As I progressed through my final year at University in West London, the ever-looming task of successfully finding a graduate job dawned upon myself and fellow graduates across the nation. Naturally, being based at a London(ish) University, I had tunnel-vision by only focussing on one move for my career, towards zone 1. Like many graduating students, the concept of ‘making-it’ was only ever conceived in the same sentence as the capital.
Job hunting began by scrolling through the various job websites and countless hours spent talking to over-promising recruiters with the keywords ‘design’, ‘graduate’, ‘London’. Being told to ‘apply for anything that could be right’, ‘just get on the career ladder’. Momentum was building and building on various job leads with little time to stop and think about what I wanted.
Numerous applications sent daily, a dozen interviews completed, three successful job offers. And one day, I just froze. It sank into me that London was not at all what I wanted. And I will try and explain why…
My parents have always been fantastic at helping and offering career support and when this day came, I had an honest and open discussion with them both. As a three, we tried to break down the attractiveness of a job role. This involved conceptualising what ‘a job has to offer’ as a series of three values. The values we came up with to rate each job on were; standard of living, location and opportunity.
I’ll talk through some examples that lead to my decision.
London – Job X
My opinion on London has always been mixed. The city has an incredible buzz about it but even though the salaries on offer were up there with the best in the country for first jobs, the cost of living is significantly higher. Hence why the category was named standard of living instead of salary. The thought of paying £800 p/m for what could be seen as a ‘student house’ was not what I wanted. I therefore rated this a 4/10 on standard of living.
Next was location. Now, is that location of residence or location of the job? Exactly. Surely, they should be of close proximity? I knew starting out in London involved living in zone 4/5 at best and commuting for up to an hour. Hardly what I thought ‘making-it’ involved. The contradiction of the amazing companies to work at in London, but not actually living in ‘London’. I rated this a 6/10, with the possibility of attending events across London, saving this by a few marks.
As for opportunity, I tried to rate this while considering a variety of things. Opportunity to work with high profile clients, opportunity to progress and finally opportunity in life. Bit serious, I know. But what I mean by that is, could I see myself staying in that location for the foreseeable future? I have never imagined myself being one to relocate across the country continuously, I aimed to feel established wherever I ended up. The opportunity to work at incredible companies in London was clear. But I always posed the question, if I worked there, how involved would I be as the junior? The uncertainty in this answer prevented top marks, 7/10.
This process posed the question, why is it only London being looked at? I then opened to thought that I could head north. Growing up, I have visited Liverpool often so this naturally was the first location to consider outside of London.
Liverpool – Job Y
The figure for salaries in the north is less than in London, yes. However, I was a firm believer that living in Liverpool would offer a lot more for my money. An important thing to consider when starting at the bottom of the pay scale. For example, renting a room in a two-bed city centre duplex flat for under £400 p/m and the opportunity to walk to work rather than commuting, is considerably better than what the big smoke has to offer. Standard of Living: 8/10.
The city has quite a lot going for it in my opinion, and more research only cemented this. The success of the Albert Dock redevelopment and Liverpool One. Along with the very exciting news of the Ten Streets project and Liverpool Waters development. Liverpool is an ambitious city. A trait that was exciting to potentially be a part of. With the knowledge that the city is ever improving and striving to become nationally a northern powerhouse, but also a gateway to Europe with its established shipping port and the airport only 20 mins drive from the city centre. Location 8/10, bit rough around the edges but is continuously improving.
Many jobs on offer in the creative industry in the north are with SME’s. I have never seen this as a negative. This to me, means potential to be heavily involved in all projects and dealing with clients first hand, which would be good for personal development. The opportunity to work with ‘high profile clients’ and to work for a FTSE 100 company had the potential to take a hit however. Opportunity 7/10.
As you could probably guess, I took the jump, ringing back the employers who I had gratefully received job offers from and informing them of my decision to move north. Since doing so I have not looked back, nor will I.
The career expert and author of ‘How To Get A Job You Love’ John Lees tells us “Jobs increasingly exist outside of London, and often cost a great deal less in terms of housing, travel and the wear and tear of commuting.”
Further to that statement, I believe more opportunity is available, when starting a career, outside of London. Opportunity in terms of progression and development, personally and the city you reside in.
I hadn’t considered living in the north while everyone around me was focusing in on the capital. Now, I am very grateful that I eventually did.