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New in London- looking for advice and/ or support

Hi All! 

I recently moved from Sydney to London and I've been actively looking for a role (Generalist HR Advisor/ Jnr HRBP) for the past 3 months. Whilst I have been trying to stay positive, I have found the process rather disheartening. I'm wondering if there are others who are familiar with the challenges of moving to London and securing their first London-based HR role who may have advice for me? 

Some quick information about me for context: I am a dual citizen with full working rights (British and Australian), most recently working in the technology industry as HR Advisor supporting a client group of 160 based in the UK, Australia and Pakistan, 3.5 years' experience at the Advisor Level, Bachelor Degree in Psychology and Masters in HR and OD, AHRI and CIPD member. 

I have had meetings with various recruiters and two client interviews. One of which I went through to the second stage, however, I withdrew as the role wasn't the right fit for me (I am a Generalist and it was an L&D role with 50% design and 50% delivery). The other was with one of the top 10 tech companies, the feedback was very positive, however my interview responses weren't 'deep' enough - fair feedback as my interviewing is a little rusty. 

I have applied for 67 jobs, with some applications taking as long as 2+ hours each (for big commercial businesses asking detailed questions in their application process), and I have only heard back (rejections and otherwise) from 37%. Each time I get a lead they seem to drop off. Calls to recruiters go unreturned. 

I have since broadened by application to include Junior/ entry-level HR Advisor roles. Although this isn't ideal, I am more than willing in order to get my foot in the door, however I am not having any luck with these roles either! 

Am I potentially doing something wrong? Am I missing something? Any and all advice from those in the industry would be greatly appreciated! 

Warm regards,

Nivek

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  • Hi Nivek

    Lack of UK-based HR knowledge and especially experience is probably offputting to recruiters. But your 'foot in the door' etc approach I'm sure is sound - if you keep trying, even though the response rate be low, eventually you'll probably succeed provide you don't get disheartened first.

    Otherwise, intensive networking (eg London CIPD Branches) might help, as might volunteering or even internships and / or independently following UK-specific HR qualifications (assuming you haven't already)

    Last but not least, welcome to Community and all good wishes for future
  • you may find benefit form the Career management webinars run at CIPD. details at this link www.cipd.co.uk/.../management-workshop-webinars
  • In reply to David:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, David. I completely take your point, and do agree that the UK-specific experience is a big factor. I had a group of 60 UK employees in my client group, and although there weren't many ER issues, I certainly think the experience I had; setting up the company pension fund, working on a UK acquisition, routine contracting etc. has helped somewhat - thankfully!

    I would love to get along to some of the CIPD events - although I checked out the upcoming events for the local CIPD groups (South West London, London and South London) and I can't see anything for July - I'll definitely keep my eye out.

    I've been refreshing with the ACAS online courses which seem to be an affordable option for the time being.

    Thanks for the warm welcome, David. Glad to be a new member of the community :)
  • In reply to Sarah:

    Thanks, Sarah! I hadn't seen these.
  • Hi Nivek

    You may already be doing this, but as your last role in Australia was, "supporting a client group of 160 based in the UK, Australia and Pakistan" I would strongly recommend emphasising the UK part of that, as well as specifically calling out any UK-specific legislation you are aware of or worked with. In line with David's observation on the lack of UK-based HR knowledge, potential employers would likely be put off by that, whether it is the case or not. You therefore need to show that it is clearly not the case.

    Secondly, I wonder why you have selected London specifically? Could it be that opportunities exist in the rest of the UK that you are missing out on?

    All the best with your search!
  • Hi Nivek,

    Firstly I second the advice above about highlighting your UK based experience particularly including employment law. I'd also highlight that you have the right to work in the UK quite prominently - I can imagine that some may think you need sponsorship and might discard based on that.

    When you say you work in technology, what kind of thing do you mean? Web/software development? Hardware? Just trying to work out the best direction to point you in. Also, what agencies have you tried? I can recommend some who deal specifically in Tech if that's helpful?

    Happy if you want to drop me a direct note and I can send through a list of potential contacts to speak to?

    Alys
  • Hi Nivek,

    As a fellow Australasian I empathise.

    I moved to the UK in 2015. I'm also a dual citizen and had 5 years experience in medical administration in NZ before moving to Japan for two years in an HR role.

    I struggled to find anything at first and eventually moved into an HR/Admin Team Assistant role well below my experience level. It only took 8-9 months before an HR Coordinator role opened up and since then I have been working in that same position gradually growing the responsibilities and am now in charge of a brand new LMS and a recruitment website project.

