The Truth About Finding Work on a Visa
-THROUGH MY EXPERIENCE-
It’s been no secret that I came to London in hopes of pursuing a career within fashion but I quickly learned I would be in for a daunting challenge.
If you’re unaware, I’ve been in London for just over 4 months. The journey started out great; I got a bank account, applied for my national insurance number (equivalent to a canadian SIN), registered with a general practitioner (doctor), got a flat etc. all the essentials you must do once relocating to London.
Now, the fun but hard work begins: finding employment! I went on job boards daily submitting my CV to any fashion buyer, junior buyer type of positions. However, all though I’ve worked as a Buyer & Inventory Specialist for over two years in the Oil & Gas industry back home, in London employers did not care one bit. They were looking for people with what I deem as branded fashion/retail experience. I had doors closed on me by fashion recruiters saying they couldn’t work with me due to my lack of fashion experience “in the UK”…maybe an excuse but who knows.
With all the negatives I experienced early on, I had to shake it off and persevere.
At one point early on, I did see a dim light. A recruiter saw my CV somewhere online and contacted me because he liked my experience and he was clever enough to see that my skills in the oil & gas industry would be TRANSFERABLE within the fashion industry. Plus he saw my passion and creative approach to getting into this industry from my personal styling/stylist/fashion blogging/volunteering efforts. He later showed me a job description for one of his fashion clients, and I cannot lie, I was ecstatic! I agreed to him sending over my CV to the client but now this is where the dim light blew out. The client liked my experience but they were looking for someone with more fashion blah blah blah…
After awhile I came to the conclusion or my pockets began to talk “Girl, we need money we didn’t come to London for a struggle life” so I opened up my job search pool. Luckily, I received another email from a different recruiter proposing a job with one of his clients.
Lets say it’s a call center type of job without disclosing particulars. He sent over my CV, mind you he told me he was going to make some changes (LIE) that I have dealt with high volumes of emails and calls. I didn’t object but I knew it is morally wrong. They were interested-HALLELUJAH!- I had a telephone interview that went amazing but the face-to-face was another story! I was interviewed by two gentlemen but it seemed like only one. The other was busy working away on his computer (rude much) but I tried my best to engage him still. The worst part, they questioned why I wanted this role with my prior employment background and they tried to dig to find out my living situation and how I’m getting by in London. Translation, why the hell do you want to work here making almost pennies when you don’t have a
financial support system! Needless to say, I didn’t get that role.
I don’t blame them because in all honesty I would of jumped at first chance at something better. They were paying a measly £18,000 annually (roughly $36,000 CAD). In my research, you need to be making at least £20,000 annually to live comfortable here (whatever that means).
Another interview I got with the same recruiter with a new client, went even worse. I was sent to an interview where the first words from the interviewer was I thought you were not coming! That surprised the hell out of me, especially since I arrived early to make a good impression as instructed by the recruiter, but that goes without saying I always arrive early for an interview. No CPT (coloured people time) when money is awaiting!
Once seated in the interview room she told me it would just be her because the other interviewer couldn’t be found. The interview went good except for her thinking I was there to interview for a different position! I had to kindly tell her what role I was asked to interview for. Then the other interviewer finally joined us and it was like the interview started all over again! Again, he thought I was there to interview for a next position. He also went as far as asking how does he know I won’t up and leave and want to go travel around europe!? As I left, I wasn’t very optimistic about getting that up in the air job. I contacted the recruiter at the agency and told him what a mess of an interview it was and all he could say is if they offered me that other position, would I take it! Can you believe that! This point goes back to my last post here about finding good recruiters to work with.
After that incident, I stopped reaching out to that recruiter because he didn’t have my best interest at mind.
Time continued to pass and I continued with my job search still full of optimism. It goes without saying, the time of year didn’t help much. Christmas and the New Year is not the friendliest hiring season. I had to work around many recruiters seasonal breaks so a lot of out of office messages! That down time really gave me time to gain a new perspective on life and what I wanted out of it on a deeper level. I may share some of my new realisations in a future post.
I opened my eyes and said, If I’m going to make it in London for the long term I need to start somewhere and what is better than starting with what you know! I decided I would tap back into my supply chain management experience.
I found a recruiter who specialised in supply chain/procurement recruitment and I scheduled a meeting with her. I filled out paperwork, discussed my objectives, what she can offer me, even got some tips on improving my CV. Now, this is the type of recruiter you need to find when looking for work in London. It even gets better, I opened up about my interest in fashion and surprisingly she had connects with fashion/beauty companies here. L’oreal/ Estee Lauder were even mentioned!
Sounds amazing right?! But it seems all seemingly good things these day have come to an abrupt hault. I called one day to touch base and I was surprised to find out she was moved to a different department for recruitment! SO that golden recruiter, was no longer useful to me. However that telephone receptionist, I had her work for me that day! I saw a job advert for a position that was advertised but through there other location. I had her contacting the respective recruiter to get his attention on me, and it worked!
He deals with supply chain management/procurement recruitment as well so he respected my background in this line of work. Which was nice to hear. The advertised position I was speaking of wasn’t calling for interviews until end of february but he was going to help me along the way. He submitted my CV to the client and they had some followup questions, one being: “Why didn’t she transfer to a division of her old employer out here?” It was a feasible question being that my old employer is internationally based but there nearest office is in Scotland and my focus was London. So, that was simply my reply but the real truth is my desire to work in fashion brought me to London but of course I didn’t tell the full truth!
The same recruiter also proposed what seemed to be the idea position. It was with an international eyewear company working a role within procurement! He submitted my CV after I gave my permission but the feedback was much of disappointment. They liked my experience but at this time they couldn’t commit to sponsoring me after my visa expired.
I don’t blame them. My competition is not just Londoners but all of Europe. EU citizens can work in London with no issue of visa/sponsorship requirements.Why of course they would chose a European over me. Common sense, hiring process is expensive! Why tackle on the financial and human resource burden of applying for sponsorship when you can hire someone from home knowing one less reason they may resign: becoming homesick.
After a few experiences similar to the above regarding employers less than enthusiastic attitude regarding my visa/sponsorship issue. I decided to suck up all my pride and give retail a go. I had some stipulations though; I would only work retail that was within walking distance from my home. No way would I be spending the little money I would be making on that expensive monthly Oyster pass I spoke of here.
Well, wouldn’t you expect I would of found something on my first day… no ma’am! I continually heard “We aren’t hiring now and it might not be for another 2-3 weeks”. I still passed along my CV but felt even more disheartened than before. I know January and February are slow in the retail world, thanks to all the broke pockets after everyone has bought into the consumerism of Christmas but damn thinking I couldn’t even get a retail gig out here had me at my lowest.
If you made it all the way here, thank you for continuing to read! It’s a long one.
I’ve experienced a lot on this journey and NOBODY can take away from all the hard work and dedication I put into trying to make a life here in London.
I’m writing this post not to discourage anyone from coming to London but just to help others be more aware of the reality of the choice you are about to make.
My next post will be a continuation to this one, as I know us millenials attention span is, well, you know…, where I will touch on what I believe it take to be successful as an expat in London
Have a blessed day!