London Calling
August 4, 2011 5:52 AM   Subscribe

Londoners: Is November a bad time of year to begin a job hunt in your city? (Over and above the difficulties already imposed by the current financial situation, that is.)

I am a South African with British citizenship/an EU passport. For various reasons, I'll be returning to London after an extended absence, and seeking employment (I'm a highly experienced Digital Producer/Project Manager).

I have to choose between two possible timeframes in which to make the move: November 2011, or March 2012. I'd prefer to get over there as soon as possible (i.e. November), but in South Africa, things (work-wise) traditionally wind down the closer it gets to the Christmas period, which is also when many employees take their annual leave. I've found that, in my industry at least, many companies are reluctant to hire until the start of the new year. Do you experience a similar 'slow down' in London over this period?

I'm going to try and set up as many interviews as I can (fingers crossed) before I leave, but I can't afford to mill about on a limited budget/crash with relatives indefinitely. I realise that I'm already handicapped by (a) the fact that I'm a foreigner, and (b) the current economic situation in the UK. I don't want to make things any harder, if possible. If this is a traditionally slow period, March may be the better option, no?
posted by tuckshopdilettante to Work & Money (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I work in telecoms (so not the same field) but every company I've worked for has wound down recruitment efforts just before Christmas. Generally it comes down to too many deadlines, various parties and people going away on holiday meaning that things like recruitment tend to take a back seat until January.

If I were you, I'd come over here in March.
posted by mr_silver at 6:06 AM on August 4, 2011

No longer living in London, but perhaps my thoughts will be helpful:

* Things do tend to wind down before Christmas. Then after the New Year, people start to think about their lives and how much they hate their jobs, and the market starts moving again.

* December in London is daaark. Dark, grey and drizzly. If you can't find work right away and you're worried about money, I can't think of a more depressing place to be over the winter. By March, the days are starting to get longer and things just feel more positive in general.

So I agree, March would be the better time to come.
posted by rubbish bin night at 6:13 AM on August 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

I concur - I work for a London firm (which does Project Management in part) and there are so many people about to go away in December that the least we can do in November is get the work wrapped up.

Recruitment usually starts in the new year, like a diet - as in, it probably would have been more effective if it was started a month ago :)
posted by greenish at 6:30 AM on August 4, 2011

Yeah, March. March is also the end of the financial year for a lot of firms, so if you're getting in touch in March, you'll be top of the hiring manager's mind when he's looking at his budget for the new financial year.
posted by Happy Dave at 6:36 AM on August 4, 2011

Thanks, all - I really appreciate the advice. You've confirmed a nagging suspicion - so, it looks like March it is, then.
posted by tuckshopdilettante at 6:46 AM on August 4, 2011

From my experience of the London job market (both trying to get a job from abroad and having a base in London), I would concur with commenters above (esp. rubbish bin night) about things slacking off in December. I'd pitch that period from mid-December to mid-January. It's not a big 'holiday' period (i.e. like July/August, where everyone goes off somewhere sunny), it's just that they're winding down or heading off for the start of ski season or just generally miserable.

That said, if you are of the mind of 'sooner rather than later', then you could give yourself a good run in November, if you a) really push early and hard and b) accept that attention might drift come December. The risk is that nothing will come of it and you'll be stuck here in the winter with no job. Which would suck.

So, March.
posted by bright cold day at 6:48 AM on August 4, 2011

Is it impossible to come over earlier? September after the summer holidays have finished & everyone is back to work is the other peak period for jobs IIRC. Most employers for any reasonably responsible position understand that anyone they appoint is going to have to give notice, so jobs advertised in September aren't going to be expected to be filled until November at the earliest.

August & December are the worst times to be looking.
posted by pharm at 6:57 AM on August 4, 2011

Thanks, bright cold day. A November 'hard push' is worth considering, but I've spoken to a couple of London-based recruiters and, although I apparently have 'very desirable skills' (don't they all say that?) and there are a fair amount of relevant positions being advertised at the moment - I would, obviously, be competing against a flood of applicants for the same. Given that I have a lot of South African and some US experience - but none in the UK market to speak of - they've both cautioned that it could take a while. I may be lucky and snag something right off the bat, or... I'll never know unless I actually do it - but if March offers an advantage - however slight - then, yeah, I'm probably better off curbing my impatience. :)

Pharm, good point - there's a very slim outside chance that I might be able to leave in mid-October, but no earlier, unfortunately. That probably doesn't gain me much of an advantage.
posted by tuckshopdilettante at 7:28 AM on August 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

(Unless, of course, I can land something from here.)
posted by tuckshopdilettante at 7:42 AM on August 4, 2011

I think that was meant to be my point tuckshopdilettante!

In these days of international video conferencing, you might be able to swing some remote interviews & if you could potentially start in mid-October then why not start the process as early as possible?
posted by pharm at 9:10 AM on August 4, 2011

Ah, I'm a bit slow today, pharm. :) I will be definitely be applying from here and trying to set up as much as possible before I leave.

There are some other factors that I haven't mentioned - I've just been asked to consider a six month contract (locally), for example - which means I have to make a decision about my departure date as soon as possible. The employer won't hold the contract while I test the waters remotely - I either have to decline the offer immediately and leave in mid-October/November, or take it (even though it's not something I'm particularly keen on), and leave in March.

At the moment, March is sounding like the smarter option - I'll also have the benefit of an extra six months of income, which will certainly help matters.
posted by tuckshopdilettante at 10:18 AM on August 4, 2011

I'd also factor in the weather. Moving here and looking for work in spring and early summer is infinitely preferable to doing so during the major downer that is the British winter. November to February can be absolutely miserable in London, but March is great - the worst of winter is past, spring is around the corner and the whole feel of the city completely changes. Make plans over winter, come here with some savings and give yourself some of the best months in the city to put your best foot forward.
posted by freya_lamb at 12:39 PM on August 4, 2011

freya_lamb, I've spent a few winters there (and further North), and the prospect of pounding the pavements in mid-winter doesn't exactly thrill me. :) You're so right - London in spring and summer is an entirely different - and altogether more attractive - beast.
posted by tuckshopdilettante at 9:16 AM on August 5, 2011

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