How to break into the UK job market

by Shannon Houde

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A Guest Post by Joy Adams Ehrensberger

Joy Adams Ehrensberger has five years of experience in community and economic development project management. In 2006, Joy graduated from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government with a master’s degree in public policy focused on political and economic development. She currently resides in London, England. [/note]

When I first learned that I would be moving from San Francisco to London in early 2011, I was excited. Although I had been to Europe before, now I would actually have the chance to live there and experience all that it had to offer. At the same time I was worried about moving so far away from my friends and family. I was also worried about finding a job. Without a network in the UK, I wondered where I would look for a job, and how I would make contacts.


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Now, 9 months after arriving, I have a great job that I love at a global bank, which has helped me break into CSR through supporting a corporate mentoring programme.

Below are 3 things you can do to break into the UK job market – from someone who was on the outside but has made it in!

1. Ensure that you have the right immigration status.

I tried to look for a job from the US but found that no one was interested in speaking with me until they knew that I had the right to work in the United Kingdom.  The immigration process is long and tough but fortunately my husband had a EU passport.  Be sure to sign up for things like a National Insurance Card and Residence Card.  Put your status at the end of your CV and make it clear you have the “right to work in the UK”.  Also try to get a local phone number via Skype to make it less obvious you are from abroad (and leave off your postal address).

2. Learn the lingo & etiquette.

Check your CV (resume) to ensure that you use British spelling and that you translated all figures into £ and dates in the UK format. It is not as common to give your business card to everyone you meet at an event as we do in the US. Instead, give your card to specific people that you had a good conversation with and who could become part of your longer-term network (and follow up!). When contacting recruiting agencies you need to be the one keeping in touch and applying to specific roles on their websites. I found my job by contacting 5 to 7 agencies for specific roles.

3. Find a temporary position.

It might be hard to consider temporary work if you have always worked in full-time permanent role. It may not be ideal, but showing that you have worked in the UK–even temporarily–can boost your CV and help propel you into a great position in a new area. Also, it’s common for women in the UK to take several months or a year off for maternity leave, leaving companies with many temporary maternity-cover roles to fill.

Looking for a job can be tough, and it is important to maintain a positive attitude as well as your momentum. Using a career coach can also help you gain clarity, confidence and the market insight to accelerate the process. Meet with anyone you know in the area who may lead to a job. I learned a lot during my 6-month search (it usually takes 4 – 6 months to land a corporate job) but I came away with great contacts and a wonderful job. I hope this post can help you or someone you know do the same. Good luck!


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