As I am finally starting to get settled into my new job, I thought I would take the opportunity to write about looking for jobs in the UK. We have had a couple people ask about what the process was and how I went about finding a job so hopefully this will help anyone who needs it, and enlighten anyone else who cares to read it.
To begin with, as the wife of a student I was given a dependent visa. I am not sure of how these differ (if they do) but in my case I was given a visa with no restrictions when it came to working. This has been extremely helpful as I think it is much harder to find jobs if you have to obtain a work visa. I didn’t specifically apply for a work visa, but thankfully as a dependent I was given one. As Ben can work no more than 6 hours on his visa, we were very happy that I didn’t have any work restrictions!
In regards to actually looking for a job, I knew that it would have been extremely difficult and unlikely that I would get a job before I arrived in Cambridge. Had I been a teacher or a nurse I think I could have looked for something before coming (as I have several friends who obtained jobs in these careers before they arrived) but my experience was in HR. I also knew that I couldn’t begin working until I applied for a National Insurance number which I couldn’t apply for that until I arrived in the country.
We arrived here in late September and I took the first month or so to settle in and really acquaint myself with the city and just British life in general. Towards the end of October I began looking for jobs. I started by looking at jobs at the university and searching job boards. As anyone who looks for a job does, I spent hours filling out applications and writing cover letters. Mostly to no avail. I will say one thing about British recruiting processes, they do not leave you in the dark. In most cases a job will tell you how long it will be posted for (normally about two weeks), when the closing date is, when interviews will take place, and when a decision will be made. Not only do they post this information but they actually get in contact with you if you apply. They send you an email letting you know they received your application. Then, if you aren’t successful, they send you an email or most likely a letter (well at least in the case of the university which is mostly where I applied). They are very old fashioned when it comes to the whole letter writing business (though I secretly like it). This is extremely different from what I experienced in America. When I applied for jobs back home, I rarely heard if I didn’t receive the job. I really like how they do things here in that regard. It helps you to know where you stand and is just very straightforward.
From my time in the states I knew this wasn’t the best way to go about getting a job, but I wasn’t sure what else I should do since most places like you to apply online nowadays. When we first got here I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do so I also applied for random retail jobs one afternoon. I printed off my resume (or CV as they call it here), got dressed up and walked through town dropping off my CV to any store that appealed to me and said they were hiring. This is always a little embarrassing but I did find it effective. I was offered a job early on but unfortunately it didn’t work out for various reasons.
So the job search continued. I managed to get a few interviews after pouring over cover letters and applications for hours. Even still, nothing came through. I had several friends that encouraged me to register with a temp or recruiting agency which I dragged my feet on for a while. Having worked alonside recruiting for the last several years, I knew that companies rarely resorted to using recruiting agencies and finding people through there is always more expensive than just hiring someone who applies for a job online. Yet again though, I was forgetting that I was not in America. Here in England if you want a job, the best advice I can give you is this…call a recruiting agency (or all them for that matter) and you will have a job.
I registered with the university temp agency but they had a large supply for temps at the time. I continued to apply online and then one day I applied to a couple of jobs that a recruiting agency had posted. This agency contacted me and from there things moved very quickly. They had me in for an interview within just a few days and then I had the option of temping, interviewing for temp to permnanent positions, or just going for permanent positions. I said I was fine with all three…I just needed a job.
I can’t tell you how diligent they were. I received emails and calls almost daily. Iwas first contacted by them during the last week in November and I could have lined something up earlier but we ended up going to the States for Christmas and then taking a trip to Rome in mid January, so that put everything on hold. On my last day in Rome (which was a Wednesday) I received a call and asked if I could interview with a company that Friday for an HR job that would be temporary to permanent. I agreed and went to the interview that Friday. I recieved a call that night and began work the following Monday. Within two weeks I had moved from being a temp to a permnanent employee.
Finding a job here is very different as a lot of companies use recruiting agencies here. I am not sure why it is so different, but now I know from experience that it is. A couple of pieces of advice that I would give to someone who is applying for jobs in the UK would be this:
1. Do your research and know what kind of position you are looking for as well as what kind of company you want to work for.
2. Register with a recruiting agency (or multiple).
3. Tell everyone you know or meet that you are looking for a job. Always be ready to sell yourself and your skills. Most people are willing to help you if they know you actually need (and want) help.
4. While you are looking for a job, research companies in your area (find a list of top companies to work for or ones that have received awards for being a great place to work) and stalk their websites for job openings. Read as much as you can and be ready to pounce if something of interest comes up. Be creative in how you set yourself apart and know your audience (what kind of recruiters are going to be reading and viewing your CV/cover letter/application-know when to be creative and when to keep it simple).
5. Don’t waste your time applying for every job that comes along. Really spend time on the ones that you are interested in. Write amazing, flawless cover letters. I have a general cover letter that I start with, but I spend about an hour or two on every cover letter I do. I tailor them to the job and the company.
6. Keep going even when you feel discouraged. Make looking for a job your full time job. I am bad at doing this, but I was better this time around then I was last time!
Well, those are some of my thoughts on how to get a job in the UK. It is never easy looking for a job but there are things you can do (things I should have done) that make it a lot easier. Don’t make it harder than it has to be. And like my friends told me, don’t worry something will come through.