Finding a Job in London

Last updated: 8th Sept 2015

The anticipation behind finding a job in London can be very stressful, both before your departure and after your arrival, so here are some tips on how it works and the best places to start looking.

Let me start by saying that the London job market is HUGE. London is at the centre of the majority of big industries such as finance, law, advertising, marketing, media, fashion, arts and theatre, the list goes on. Not only are the industries huge, the opportunity to work on a much larger scale than what you’re used to is very exciting, and London work experience can definitely benefit your career if you’re motivated and ready to work hard.

I came to London under the common Australian misconception that the British don’t know what hard work means. Now maybe this was once true (or so I’ve been told), but if it ever was, there’s no remnants of this attitude to be found in London. Perhaps it’s a post-GFC trend, but everyone I know who works full time works very hard, in many cases much harder than their Australian counterparts. I don’t look at this as a negative though – people are passionate about their jobs. They may work hard, but they also play hard, and keeping the work/life/play balance is still relatively easy with the amount of annual leave you get from work and the social atmosphere. London is a very social city and pub drinks are generally well underway by Wednesday lunch time (Tuesdays in summer), carrying through until Sunday evenings. You get Monday night off πŸ˜‰

First thing is first. When you land in London, call JobCentre Plus and apply for a NIN (National Insurance Number). You will need to go in for an ‘interview’ or fill in some paperwork, which just requires you to bring proveΒ that you’re eligible to work in the UK.
The NIN is similar to the Australian TFN, or the American Social Security number. You need one to legally work in the UK and if you’ve applied but don’t get this number before your first pay day (it can take around 2 weeks to process after your interview/paperwork is received), then any money you earn will be taxed at a very high rate.

Secondly, find yourself a recruitment agent. The London job market is mostly owned by recruitment agencies. Due to the sheer number of people living and working in London, companies save a lot of time by outsourcing their job hunting to agencies, so much so that you are unlikely to find a job without one. So get online, find some good agencies, send your email and CV around and when one responds, push to meet them right away and get on their good side! It’s very competitive out there, so the more effort you put in, the better.

If you intend on freelancing, you will definitely need a recruitment agent. Do some research into your industry and narrow down the recruitment agencies that you want to work with based on what type of clients you wish to work for, and then keep in regular contact with those agents each week, even if it’s just a quick hello or wishing them a nice weekend.

Third and final thing to do is to start looking for a job! Depending what industry you’re in, there are different job search sites available for different professions. I have categorised some of the best sites for job hunting in London, based on what type of job you may be after below:

General Job Search:
These pages are the biggest for finding a job in London, similar to Australia’s seek.com website. You can find most professions here, and these pages are especially good for admin, finance, banking, IT, sales, education and temp roles:

Media/Creative/Marketing:

  • Brand Republic
  • MajorPlayers
  • Twitter – Create a professional account and follow anyone you would want to work for. Many job ads come up directly from companies, before they reach out to recruitment agencies and the like. Twitter pages such asΒ @LDNStudentJobsΒ are also useful

Legal:

Straight out of Uni:
If you’re coming with little to no experience or straight out of uni, it’s a tough market, especially around graduation time. Internships are very common and popular in London, though unfortunately the majority of them are unpaid (although they normally cover your travel expenses as a base), but don’t let this dishearten you. There’s still plenty out there!
Try these sites:

Casual Jobs (retail, hospitality, events)
If like many Australians you’re more interested in travel and less keen on being tied down by full-time work, casual roles in hospitality or retail could be the way to go. It’s very common to see cafes and shops around London with signs up in their front windows advertising for staff, so keep your eyes peeled.
You should also try these sites:

If all else fails, spend your last Β£500 on a billboard, it worked a treat for this guy

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23 Responses

  1. Amanda says:

    Thanks for such a wonderful blog its super helpful! πŸ™‚ I swear I remember reading that you work in the finance industry. I work in commercial banking here in Aus and I’m just wondering if you could please recommend the best recruitment agencies for the finance/banking industry? Or perhaps even admin/secretarial?
    Thank you so much! πŸ™‚

  2. Kirra says:

    Hello.
    I just arrived in London a few days ago.
    I was just wondering if i can apply for full time/Part time/Casual Retail job before i have applied for a NIN ? I heard that you can.
    I can apply for a NIN next week but right now i don’t have an address. and what is the best way to apply for retail jobs?
    Thank you so much.

    • Hey Kirra,
      Welcome to London πŸ™‚
      You can apply for any job you like, but aim to get your NIN before your first pay cheque comes in or else you’ll get taxed at a high rate.
      Use whatever address you can post to on the application, it doesn’t have to be your permanent house, so long as you can check the mail to receive the number, so it can be a friend’s place too.
      Most big retailers now have online applications but also worth popping in to some stores and boutiques to enquire personally.
      Hope that helps x

  3. Nadia says:

    Hi,
    So I have been stalking your blog pretty much since you left aus (in a good way).. After years of never really committing to anything whole heartingly I have decided to follow my heart and head to London.. I’m extremely scared and nervous, although the 16 year old is me is screaming with excitement. Just want to ask you a few things if I could.

    – Job. I don’t have a degree to my name and I have worked in a few different industries I have hospitality,retail, airline experiance. I currently work as a public servant (call centre) and definitely have great references. I have strong customer service skills. Though I lack in confidence a little

  4. Kathryn says:

    Hey! Firstly, great blog! So useful and real! I look forward to reading more of your adventures and experiences (Uming and arghing wether or not to make the move!)

