visa status on CV, getting a job on the youth mobility visa, applying for a job with a visa, getting hired in the UK

Hi Alyssa!

I got my visa in June and I’m due to leave first week of September. I’m just wondering, should I mention that I have the Youth Mobility Visa on my CV or cover letter? How did you go about doing this? Additionally, I’ve got an honours degree in Sociology from the University of Calgary, and some solid internship experience. But have you found that people were less interested in you because of your Arts degree (you did get an Arts degree, correct?) and because you were foreign? I’m just a bit worried about this.

— Scaring Off Potential Employers

Hi Scary,

This is always a tough question for me to answer, especially because I only had one job in before I quit to freelance and I was hired by a Canadian guy. That said, I will draw on my friends’ experiences who have come to London from Canada or Australia in the last year.

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Should I mention my Youth Mobility Visa on my CV or cover letter?

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This is situation-dependent. A CV and cover letter should not include anything more than the most pertinent information. Putting these details in an application (unless explicitly requested) can open you up to discrimination. You want to give yourself every chance to get to the interview stage and a lot of employers or recruiters might look at that and say ‘Too much hassle’.

Key Takeaway # 1: Never put anything on a CV or cover letter that would put off a potential employer.

With that said, there are times that putting your visa status on your CV is helpful.

1) Applying for a job with a foreign address and phone number. I applied for some jobs in London with later start dates while I was still in Martinique – with my foreign address and phone number. In that instance I felt it was necessary to state I would have a visa so they knew I wasn’t looking for sponsorship and that I wouldn’t be immediately available for interviews. I was offered two interviews – one they conducted by Skype and the other asked me to come in while I was fortuitously in London on holiday.

2) To counteract international credentials. Canadian university, Australian secondary school, a bunch of jobs in Canada, whatever… Experienced recruiters and HR people will be able to guess that you are not from the UK. I feel that if your address and number on the CV are British, they will assume in good faith that you are legally allowed to work in the UK; if your details are foreign, see above.

Key Takeaway # 2: Put things on your CV or cover letter that will mitigate skepticism.

How to mention your visa

If you decide to mention your visa status, put it in the cover letter. Most importantly, do not mention its temporary nature. Why? See Key Takeaway # 1. Say that you have the right to work in the UK and leave it at that. You could be on a Tier 2 visa, a Spousal visa, a Tier 5 visa… it’s not their business until you get to the later stages of the hiring process.

Have you found that people were less interested in you because of your Arts degree and because you were foreign?

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No. But that depends on the type of work you’re looking for. As I’ve mentioned before, I think that experience is much more highly valued here than your specific degree. Of course, no one will let you be an engineer if you studied Poli Sci but that’s the case anywhere. If you want to go into jobs like marketing, management consultancy, or sales, then they want experience and soft skills.

When I was hired for my job as a content writer, I already had a solid portfolio of published writing, a blog, and an internship at a newspaper (on top of a couple dozen other jobs – I started working part-time when I was 15). I didn’t study journalism or English – I actually have a Bachelor of Science – but my experience showed a logical progression into the job I interviewed for.

Graduate Schemes and Training Contracts

Compared to places like Spain, France, and Germany, the UK is a place where what you studied doesn’t have to influence your job. I know a guy who studied languages and politics and got a training contract at a Magic Circle law firm (in the UK, you normally do an undergraduate degree in Law). Another guy studied music (at Cambridge though…) and is now working as a developer at a VC-backed start-up. People who studied arts are working as investment bankers and forex traders. An undergraduate degree shows that you can commit to something and finish it (or if it’s relevant, that you have a long-standing interest in the industry)… that’s pretty much it.

If you have little to no real work experience (less than 1 year) I suggest looking for graduate schemes and training contracts in the UK (you’ll mostly find them in London/Manchester/Edinburgh though). They also mean you can change career paths without having to go back to school. Of course, you’ll start at the bottom but getting paid to do a job is a lot better than paying for the possibility of getting one.

You don’t always need a grad scheme

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All you need a is a good story. How has your life experience or hobbies led you to want to apply for a job you’ve shown no interest in before? What skills have you gained in X industry that would make you successful in Y industry?

A friend of mine worked as a paralegal of sorts back in Montreal. Now she works in digital marketing because she wanted to try something new and experience different jobs before settling on a career path. My partner studied French in university, taught English in the Caribbean for two years, then worked on a farm and finally a shipping company… Soon he’ll be starting a job as an account manager at a top physical trading company.

Tenacity and a good story can get you a job in a lot of fields, especially when your degree-job connection seems like a non-sequitur.

That’s why I say that your university isn’t that big of a deal. Of course, if you went to Harvard, Yale, Oxford, or Cambridge then, yeah, your CV will get a thorough read. But that will only get your foot in the door – it’s the story you tell and the experience you have that will really make the difference. If you went to an accredited post-secondary institution, graduated, and got a decent grade, you’ve only met the minimum requirements.

Key Takeaway # 3Your experience will be much more important than where you grew up or went to university.*

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I hope that helps, best of luck with your move to the UK!

  • I should point out that these points really only apply to Canadians/Aussies/Kiwis and such. Coming from developed countries whose primary language is English, we are afforded a vast amount of privilege in the job market. People perceive our education system and job experience to be similar or equivalent to education and jobs in the UK. I can’t say whether the same is true for someone coming from Japan or Kenya, for example. I’m not saying it’s right or true, it just is.

Photos courtesy of Flazingo PhotosThe Daily English Show via Flickr.

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