Disclosure: There's a good chance this post contains affiliate links. Purchasing through my blog helps me stay on the road! So, thank you!(Last Updated On: January 15, 2018)
After just a few short weeks of expat life in London, I have done a little write-up on my experience searching for and finding job(s). And it goes a little something like this!
I fumbled around and bumped into the wall of the tiny makeshift changing room, almost knocking it over before realizing that it was simply a wooden board kept up by a string. With about two feet between the close walls of this little room, I struggled into a pair of tight, metallic red jeans to see if they would fit me correctly. I made sure not to put too much weight onto the walls in fear that the changing room would collapse into the next stall of London’s Camden Stables market. When I confirmed they fit well, I brushed the thin curtain back and entered the back of the shop, now our tiny makeshift photo studio. I stepped onto a white, circular platform and faced the camera, which was adjusted to frame the jeans I was wearing. A few test shots were taken and we were ready to go; my boss set the camera’s timer to take a photo every 6 seconds, and flipped the switch on the platform I was standing on, which slowly started to rotate. Two minutes later after a full rotation, I was handed a pair of shiny blue jeans, and back into the little changing room I went. This was my work day.
Woah, back up. What the hell did you get yourself into Kimmie?!
Yeah, I don’t really know either, but it makes me money, and that’s what I need to live. It’s pretty fun actually. Let’s start from the beginning:
Let’s go over some basics first. So I moved to London what is now about 3 weeks ago, almost 4. I have lived in California my whole life, but with a British mother and American father (british citizenship too – thanks mum). I have always had that pesky little travel bug, and I figured what better time to travel, have a new adventure, and live in the land where half my family is from than when I have just graduated from college and am unemployed?! That’s right, no better time. So off I went, just over a month after graduation, to experience the ‘motherland.’ And yes, I went by myself. Call me crazy, call me weird, call me adventurous, call me whatever you want; Im probably a pretty even mixture of everything you would call me, honestly. I saved up all year and took the leap that a lot of people say they would like to take but don’t. And trust me, it’s not as difficult as you make it out to be… you just do it. That’s it. I found a flat online during the last months of school, made a down payment, and that was that. Easy.
But anyway, onward to expat life in London. I arrived in London and, spending my life at coffee shops until my flat got its stupid internet working (which just happened last week, don’t get me started…) I continued applying to jobs. And by ‘continued,’ I mean that I had been applying to London jobs online since literally September. And you should’t get me started on that either. I hate everything about today’s job world. I hate trying to make myself seem like a super human on a little piece of paper and I hate the fact that I spend three hours on each stupid cover letter only to not hear a single word back from anyone (besides a rare “we regret to inform you that blahblahblahh…” No. I hate you. I am an intelligent college graduate with a good amount of experience and a great and adaptable (if I do say so myself) personality. No amount of time spent trying to create the perfect curriculum vitae or amount of job alerts/job site email lists I signed up for produced anything really at all, because as it seems, no matter how much experience you have in this world you always seem to need more…
So, naturally, what I did in these coffee shops in London was…. surf Gumtree. For those (Americans) who do not know, Gumtree is basically a less sketchy version of Craigslist, with more options. And, naturally, I applied to absolutely everything I could potentially do that didn’t sound awful. Sales? Yup. PR? Absolutely. Bar work? Why not. Modeling? Let’s do it. Nannying? Sure. As usual I didn’t hear back from a lot but in my first day I got a few replies, one of which was from a company needing a ‘promotional model’ for an upcoming fashion trade show. They wanted me to arrive in person for an interview, to which my immediate thought was…. sketch. As a young girl in a new city applying to jobs on Gumtree, you unquestionably have to have a number of precautions on what you consider – all girls will understand the unwritten craigslist rules. Having just moved in, I was busy that day getting supplies for my flat and my immediate thought was to brush this one off – I didn’t have time to research whether it was a real company or trade show and it seemed slightly weird, and the guy wanted me to call him for more information. I had hardly activated my tiny little British brick phone by the time he wanted me to come in, so I aaaaaaalmost passed on it… but then I remembered my golden rule: never underestimate any opportunity, no matter how estranged or random. Might as well get expat life in London moving any way I can.
Like a true tourist, I plopped myself into the nearest coffee shop and asked for the wifi. I found online that it was indeed a real company, and a real trade show. Check 1: Passed. I figured I could go in for the interview – as long as my other basic online job sketchiness checks were passed (Usually not going into someone’s house, normal looking person, staying in an office/decently public place, etc) then it wold be alright.
Now I am going to skip to the end, since my story is moving incredibly slowly: I got the job. A few days later, I had a great time working at a big fashion trade show called Pure at Kensington Olympia for three days, making myself some good money to start me off with. I worked for a small new government funded company that creates (bear with me here) 3D interactive images of garments for online shopping. So basically instead of looking at a few pictures of something when you shop online and wondering what it’s going to really look like, this company creates a 3D image of each t-shirt, dress, jacket, or whatever, with different buttons to zoom or interact with it (hood on/off, zip up/down, sleeves rolled/unrolled, ETC). They do this by photographing each garment 20 times over 2 minutes on a rotating platform, and then photographing all the interactions, and outsourcing to a team to create the whole image. So instead of bringing their usual mannequin to the trade show, I acted as a real human mannequin who could actually talk to people, which they thought just miiiiight help.
Pictured: Kensington Olympia (where the trade show was) and me in some of my random outfits!