    Question, what job did your boyfriend end up taking (if you don’t mind me asking)
    Ideally, I would like both myself and my fiancΓ© to make the move together and just getting a feel of jobs out there for him (he’s not the retail or hospitality type – where as I wouldn’t mind taking these types of jobs)

    • Hi Kathryn,

      Thanks, I’m happy you’re enjoying the blog πŸ™‚

      My bf works in advertising, although he was 29 when we moved so he already had a well established career when we moved, which helped.
      What does your bf do now? There are so many industries in London that you pretty much have all bases covered!
      Good luck with the decision making πŸ™‚
      x

      • Kathryn says:

        Thank you for your reply!

        Ah that must be an awesome job! My bf does golf course construction at the moment, kind of specific lol but has had experience with landscaping, earth moving and such. He is more my concern with work as I’ve done retail and office work it will probably be a bit easier for me not so much him lol

        Thanks again! Look forward to reading more blogs πŸ˜€

  5. Nicki says:

    This is such a great list- really thorough.
    I just wanted to add though that depending on your industry- if you have a 2 year youth visa it can be really hard to find a permanent role. You will most likely be doing contract work as the recruitment agencies will not put you forward for permanent roles as you are only here for 2 years.
    Much easier for people who have European Union or Ancestry visas!

    • Hey Nicki,
      Thanks for the note. You’re right that it can definitely be a bit harder as you need to disclose your Visa info upfront, but luckily freelance and contract jobs are really popular here too!
      I have quite a lot of friends who have found full-time work on the Youth Mobility visa too, so everything is possible πŸ™‚

  6. Karli says:

    Hey! This job hunting page is really great, you are so thorough with all your topics, so glad I found your blog! I have a few questions, I am coming over alone at the end of this month! I am starting off in London for a week so I can do wimbledon and then start my contiki after that. I won’t be looking for work until the start of august. Are there essential things I should do before I leave for my contiki to make sure I am eligible to work when I get back. I’m really not fussy with the work I find whether it is retail, pub work, hospitality, what do you suggest would be easiest for me to apply for? Should I bring a CV and resume or are casual hospitality jobs easy to find, keeping in mind it’s not a job I will want to be at forever as I want to keep travelling too!
    Sorry for so many questions!
    Thanks, Karli

  7. Karli says:

    Hey! This job hunting page is really great, you are so thorough with all your topics, so glad I found your blog! I have a few questions, I am coming over alone at the end of this month! I am starting off in London for a week so I can do wimbledon and then start my contiki after that. I won’t be looking for work until the start of august. Are there essential things I should do before I leave for my contiki to make sure I am eligible to work when I get back. I’m really not fussy with the work I find whether it is retail, pub work, hospitality, what do you suggest would be easiest for me to apply for? Should I bring a CV and resume or are casual hospitality jobs easy to find, keeping in mind it’s not a job I will want to be at forever as I want to keep travelling too!
    Sorry for so many questions!
    Thanks, Karli

  8. Hi London New Girl,
    Many thanks for mentioning us in your post as a recommended staffing agency.
    If you’re around and looking for flexible work – do get in touch!
    Best wishes,
    LOLA Staffing

  9. Alexander says:

    Hey. What are some of the good recruitment agencies that you have come across?

  10. Tara says:

    Thanks for your post! I’m also a Melbournian living in London, and I only wish I read your post about the NIN as soon as I arrived πŸ™‚ Look forward to hearing about the rest of your adventures! Tara πŸ™‚

  11. Hey,
    with the NIN, if you do not have a British/Irish/EU passport, you have to ring them and they send you out the paperwork. Just make sure you send it back ASAP otherwise they will cancel it and you will have to ring up and get new paperwork sent out πŸ™‚
    Loving your blog, full of helpful hints.

    • Hey Rachael,
      Thanks for the tip! I’ll add it onto the page πŸ™‚
      I applied with an EU passport so I the process must have been a little shorter for me!
      Glad you’re enjoying the blog πŸ™‚
      x

  12. Hanna says:

    Thanks so much for this! Really appreciate it.
    Just a couple of questions:
    – Are there any differences in UK and AU resume structures?
    – How did you add your visa status in your CV or Cover Letter when you applied (e.g. Youth Mobility visa, valid two years)
    – Would recruiters in the UK look at applications made from Australia? Or is it better to apply when I’m in London?
    – Lastly, how long did it take for you to find a job? Is the application process fairly efficient (i.e. from application to offer)?
    Sorry for bugging you with so many questions. Thank you!!! Really appreciate your tips on this website.

    • – Resume structure is essentially the same. Cover letter, summary, goals, experience and references. I had to look through hundreds of CVs at work once and they were all similar to my Australian one

      – I would put your visa status in your resume, either the summary at the start or in the end where you put in any of your abilities eg. Computer skills, licenses etc.

      – I’m sure some recruiters may look at it now for roles that are hard to fill, but they will be most responsive if you’re in London as they like quick commission. Depends on your field of work and experience. Give it a shot and see how you go!

      – it took me a month after I started looking to get a job. Took my bf about 2 months and my friend about 3-4 months so it really depends! Application to offer for me was about 2 weeks and much longer for my bf at about 6 weeks. You generally have 2-3 interviews before offer.

      Hope that helps!
      x

  13. Hey!

    I’m planning on making the big move to London within the next year and I just wanted to let you know how useful I have been finding your blog! Please keep up the amazing work. πŸ™‚

    Katherine

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