Alyssa Writes

Reader Question # 1: Move to the UK first, or find a job first?

My office until I got a proper job…

Hey Alyssa!

So I work a regular 9-5 corporate job here in Toronto but anxious to travel and enjoy life. So I have been thinking about taking my skill and going abroad. I know you’ve been doing that and so I was wondering if you first decided to move and then find a job… or find a job and then move?

Do you have any suggestions or tips you could give to someone in my situation?

– Wanting to Travel
Dear WTT,

The first time I moved abroad (Martinique), I already had a job lined up and I must say, it is significantly less stressful. If it’s your first time moving abroad, then it eases a lot of nerves to have a job waiting for you. In many cases, that’s easier said than done.

When I was moving to London, I decided to move first and find a job when I arrived. There were a few things working in my favour:

  1. I wasn’t particularly picky about the job I got. If I didn’t find something in my field, then I would have been happy working at a gym or a bar, or as a classroom assistant – at least for the first little while.
  2. My partner is a Londoner. He had a lot of contacts and I was able to network with people who had jobs.

  3. I was able to stay with his family. I paid for my expenses, but I didn’t have to face the racket that is the London housing market with all of my savings on the first go. It gave me time to find my feet and I didn’t have start applying for jobs at Costa Coffee immediately.

On the other hand, I was at a disadvantage because though I’ve had a couple dozen jobs, they had never been long-term full-time positions in my field. Basically, I didn’t have a dedicated field of work – I had spent two years teaching English in the Caribbean! This didn’t give me very much leverage in the job hunt, and I was lucky to have not started with a low paid/no paid internship, which is an epidemic in London. For someone who has been working for years, I’m sure you will have more people after you!

These days, it’s not easy to find a company that will sponsor you to come to the UK unless you have very special skills or you are in a very senior role. First, in order to recruit from overseas, the employer has to show that they cannot fill the role with someone who is settled in the UK or the EU, so finding a job before arriving in the country can be difficult.

If you’re dead set on having a job in advance, then there are a couple options. Check whether your company has an international office, then you may be able to ask for an internal transfer overseas. If not, you can look to move to another company with offices in Canada and abroad, work there for a bit and find out what it would take for them to relocate you.

If you have a good amount of savings and are feeling adventurous, moving to the UK without a job isn’t the craziest thing in the world. Most jobs are found via recruitment agencies, so your first port of call would be looking up agencies that recruit in your line of work.

Some of the ones I used were:

Neil’s Recruitment Agency
Major Players
Digital Gurus

For temporary work:

Office Angels
Secs in the City

Websites (for job listings):


Let them know you’re making a move to the country with a Tier 5 visa – they won’t accept your CV if you don’t have the right to work here – and see what the response is like. Get them on the phone and ask them to give you feedback on your CV as well. If it’s positive and you’re sure you want to move, apply for the visa. Start sending out your CV about two weeks before your arrival and speak to recruiters on the phone and get them setting up interviews.

The key to working with recruiters is to get them to work for you. They get a commission if you get a job, so it’s in their interest to help you. If you have actual career experience, you will have a lot more clout than someone like me and could be very quickly head hunted, depending on your field.

Another tip – especially for new graduates – is to look for recruitment fairs to attend. Employers will often set up interviews on the spot if they like the look of you. I also went to two conferences in my field, which allowed me to network and find companies that were hiring.

I hope that helps!

My office now!
Bangers and Beer Fridays

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