I ran around the trade show to billions of different designers, running back and forth from changing in the freezing cold bathroom downstairs and back our little stall, climbing onto the rotating platform and staying nice and still as I slowly turned around in a circle. I wore everything from tight dresses to pink business suits to leggings to printed tops to sweatshirts – it was eventful to say the least. I had a lot of those what-the-hell-am-I-doing moments, especially while struggling to put on tiny little dresses in the bathroom stalls and not drop my phone in the toilet… but I am a strong believer in trying new things, especially in a new city, and new things were exactly what I was trying. Here are some examples of my body being photoshopped out of clothes it was wearing
(update from 2017: links may not work since company eventually went under 😛 )
I must have performed decently well, because these guys invited me to keep working for them doing some sales. It wouldn’t exactly be sales, though, because as the program is funded by the government I would be persuading people to try a free trial, which should technically be much easier. It wash’t exactly the type of job I was looking for, but a job is a job, am I right? I figured I would try it at about the same time as another opportunity came in: an Office Runner job at my Uncle’s girlfriend’s production company (it’s not what you know…). Film and TV is much more along the lines of what I see myself actually doing with my life one day if I can ever get an actual real job (probably never… but whatever) so I figured I would try it. “Office Runner” translates in realistic language to “Office Bitch,” so I would be like getting coffee, going on ‘runs,’ answering emails, etc…. basically something reeeeeally unlike what I would normally try. But, it paid pretty well and was for a short term so I figured maybe I could stomach it for a bit during winter to earn more money to travel and possibly meet some good people in the process.
I am going to skip to the end again: I (am 99% sure I) didn’t get the job. I went in for an interview and I thought it went pretty well, but it never went well when you think it did, does it? I think they wanted someone really into cooking shows (they do a lot of Gordon Ramsay type stuff) and although I studied and knew a lot, the facts are that no, I am not obsessed with cooking shows. And that’s okay. Because looking back on it I don’t think I would have honestly been able to stand that job anyways. Cue “I am a free spirit and cannot be kept in an office and must roam wild” type quote. No desks for me. They eventually got back to me and told me that I was actually overqualified for the job and that’s why I didn’t get it… not sure what to make of that, but there you go.
Fast-forward to the present. I have been doing sales for this Interactive E-Commerce (that’s what it’s actually called) company all week, which is funding most of my expat life in London. What I do is follow up with people we met at the trade show – both people whose clothes we photographed, and people we just talked to and who seemed interested. I call and email people first (yes, one of those annoying telemarketers… sorry), and then visit them. I have a fancy schmancy iPad 1 that I get to use to show people how their clothes look after we process them, and I roam around London all day from address to address meeting (or trying to meet) people from the trade show. I can spend as many hours a day as I want on it, and can expense my travels. I never thought the words ‘client demonstration’ or ‘software’ would have a meaning in my work life, but it’s actually working out pretty well and I love being able to be on the move. It works. I have some funny horror stories about visiting people’s addresses who had not responded (my boss is very gung-ho on getting people and wants me to sometimes visit people’s business addresses even if I haven’t been able to contact them yet… one address ended up being this lady’s flat and she was not happy) but I can save those for a later date.
All in all, this job has been great. It is the reason for all the random locations of my Instagram photos and my solo snap chats on the tube (and in a strange wig). I don’t mind being by myself at all; in fact I enjoy it. But, I still wanted more. As much as I love working with middle-aged men, I was thinking I might want to have a work environment where I could identify more with some people who are my age and at similar points in life… So, on the the next project.
Some lovely pictures from a visit to Reading… aaand how awful I look with poofy brown hair and a strange dress.
I found online, applied to, and interviewed with three different promotional/event staffing/hospitality management agencies. This means they supply all the people in black shirts and pants who serve food or work at bars at events, banquets, weddings, festivals, sports games, etc, or promotional brand models to work wherever they are needed. I did a bit of this at home, and it’s fun work where you get to go different places, meet people, and get a change of scenery each day working at a new place. So, pretty much my type of job. My interviews all went pretty well; I had my first job behind the bar at Emirates Stadium for the Arsenal game last Sunday, which was good fun once I got the hang of it. I have just been approved for the other promotional agency, and I just had training and worked two crazy extravagant events for the third one! These jobs are great for expat life in London because you just put your availability in online and they text you or email you with possible jobs each week – super flexible and you can work as much or as little as you want. So, I am thinking that between these three promotional jobs and my sales job, I will have a pretty eventful yet flexible life where I’ll be able to decide how much to work and be free to travel also.
So, all in all, my first month of expat life in London has been a roller coaster – and this post is only about my experiences finding work! I haven’t event mentioned the trouble I went into getting my National Insurance number or a bank account (NI number is like the UK’s social security number- something you need to work. You need to make an appointment, go into the job centre with all sorts of paperwork, answer a bunch of strange questions, and wait weeks to get it in the mail… As for banks, they are so damn specific on what they will and will not take to verify that you are a real person living in the UK. No, a passport isn’t good enough. You need way more than that. But I’ll save all the numerous uninteresting legal headaches of moving abroad for later as well so I don’t bore you. There only thing you need to know is that Barclay’s sucks. That’s about it.) Other than all that, things are good. I got a Rail Card, I am planning some travels (Dublin for St Patrick’s day – how could I not? + Wilmslow and Scotland to visit some wonderful friends/family I haven’t seen in way too long) and am loving expat life in this insanely incredible city that will always have more to discover. And that’s all for now. Up next is my experience making friends when moving somewhere alone– I have some good stories.
But until then, wishing you amazing adventures and beautiful sunsets wherever you are,