“Lon-don, concrete jungle where dreams are made of” – the truth behind working in the big city

After I graduated from university and worked on campus for three months, I was lucky enough to get a job working in central London working in IT in an investment bank. Although I only stayed for 6 months I learnt a lot about working in London that might prove useful for other graduates.

  • London moves fast. If you aren’t used to working in a big city, be prepared for the rat race. Learn your route to work beforehand by either travelling to your work before your first day or writing down a schedule. Be prepared for delays! I had to travel on both over ground and underground trains, 65% of the time there were problems on the over ground and 30% of the time on the underground. Give yourself some extra time so you don’t turn up on your first day late and red faced.
  • Relax. You will probably find you are among the youngest in the company but that’s ok. If you are working for a large organisation who takes in lots of graduates each year, you will be introduced to the other graduates so try to make friends! If you find you are the only graduate don’t worry, it just means your work colleagues will be able to share all their experience and knowledge with you and not have to share!
  • Socialise! If you work for a large organisation, you will find “societies” exist not unlike university. For example my work place had a Wine society, a real ale society, a badminton class, a yoga class etc. Find out what is available and make sure you go along to anything that appeals to you. If you don’t find anything, consider setting up something yourself! Your colleagues and “higher ups” will notice and be impressed by your willingness to get involved in the company.
  • Check what perks your employer is offering. These should be explained to you in your induction, but if not do some exploring online or ask work colleagues. If you are travelling into work via train most large organisations will offer a loan to buy a season train ticket with the cost being deducted from your monthly salary. This is particularly useful as a season ticket can cost around £2,200 (which you won’t want to pay up front!). There may be free gym memberships, dental and medical cover or shop discounts which you won’t want to miss.
  • Explore. London is full of a wide variety of cafes, bars, restaurants and shops. Consider spending a few lunch hours or a couple of hours after work exploring the area around your workplace. Not only will this give you options for lunch or after work drinks, it will help you feel more comfortable in your surroundings. If you are working in the city centre, you might benefit from walking to the next station over and exploring alternative routes to travel back from work (yes the commute can really be that bad!)
  • Save money. It can be tempting to get swept up in the London lifestyle and spend your monthly wage in the first couple of weeks and that is fine for the first month while you settle in. You will want to start saving money sooner or later so don’t feel embarrassed to bring in a packed lunch or to buy yourself a jar of instant coffee and avoid spending the £2.50 at Starbucks. Your more experienced (and better paid!) work colleagues will be able to afford to go out every day for lunch so don’t feel like you can’t turn down the offer to join them, or bring your own food and just get a drink with them.
  • Work! Chances are you would have already worked hard to get the job, so don’t ruin that hard work by slacking. You may be expected to work unconventional hours or overtime so the sooner you accept that the better. Don’t overwork and make yourself ill but staying an hour late here and there will not be missed by your colleagues. If you are staying at work late with your colleagues, use it as a bonding opportunity. None of you want to be there, so offer to pick up some donuts or coffee and you will make friends in no time!
  • Be honest. For the first 6 months you should have meetings with your line manager to discuss how you are getting on. If you have a problem, say something. There is nothing that can’t be resolved. If after a few months you find the job is not for you, don’t feel guilty in letting your line manager know. I left after a few months myself and everyone was very understanding. If you act like an adult and know it isn’t what you want the company will respect that. Just remember to get a refund for that season train ticket!

Working in London can be both enlightening and challenging. If you aren’t sure whether working in London is for you take a look at our website for general resources especially the “Career Satisfaction” page available here. Also feel free to come in to speak to one of our Advisers if you have any questions or queries.


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