One of the hardest things about moving to a different country is looking for a job.
I left my big law job in the Philippines in September 2019. In October, I moved to Scotland and got married in January 2020. And we all know what happened in March 2020.
Being unemployed in a new country during the pandemic was tough, financially and mentally. I was looking for jobs high and low – as a paralegal, secretary, admin work, even jobs in supermarkets. No one even called me back for an interview. I was not a qualified solicitor in Scotland, I had no experience as anything other than a lawyer, and I had no long term intention to work as other than a lawyer.
It took more than a year for me to finally land a job. Despite, or maybe because of, the challenges, I grew so much and learned a lot!
My top tip to find a job in the UK (or in any other new country) is –
Talk to people
As an introvert, this was a HARD but oh so necessary lesson.
Job hunting during the lockdowns was tough. I received loads of rejection letters and unanswered applications. I was feeling really down and lost. I knew something had to change.
My husband encouraged (basically forced) me to join this group of ladies in our little village who would meet up once a week to exercise outdoors. They are all older than me and it didn’t seem like we had anything in common. I went anyway because I needed a change – to do something different. Plus getting out of the house and moving would be good for my mental health.
While I really didn’t have a lot in common with them, they have become my main support group. They looked out for job vacancies for me and gave me tips. After a few months, one of them said her husband was looking for someone to help review government grant applications. I sent my CV and with my experience in due diligence reviews, I aced the interview. I started the job immediately (February 2021). This was my first job in Scotland.
I also tried the whole networking thing. Networking can feel so icky but I think it’s because it can be done with such disingenuousness. It’s uncomfortable for sure but if you approach meeting people honestly, it’s not so bad.
One of the biggest lessons I learned from networking is that people generally want to help.
My sister and one of my friends put me in contact (“connected me with”) people they knew in the UK who might potentially help or know anyone who could help me find a job. They were mainly lawyers and corporate folks who deal with lawyers.
I spoke to them on Zoom and emails. My sister helped me craft non-icky email responses that were casual and professional. The lesson here is that talking to people is a learned skill. Some people may be naturally good at it, others are because they’ve practiced it a lot. Unless you make an effort to try and practice, you won’t get good at it. So, ignoring the cringe, I spoke to all of them, including the people they introduced to me.
The other lesson here is to be curious about people. Ask them about how they got to where they are now, their background, why they chose their field. Not only will this potentially give you a roadmap for your career, it also helps build a relationship. Be genuinely interested in them.
One of the people I spoke to (my sister introduced me to this investor who introduced me to a lawyer who introduced me to this lawyer) was interested in my background and was actually in the process of opening up a position that would suit me in his office. The position officially opened when I already had a permanent job I enjoyed but this was such a good connection. He said if I ever wanted to move jobs to let him know as their company is expanding.
I also reconnected with friends I hadn’t spoken to in years who live in Europe. One of them was also a lawyer working in the environmental law field – exactly where I wanted to be. We caught up and she was on the lookout both in her organisation and elsewhere for job vacancies for me. She sent me one, I applied, and I’m now happily employed! This was a dream job and I wouldn’t even have seen this vacancy without her because, at the time, the organisation was a new and fast-growing one in the commercial/environmental law field.
Other tips and lessons I learned –
- If you don’t know anyone in your area, make a conscious effort to make friends. It’s about forming genuine connections. You don’t know where you might get job leads and, most importantly, it’s good for your mental health.
- Send out cold emails to Human Resources of the companies you want to work for. Explain why you want to work there and say you’d like to chat about what they are looking for. I did this for one of the law firms and I found it really helpful.
- Send cold messages to people in the field or company you want to be in on LinkedIn. People do really want to help. You may get ignored but you may get responses once in a while. Funnily enough, after working for my current organisation for a few months, I’ve received cold messages from folks and agreed to chat with them to talk about their careers.
- Be active on LinkedIn while you’re job hunting. People really do look at your profile so make sure it’s decent and updated. If you hate LinkedIn, remember that you can get off it once you get a job.
Let me know if you have any other tips for job hunters out there. As always, I’m happy to answer any questions! Leave a comment here or DM on Instagram.