London Calling! Lessons I’ve learnt moving to London to live and work – Part 1 of 3

In the midst of a double dip recession in the United Kingdom and the Eurozone crisis, I still answered the call.  I moved to London from a comfortable and promising profile rooted back in Australia.

A lot of people have asked me, my best answer being “Why not?”.  That was my best and it was the only answer I could give.

The reality was grim though.  Floods of people coming to London from crumbling Spain and Italy, from elsewhere in the United Kingdom.  In the EU, nearly 25 million are unemployed as of April 2012. Spain is hardest hit with 24.3%.  One of the main groups most affected are my generation – Generation Y.

I am 23 years old.  I graduated in 2009.  I did not have work set up in London.  My savings would only last me for about half a year.  I did not have relatives or close friends to stay with – I was in a hostel for 10 days before I moved into a flat.  I did not have rich parents to rely on if things got rough.  I did not have an ancestry visa – only a two year Tier 5.  Some things were stacked to make it challenging, but the task is not impossible.  I don’t know what my stance is around this thing called luck, but there are some things one can do to prepare.

Lesson #1 Go with your gut

One of my last conversations with a dear colleague, Giuliana Bonel (Marketing and Development Manager, Queensland Music Festival) revolved around the reasons why we uprooted ourselves from the regional areas to work in the big city aka Brisbane.  It was a common ground for us both – I moved from Toowoomba to Brisbane to study and work and she moved from Mackay to Brisbane after quitting her job to take up a new role.  “You just know when it’s time to go” I told her when the subject of moving to London came up.  It was the same feeling that compelled her to pack up and fly off.
We can rationalise, come up with dot points and brainstorm the pros and cons of any huge decision.  But you need your gut instinct and your drive – something that cannot be manifested with a piece of paper and a pen – to fuel you through the hard times.  According to Andrew Campbell and Jo Whitehead, “Our gut intuition accesses our accumulated experiences in a synthesized way, so that we can form judgments and take action without any logical, conscious consideration.”

I tried to come up with a number of reasons as to why a certain course of action can or cannot be made.  When a number of external, out of control factors are in the mix, gut instinct comes in.

Lesson #2 Understand what your Life Non-Negotiables are

There are some things in life that are just non-negotiables.  Even if you can only have one per day, having access or the opportunity for one is enough.  Have you ever been in a situation where you have an abundance of ‘stuff’ but without that non-negotiable, all that the ‘stuff’ can be pretty worthless.

One of my non-negotiable items was:”I will completely change my life.  I will travel to new places.  I will meet new people.  I will not be bound by past obligations.  I will choose my direction in life and I will choose my obligations.”
My belief is that you need to have your Non-Negotiables intact.
Lesson #3 Never underestimate your self and your worth

Ten days after I landed in London, I was offered an internship role at a startup company.  I met the VP at a networking event the night before and got in touch with him the following day.  This was when I was feeling low about myself – all but one of the recruitment agencies I have been in touch with returned my emails/calls, one agency offered below-the-average-salary for a job that I was not enthusiastic with and involved relocating outside of London…and I was still staying in the hostel.  I approached the person when I was feeling low about myself and decided to do something that I would never agree to myself ever doing in London – take up an internship.The thing was that from the first contact, it was obvious that I was there just to fill in some of their paid contract work while they figure out their cashflow to pay someone.  It was something beyond what I was able to do.  I was then offered another intern position at their company, this time “doing social media” full time for 2-3 months.  I declined.  I was then offered to do it part time or “whenever”.  I decided not to answer.  The offer was not only ridiculous but I found it offensive.  My generation, Generation Y, is a generation that is the most hardest it by the financial crisis here in Europe.  My generation is also the generation of choice in regards to exploitation by companies, both big and small, new and established, in regards to doing free work in exchange for ‘experience’.  I have managed interns myself, but I see their worth and I try to match their worth with their responsibilities.  The interns that I have taken on board – one now working full time (she used her work experience at this company as a springboard) and another involved in various projects in the creative industries.  I have managed contractors myself, for my own startups, and paid my freelancers with cash out of my own pocket.

Part 1 of 3

If you found this useful, do let me know.  If you have any suggestions or advice, I would love to see it!

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