The Triangle of Doom.
Here’s an expat’s outlook – I laughed when I was first introduced to this term, “Triangle of Doom” from a fellow reader. I didn’t know there was actually a name for the biggest challenges I experienced when I first landed in the UK. It is expected, when you’re relocating to a new city or country, that it comes with its headaches and stressful moments. Imagine yourself in the risky position of no income, no home and new life. I never used to be an anxious person, maybe paranoid, but I won’t lie that anxiety and fear was always lingering up to the day I left Canada.
What is the Triangle of Doom you wonder? Well, from listening to other expats and reflecting back on my own experience, of the 100 things to worry about when moving to London, these 3 were on top – Finding a job, Opening a Bank Account and Finding a Flat. All three equally stressful to conquer and all three correlate with one other.
I’ll be going through my personal encounters and advice on how I managed to come out victorious. Please note – I am not an expert on this Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme visa nor am I an expert at giving life changing advice on this matter. This is simply my personal journey and should be taken with reservations. I do not take responsibilities for others experience or outcomes.
1. How to find a job in London.
I’ll start with the topic that is of most interest to aspiring expats and the topic that causes the most anxiety for most, including myself. Thank you to those who took the time to read my previous post and wrote such lovely emails to me about their upcoming journey. I’ve gotten a lot of questions around how the job hunting process works in the UK, specifically London. My initial thoughts on this is that it really depends on your field of work and your experience. It’s different for every person who comes here on this visa. For some people I know who have already completed their two years here, it was a slow and challenging start for them to find work right away because they were still young in their career and lacked the work experience. For myself, I was able to get an interview the week I landed and landed the job within a couple of weeks. Another person I know landed a job a month after she landed.
I believe employers and recruiters over here feel more comfortable interviewing/screening/offering work to individuals who already have the visa and are physically here. There are so many immigrants coming into the UK to work so the pool is large for them to choose from. They can easily look you over since you’re not an easy access.
If you’re just looking for easy hourly paid work, there are tons of opportunities here. If you’re looking for office work, there are also plenty of job opportunities here as well but as I mentioned earlier, that all depends on your line of work and experience. For me, I’ve been working in the telecommunications industry for 9 years now and I was senior analyst in Canada. I reached out to recruiters (btw – the UK are big on recruiters here) and let them know of my situation and gave them a copy of my resume. I got couple interviews set up the week I landed with a recruiter months before I even got there. But I also went straight into job search mode during the first week.
1. Linkedin is a great and powerful resource.
I recommend updating your profile and turning on the Premium free trial a few weeks to a month before you land. You’ll be surprised at how many messages from recruiters you get.
2. Apply for the Tier 5 YMS visa first before job hunting
I know a lot of Canadian won’t take the leap without knowing they can land a job or have already secured a job in the UK first, which is absolutely fair. However, I recommend you apply for the visa then start the job hunt because recruiters and employers will be less keen on reaching out to an applicant who isn’t guaranteed to legally live and work in the UK. Again, there’s a huge pool of able workers in the UK and the competition is thick. Make it easy for the recruiter or employer to entertain the idea of you working for that company.
3. Reach out to recruiters.
Firstly, update your CV and LinkedIn. There is a British CV version available out there that you should research and adjust your CV accordingly. Recruiters are huge in the UK. I only dealt with recruiters during my job hunt. They are a great source of advice as well in terms of what to expect in the UK/London work environment, they will help you negotiate the salary you want and overall a great professional advisor. Research some local recruiters specifically in the field you want to be in – it makes it easier to narrow down a job. Let recruiters know about your situation and why you’re looking into moving to the UK. Be honest.
What to expect during the job hunt.
It’s a very lengthy process. Don’t be surprised if it takes a long time for anyone to get back to you. It doesn’t always mean it’s bad news and you don’t have the job. It’s just the nature of the UK job market. Administrative things just move slow in general. Be patience but never stop searching until you find that job. Always follow up and put the pressure to get an update.
Employers are much more interested in your experience and how your experience relates to the job itself. Mould your CV and interview to fit the role itself. After several interview opportunities, I’ve noticed that many employers (especially start ups) are very protective and selective of the type of people they allow on board. They are also really interested in personality and how you would fit their work culture. This is another time to be yourself and shine through!
