Having to simultaneously job and flat hunt when you first get to London sucks balls. No other way to put it.
The thing is, you’re suffering culture-shock (which you’re shocked enough by, to be honest, because you didn’t think we were that different from The Motherland, did you?), decision-fatigue and exhaustion from jetlag and constantly being a little bit cold and lost.
Well here’s a cup of cement I mixed up specially, because you’re going to need to harden the fuck up.
You’re in for some of the most overwhelming weeks of your life, but lucky for you my friend, you’ve just moved to one of the greatest cities in the word, so there’s going to be an equal measure of bombtastic distractions to make it worth your while! You just won’t be able to afford to do 75% of them for awhile. Moving on.
Now. Should you be looking for a flat or a job first? Geography. You’re crap at it. So many areas you could live in, even if you restrict yourself exclusively to Zone 2 and north of the Thames. What are the areas even like, and what’s an acceptable price range when you don’t know how much you’ll be earning yet?
Hmm. Maybe focus on getting a job first so you pass all the reference checks and have cash for the bond aye. Don’t want your commute to be too long. But can you be on your A-game in an interview or in a new job when you’re sleeping on couch cushions placed end-to-end on your friend’s living room floor wrapped up in a kid-size sleeping bag you got for free?
Woah. 235 new jobs posted that match your search criteria this week. That’s 211 more than you’d have gotten in your weekly job email from Seek. Who knew what you do can be called so many things here? How much salary can you demand without getting laughed at?
Oh man. You’ve never spent so much time on the phone with shitty reception because you’re always popping in and out of the tube. What the hell did he just say? What kind of accent even is that? Can’t ask him to repeat himself for the fourth time can you, he’s going to think people in New Zealand don’t bloody speak English.*
* Any similarity to the writer’s actual living situation/train of thought are purely coincidental and for the purposes of this blog only.
This is important guys. I think it’s laughable that the minimum amount of savings required to be eligible to apply for the working holiday visa is £1,600. I know you know this already, but don’t do this. Don’t.
London is uber-competitive and stupidly expensive to live in, so don’t put yourself under unnecessary pressure. I used close to that amount up in just four weeks and I was being pretty careful with my money. I personally only left New Zealand when I had enough to travel (frugally) for a few months and then live (frugally) in London sans-employment for 6-8 months because I’m not a delusional, entitled fuck-knuckle. I wanted to be prepared for the very worst-case scenario, so you can scoff at my being too boring and cautious and you’re right, it did take me much longer than I would have liked to save this much, but hey. I’M RISK-AVERSE.
First things first – organise somewhere temporary to live while you job hunt. If a friend or relative offers a place to crash rent-free, grab it. You need to be able to smash interviews back to back, so make sure you’ve got the basics (duh). Hot water, RELIABLE FAST INTERNET, somewhere quiet(ish) you can take calls, an ironing board, and a decent place to sleep so that you won’t need to detract from your massive eye bags in interviews using this technique:
If you can afford it, I recommend a short-term sublet easily found on Spareroom or various Facebook groups. Because London rent is insane, and the flat hunt is such a particular blend of nek-level competition and soul-destroying despair, Londoners going on holidays or secondment will sub-lease their room for anywhere between two weeks to several months, to help with costs and/or to retain their room for their return.
This buys you time to explore London and make a more permanent decision based on what’s most important to you in a flat e.g. transport routes, an ensuite, absence of rodents, proximity to bars/cafes/gyms/parks/your friends/Asian supermarkets because everyone’s different.
For example, some people compromise on space/dignity for…hell I don’t know why anyone would rent out a cupboard under the stairs. I recommend that when you do finally start looking, pick ONE desired borough and 2-3 different desired areas within that MAX then go hard on securing a place a maximum of 10 minutes away from a station.
That means one thing sorted so you can focus on the mammoth task of getting employed STAT.
I myself have been happily funemployed all over the world for long periods of time. Yet nowhere has it sucked more than in London, which I attribute to the fact that this city is akin to the Big Apple; it’s one of those places you go to “make it”.
You will experience a growing sense disgruntlement and anxiety as you sit alone in an empty house all day, taking calls and sending out CVs, waiting for your friends who are out there busy being adults at annoyingly-impressive jobs to clock out so that you can bore them senseless with an update on your search. You’ll start to hear your own self boring everyone about your job and flat hunt and start to loathe yourself a little for it.
Even if the sun is out on a rare occasion, you’ll be reluctant to leave your laptop for fear of missing an email, or a dream job listing, or something. You’ll waste a lot of time on YouTube and Facebook, the latter causing an even greater level of FOMO because you cannot wait to be having as much fun as everybody else funded by a similarly exciting job. You will taste the bittersweet irony of the all the funsies to partake in and all the time in the world to do it, but no bloody money.
As I always say, go ahead and talk to people to ask for advice – but always remember that everyone’s situation is different and you’ve got to do what’s right for you – plus there is definitely such a thing as information overload.
With this in mind, conduct your job search as strictly as your flat search. I can’t speak for every industry, but I definitely had a sudden and dizzying array of options. It took a few weeks to work out the lay of the land, and then I started zeroing in only on roles that met the criteria I had determined. You can afford to be a little picky is what I’m saying – because otherwise you will be overwhelmed by just how many roles you can apply for with your likely jack-of-all-trades Kiwi work experience.
I’ll leave with you with this beyond excellent guide to London for first time expats by Rebecca of Runaway Kiwi. and share some of my own tips about the London job hunt particularly regarding soon. Sooon.