London living, Travel and life hacks

The struggles of finding (and keeping) a job in London

If you, like me, have made the move to London, you’re in for a treat. But some treats have to be earned. Sometimes you have to eat the broccoli first. I’d like to share my struggles in the hunt (I’m not the only one by any means!). Hopefully some part will help you do better than I did. If you want some advice on how to get set up to apply for work in the first place, I outlined it here.

I madly signed up with recruitment agencies when I got to London. A few days later, I got a call to say I had a temp job with an agency, which was then cancelled. An hour later, she called back, asking if I did in fact want it. So off I went, for a three day assignment – which turned into a three month one. Promises of making me permanent, so I was entitled to holiday pay, were never achieved. I went through HR interviews, who eventually said they didn’t want to give me the job because I wasn’t passionate enough. Hmm ‘how do you see yourself growing in this role?’ Love, I answer the phone and make spreadsheets. I can’t get too fired up about it.

In the interim, I was getting phone calls and emails from other agencies, with job suggestions. Fed up with waiting for a permanent contract, I went for a few interviews that sounded hopeful. Thank god for ‘dental appointments’ to let you leave for the afternoon.

I got a phone call from an agency  to be put forward for a receptionist for a business psychology company. I went for the interview, and had to do psychology tests too. I didn’t make it to the next round. I also referred a friend to the company, who was then told that I didn’t get the job because I’d done too well on the decision-making tests…which last I checked should be strictly confidential?! She also told me that they ended up hiring internally, so I was just a number to keep HR happy. It’s safe to say I ignored that company from then on.

I went for another job for a receptionist and site manager for a big building project happening in London. A similar thing happened to above, where they ended up hiring internally. It began to sound like a serious pattern.

Cash on the side seemed like a great idea, so I signed up with a catering and events company. I did my first eight-hour shift at a movie premiere. I was in the cloakroom, with no phone, no friend, no pencil even, and after eight hours, I was losing the will to live. It’s so impossible to stand there looking like you’re loving life in case the supervisor comes past. I ended up doing maths in my head to calculate how much I was earning per minute, per second – you guessed it, not a lot. There may have been some tears shed by the time I got home.

I agreed to another event with the agency. This one sounded more like me. Luckily my flatmate was working the shift too, I thought I’d set an alarm, but she knocked on my door with four minutes to spare! Nearly had a heart attack, threw my life in my bag and sorted my hair and face out on the tube. 6am starts never looked so good. We may have said we were more capable than we were, and ended up both working in the VIP boxes at Lord’s.

My heart was racing as I saw the plan for the day, I really had bitten off more than I could chew! But I pulled myself together, and ran around asking what I needed to do. In the end, my box was full of older Australian guys, who asked why on earth I was working there. I told them how tough London can be, and they totally understood.

We ended up having a great day. One Italian guy drank about ten bottles of Prosecco and had a blast. He told me hates cricket but loves free stuff. Can you blame the guy?! He tried to open a red wine bottle for me, which is probably still all over the roof, unless they have repainted…opps. Another one fist-pumped me every time I topped up his brother-in-law’s glass. I sat down to watch some of the game with them, England vs. Australia, can’t complain! The twelve hour shift didn’t feel so bad which such great guests. They ended up tipping me more than I made in wages for the day, sadly I had to split it with the useless bore that shared my shift with me. C’est la vie!

I worked another event for the ‘Future of Rugby’, handing out drinks to people as they came in. Wine gets heavy after a while. Who needs gym sessions when you have a tray of pinot grigio?

At the same time, I was applying with nanny agencies. I wanted nighttime babysitting, but they said I would have to have London experience first. They asked if I had considered nannying. They assured me they could pay me as well as I was getting temping, so I figured I might as well get signed up. They were amazing at helping me build my profile, and they interviewed me by Skype on my lunch break, so I didn’t have to go to the dentist again.

I was told by the company I was working for that I had three weeks to find a new job. At the end of the first week, I was getting nowhere. Finally on the Friday, I had two nanny interviews lined up for that night. I was in an empty office, so asked my manager if I could leave at 5.30 instead of 6. You’d think I was asking for a Ferarri or something. So at 6, I rushed to the other side of London, to meet one family, then across London again to meet another. I got home at midnight, and had to pack to fly to Turkey the next day. To top it all off, my boss told me not to bother coming back after Turkey.

With £200 to my name, I was looking at flights home all over again. Three months in an still couldn’t catch a break! I was over the moon when, halfway through our trip, I found out I had got the nanny job I wanted!

Disaster averted.

It’s been amazing, but I’ve still done odd jobs on the sides to make ends meet. If you want to make the London dream work, you really need to be getting £12 an hour to get anywhere. It’s not easy, but I can promise its worth it! If you want specific names of agencies to work with (or not!) flick me a message, I’m more than happy to help out! I didn’t want to name them publicly, but I’m happy to lend a fellow adventurer a hand getting on the right path.

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2 thoughts on “The struggles of finding (and keeping) a job in London

  1. Oh! You are so sweet! I wish I had a daughter like you (I have 2 great sons). Your journal made me cry! You are so unique and
    inspiring. I think the best thing for you to do is to find a great guy (with a great job) . It should not be hard you are a dream. After all, most jobs that pay seem to me to be in front of a computer ..ugh! Find one that loves to travel, hike and camp (a must!!) No stay-at-home-in-front- of -TV drinking beer!!! Outdoorsy guys are thrilled with a girl like you who loves adventure. You also write so well!!! Possibly a book? I wish you great luck with whatever you choose. Things may look bleak now, but there is nowhere to go, but up!!

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