How to find a job in London

I don’t know anyone who would describe searching and applying for a new job as a fun activity but it does get even more dreadful when you are looking for a job in a country where you are not even residing in yet. When I first begun my job search I was still living in Finland and pretty much clueless about where to even start. My sister relocated to London within the same company she was already working for in Finland and, while she did help me a lot with transforming my CV to the British format, how to find the actual job was for me to figure out. That’s why I decided to share my story in this blog – just to offer some tips and pointers if anyone else is considering to take the same leap of faith.

Make LinkedIn your new best friend

Let’s start from the beginning – how to find a job in London when you are not yet living in the UK? When I first started looking for a job it felt like searching for a needle in haystack. I browsed through countless of different job sites but found myself almost paralysed by the number of different opportunities as the amount of open vacancies wasn’t anything I was used to seeing in Finland and therefore, I didn’t even know where to start. However, I quickly noticed that for me, LinkedIn was by far the most efficient and user friendly option. Searching for jobs has been made easy as you can set alerts for the jobs that matches your search criteria and better yet, you can avoid filling your information over and over again in those dreary application forms in the company websites. For the majority of jobs you can apply for by just sending in your CV and, therefore, the first (and possibly the most important) step of the job search is perfecting your CV and updating your LinkedIn profile. Also, remember to show recruiters that you are open to job opportunities in the settings of your profile.

Canary Wharf is home to the headquarters of many major banks

British CV

I don’t know how the British CV compares to the rest of the world but it’s definitely quite different than the Finnish one. Below are listed what I found to be most significant differences compared to the Finnish CV:

  • Unless you’re applying for a modelling job don’t include your date of birth or a photograph. In the UK, it is inappropriate to specify any personal details because of the equal opportunities legislation (i.e. to avoid any opportunities for discrimination).
  • When it comes to your work experience, instead of listing all the tasks and duties you’ve performed, focus on the achievements and whenever possible, use numbers to demonstrate those.
  • Forget the Finnish modesty and don’t downplay your skills and accomplishments. If you excel in Excel, don’t be afraid state it. However, don’t go overboard – while boasting about your talents and accomplishments might be welcomed in the US, it can be a bit frowned upon here in the more reserved UK.

Ace the interview

Besides LinkedIn, I would also suggest joining a Facebook group like ‘Finnish people living in London’ etc. where the members often share openings in their companies. This is especially useful for those who wish for Finnish colleagues and it’s also where I found the job I got my first interview for. The interview was for was a major global provider of financial data and was conducted via video call. And it was an absolute disaster. I’ve always considered my skills in English language quite good, especially after the MBA programme, but attending a full interview in your non-native language is whole ‘nother ball game. I still flinch when I think about myself trying to stutter some kind of answers to the highly technical questions asked during the interview. Nevertheless, in hindsight, it was good practice for the following, much more successful, interview to come.

Afterwards, I vowed not be discouraged and continued my job search and before long, I had another job interview lined up. This time it was for one of the largest custodian banks in the world and I felt a bit more confident as the role seemed quite similar to the one I had at the time. The previous disaster of an interview had also taught me to be better prepared – I practiced the answers to the questions I suspected they would ask and wrote notes to help me in case of my brain going blank during the interview. And even with all this preparation, the interview felt like the longest, and one of the most agonising, hours of my life and I hung up the phone feeling happy only about the fact that I managed to answer something to each question they asked. However, I felt the quality of my answers left a lot more be to be desired and therefore, I wasn’t expecting hearing back anything besides a polite email telling ‘thanks but no thanks’.

You’re hired!

Imagine my surprise when about a month later, I got the call offering me the position I had applied for. From that moment on, I had about four weeks to sell basically everything but the kitchen sink and board on a plane to London. If you are working in finance in London the chances are that your office is located in either the City or Canary Wharf. Mine was in the latter and I still remember the nervous feeling I had when I got up from the Jubilee line and made my way pass the skyscrapers towards the office – I was convinced that everyone noticed that I was some kind of hillbilly who had just moved to London and definitely didn’t belong among all the important-looking professionals rushing to their offices.

Writing this story makes me feel almost like it happened to a different person and I can’t believe all that happened only two years ago. Since then I’ve actually moved on to another job – I left the global bank in hopes of joining a company where the management treats you more like a person than a number, and that I found in a boutique Asset Management firm with a brilliant company culture. Or it was more like the company found me as I didn’t actually apply for the job but a recruiter contacted me via LinkedIn and arranged an interview with the company. Therefore, I think it’s safe to say I found the job search process much less nerve-wracking the second time around.

The comparison isn’t entirely fair though, as the two interviews I had for my current job were done in person rather than on the phone, and obviously after a year of working and living in London I was much more confident in conducting the interview in English. Nevertheless, I think a phone interview even in your own native language can be a tricky one as there are no visual cues to let you know how your words are coming across and those awkward silences feel at least a hundred times longer than they actually are. And to be honest, I’m still not entirely comfortable speaking English on the phone and embarrassingly enough, I feel my heart start beating faster whenever I hear the phone ringing on my desk.

Obviously, the above is only my personal experience of finding a job in London and I’m sure there are as many different stories as there are jobs. Also, my search has always been strictly limited to finance jobs and I can only imagine how different it must be if you are seeking employment, for example, in the fashion industry. Nevertheless, I hope my story can inspire others to go after the things they want – even if it means going way beyond your comfort zone as for me, going through the gruelling job search process was definitely worth it.

Also, if you have any questions regarding the job search or working in London, I’d happy to help.

– Milla

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