    In the end I only spent 6 weeks job hunting - it didn't take me long to identify that I wouldn't get a great role to begin with and would need to start from the bottom again (I also didn't have the finances to be out of work for long).

    I think expanding your search to more junior roles and using them as a starting point will definitely help to get your foot in the door. Spend a year gaining experience in some HR/Admin related position in the UK and then look to find something a bit more suitable.

    It's not easy and I'm still trying to recover for lost time myself but you'll get there!

    All the best,
    Clare
  • In reply to Owen:

    Thanks for sharing your advice, Owen - much appreciated.

    I think there is room to emphasise the UK experience further. I can certainly understand why an employer would be more attracted to a candidate who does have strong UK experience. Interestingly, ER case management has never been a huge part of my role however not having specific UK ER experience is one of the biggest barriers I'm experiencing.

    London is both a personal and professional preference - My fiance and I are located here and his work is here. I'm still learning the various areas outside of London, but you've got me thinking as to whether I could possibly extend my search further.

    Thanks, Owen!
  • In reply to Alys Martin:

    Hi Alys,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Yes, I have absolutely emboldened my British Citizenship - all except putting neon lights around it! Some others who I have spoken to have suggested perhaps employers are concerned about my intention to stay in the UK, despite having working rights.

    Ah yes, good question. I most recently worked with a global language and search technology company who helped develop multi-lingual products for AI, machine learning etc. If you think of the various products that require this - think Skype, Facebook, in-car GPS, Alexa etc. that is what they help their clients achieve. So far I have connected with recruiters at Morgan Spencer, Frazer Jones, Macmillan Davies, Purple House and Impact. Any other suggestions would be amazing - although I'm not limiting myself to the tech industry.

    I will pop you a direct note now - thanks so much for the kind offer!
  • An organisation I used to work for employed a lot of Australia/New Zealand/South Africa people in HR in the London office. I think most of them came via an agency called Australasian. Have you come across them? I have to say that everyone they supplied to us were very good. ;-)
  • In reply to Clare:

    Clare,

    Thank you - I knew there must be someone out there who had had a similar experience! I just let out a little sigh of relief. I'm so pleased to hear that your strategy paid off and it sounds like you are owning some really interesting projects.

    I am fortunate that I don't have the financial pressure immediately, however of course I am keen to get back to it! I definitely see the value of joining an organisation in a junior role, particularly in a company where there are opportunities to progress. Although it does concern me that I won't be using my skills - I don't want to get rusty and lose confidence. Although, being out of the game has that effect too.

    Thank you for your words of encouragement, I'm very grateful. All the best to you in catching back up!
  • In reply to Jacqueline:

    Amazing! Thank you Jacqueline. No, I haven't heard of them but I will get to it! In some ways this experience has made me more determined to do a rockstar job - I suddenly feel I have a lot to prove! Glad to hear they represented good clients :-)
  • In reply to Nivek:

    Just in case you not seen it, Nivek, lots of kindred spirits here
    http://www.tntmagazine.com
  • In reply to David:

    Thanks, David! I'll check it out. And thank you for your earlier comment as well. I did reply but I haven't yet seen the reply post appear yet!
  • Hi Nivek,

    Welcome to London!

    I can fully understand your frustrations, as someone who moved from Russia a few years ago. I also experienced the deafening silence from recruiters despite my best efforts. The first job in London is the hardest to find - you have to overcome the distrust (foreign! not a native speaker - she must be rubbish at English! (in my case), does she even have a right to work?! (yes!), no experience in UK or London - she doesn't know what she's doing!) - all of those and some more. And that within a market that is already over-saturated with "native" candidates.

    But not to despair! I got my first role within 2 months of searching following my relocation. I think what might help is turning what seems like a disadvantage into your competitive edge, your USP. In your case I think it could be having international HR experience (which is something that a lot of local candidates don't have). I got my first role here mostly because I was bilingual in Russian and English (and spoke 2 other languages) and the firm had dealings with Russia. So that was my USP, rather than having local experience. The role was far from ideal and the company too small for my liking, but it gave me that stepping stone I needed to gain the current role as a standalone HR Advisor in a rather British organisation. Also, it was in the outskirts of London, where (presumably) competition is a bit less intense! Commute was horrendous but I knew there were sacrifices to be made.

    I did my Level 5 alongside that first role and now I feel a lot more confident in the London HR market.

    I am sure you can do it! Good luck!