thrown with the tone of the question especially as it was at the end of a 40 minute interview where I thought I had adequately sold myself. I ended up pulling an answer together that secured me a second interview, but at the time I wanted to ask him why I should consider letting him be my employer…
Once I left that job and was again looking I found that question was nothing compared with what I was required to do for a look in. There were the written tests ranging from a media release to a full communication strategy, this of course before a 30 minute interview where I had to answer several questions with examples relevant to the role.
Moral of the story be ready. For me applying for roles in communications I needed to hone up my writing skills, my ability to write a press release or article as well as remembering the basics of a communication strategy. I also had to look at the organisation I was applying for and check their website, their company profile, their social media accounts, any relevant press so that I could seem knowledgeable about the company (even though some of them hadn’t even read my CV from the very basic questions they asked me).
The recruiters though are worth their money at this stage. Squeeze them for every piece of information you can–what’s the team structure? What’s the company culture? Of the people interviewing what are their roles? Are there any organisational changes happening? Why are they hiring now?
Use the recruiters to find out as much as you can and then take the time to research the organisation and hone what makes you capable of doing the role you’re interviewing for.
You got the job! Amaze, well done! You did it! You live and work in London. Is there any better feeling?!
Or maybe you didn’t. In which case just keep doing you boo and eventually you will get the right job. It took me six weeks to get a job that I’m so glad I didn’t get any of the others I applied for–except of course Social Media Manager for Jamie Oliver #DreamJob–because the one I’m in now is the perfect role for me and the company benefits are a dream that none of the others offered.
Obviously we all need to hustle to make life happen. But sometimes we also need to trust that the right things will happen at the right time. You moved to London with nothing, so have a little faith it will work.