2. No Task is More Difficult than Opening a British Bank Account.
I’m not kidding when I say “you’ll land a job faster than you’ll open a bank account in the UK”. British banks do not make it easy for you, in fact I guarantee you’ll return with multiple appointment until they finally say “fine, you get a bank account!”. So, here are some tips to avoid multiple unwanted trips to the bank
- Choose a bank that will suit your needs and lifestyle. For me, I needed a bank with global money transfers so that I can easily send money to my Canadian bank account. Big named banks are usually best for this
- Read up on the bank’s minimum requirements to open a basic bank account. This is the part that was really tough for me because most, if not all, require these – photo ID (passport), proof of UK residence (biometrics card), proof of address.
- PROOF OF ADDRESS – for me, this was extremely tough to come by as I did not have a UK driver’s license and even though I had already signed a lease/contract for the flat I was living in, it wasn’t enough. Make sure you provide EXACTLY what the bank requires for proof of address. A council tax letter was the easier route for me. But what if you haven’t found a flat to live in yet? Or can’t get your family or landlord to put your name on their bills – well, the other, yet lengthy, option is to apply for a driver learner’s permit which will be a card with an address on it. Another option is to bring an employer’s contract, however, this doesn’t always work so be weary.
3. Finding a new home away from home.
As for where to live.
London is split up on 8 zones. Zones 1 to 2 being the most expensive and zones 7 to 8 being the least expensive. Where you chose to live should be based on your lifestyle and financial situation. Personally, I wanted to live in a safe residential area where central London was easily accessible but pay less in rent. I also wanted to live in an area where I can get to work rather cost efficient and quickly. Therefore, I chose to live in zone 2 west London.
What is the cost of living?
If you’re reading this, then you are not oblivious to the fact that London is EXPENSIVE. Even if you’ve come from Toronto, it’s nothing close to what I was spending back home. Here’s the break down of what to expect (based on a couple’s lifestyle):
- Groceries: £40 to £50 per week per person
- Eating out/take aways: £40
- Coffees/lattes: up to £3
- Lunch from a quick grab and go place: £5 to £7
- Zone 2 to Zone 1 monthly travel (to work): up to £130 (this caps)
- Movie tickets: £13 – £17
- Clothes: £20 to £50 per item is considered inexpensive
Notice that I didn’t put in rent in there? That’s because it’s really dependant, like I said.
- Typically in zone 1 (central London is easily accessible), you’re looking at up to £2500 per month for a 1 bedroom flat that may be somewhat decent and up to £3000 per month for an an amazing place.
- In zone 2 (up to 1 hour travel time to central/east London), £1400 – £1700 for a 1 bedroom flat. But you could find something cheaper but you’ll risk safety, cleanliness, and comfort
- In zone 3 (more than an hour travel time into central London), £1000 – £1200
As for what my thoughts are of the different areas of London.
I am still very new to the city so I haven’t explored all of the boroughs of London. However, here’s my take on the different areas so far
- West London (where I live) – Nottinghill, Kensington, Portobello Market, Queen’s Park, Shepard’s Bush – safe, affluent, predominantly young professionals with families, middle class earners, into farmer’s markets, cafes, going for long walks in the many parks in the area
- East London – Shoreditch, Hackney, Finsbury Park, Stoke Newington – cool vibes (think Queen West in Toronto), really hip young professionals, cool restaurants and bars, good party scene with music
- South London – Brixton, Clapham – really vibrant and multicultural area, lots of flavour and excitement, good eats
- North London – cheaper rent, plenty of things to do but slightly away from the scene.
There you have it – the Triangle of Doom.
I’m sure I haven’t captured all of the many experiences that can occurs but hopefully this provides some aid to any new comers to the city! I won’t sugar coat it… it is definitely going to be a hard time when you get here and sort through setting up your life over here. I think people forget about that part and are not ready for it. You could also get here, pick up easy work in a cafe or temp work to get you started while you job hunt for the work you really want to do. If you prepare yourself as much as you can before you get here. i.e. set up the appointments you need to set up, join social groups, rental sites, etc. it will be less difficult to find what you need.