Tier 5 Youth Mobility visas offer two years in the United Kingdom for passport holders from participating countries, allowing an opportunity to live and work in the UK. Living in the United Kingdom as a New Zealander has provided a range of experiences that are so different to home. From an isolated island in the South Pacific with a population of four and a half million people, living in London is a complete 180 degree change. The freedom to tailor your stay in the UK to your desired lifestyle in whatever way you wish on this visa is inherently appealing; for those who prioritise travel who opt for long hours working to capitalise on cheap flights to unexplored corners of Europe, to those who wish to further their career in a dynamic city with a vibrant, international community on the other side of the globe, there are the usual challenges that arise with living and working as a young person. Finding a place to live, tackling the meticulously regulated task of opening a bank account, general life administration like figuring out how to navigate a new public transport system, to the all-important search for employment–a city like London is, for all the free sights, and cheap eats out, notorious for the cost of living and the daily commute. Finding a reliable source of income is integral, all the while knowing that staying in the UK after your visa expires can be tricky.
London is a big city. It has a lot to offer. This isn’t limited to whittling down the choice of weekend activities–navigating the job market is just as vast. Personally, it was hard to decide how best I wanted to tackle the next two years as I held my new visa, so like a good millennial and like so many before me in the same boat, I turned to the internet.
Modern job searches have morphed from trawling exclusively through newspaper clippings, answering ads on community notice boards and eagerly handing your CV in to places with a vacancy sign in the window. The internet has become a tool that affords flexibility and personalisation to a job search. Social media leads you to one site, word of mouth directs you to another. Hundreds of jobs online can be filtered to what you seek best, and while living in France before I arrived in the UK, I managed to secure my first job working in a busy inner city Pub.
The ease of using the internet to search and apply for jobs is readily acknowledged. Pre-uploaded CVs make the process of applying for employment quick and simple, but on the other side of the screen, employers are sent a truck load of applications. The human element of job application is often something that comes into play further through the process once you’ve been considered a viable candidate for a role. Silence often greets you, or an automated response informing you that if you haven’t heard anything in X-amount of days, then you’ve been unsuccessful. Being lucky enough to find a job I loved dearly within the first two weeks of searching eliminated a lot of stress; being in a similar time zone, being able to call and have direct communication with my new employers was easy, in a way it may not have been back home. I stayed at my first job for 13 months, and left after making the decision I wanted experience in an office-based role, which I hadn’t had before. I signed up to multiple agencies in the hope of securing temp roles; hoping to eliminate at least some of the impersonal and automated aspect of internet based job searching. One interviewer was adamant that I should never leave full time work in the pursuit of temp roles, and that if maybe I had signed up with their agency when I had first arrived in the UK I’d be easily placed, but having one year on a visa isn’t as useful to prospective employers. Another interview was a shocked affirmation that I’d secure contract work and temporary roles, and that it was perfectly normal to pursue temporary positions. Another was more casual, saying that the time of year lent itself to a pool of temp candidates that would be in high demand. All of the above had limited contact past the initial interview, if any.
Searching for roles independently worked best for me. Applying online was still the best option personally, and downloading the Flexy app was, ironically as an tech-based agency, the most personal out of the agency options I pursued. Support from the Flexy staff was consistent, but there is emphasis on the way you use the app itself; it’s proactive, and very much self driven. Being able to independently search for roles, both with and without the app, was useful for the way I wanted to manage my search for employment. The app was clear and easy to use; staff were knowledgeable about roles I inquired after; I could use it on my own terms, and once I’d committed to shifts booked, I knew that those shifts needed to be attended. The flexibility that went with using the internet and Flexy meant that I could still enjoy and make the most of a place with so much left to discover.
Variables that were applicable to me–visa expiry, lack of work experience in a specialised sector, lack of ancestry, and no desire to study further–meant that challenges that shadowed my applications are not universal. My decision to change from a hospitality-based role to something that was completely unfamiliar to me halfway through my visa was not the most useful thing I could do for prospective employers. Having said that, London provides a myriad of options for jobs, which are there; persistence, patience, and a good work ethic were key for me being able to find them and secure employment opportunities. This, perhaps, is critical in any location while searching for jobs; but the sheer amount of choice and option bigger cities allowed me was challenging. The job pool which is bigger, but with a larger number of candidates who are equally as capable–if not more so–the search can be daunting; well worth navigating, however, and is part of the experience. I still have the best part of a year left on my visa. I look forward to the future challenges of living in a place that operates at a fast pace.