‘I hadn’t realised that everything in the UK was so online’ – Greek

‘You have to make the most of the opportunities and make sure everyone knows your goal’ – Spanish

There is a broad range of industries in the UK making it one of the best choices for work in Europe, with many cities transforming into international global business hubs.

Even though the UK economy took a big hit during the global recession, more recently it has shown signs of recovery. The country boasts the 3rd largest economy in Europe (behind Germany and France) and a workforce of over 30 million people, and the 5th largest in the world.

The unemployment rate currently stands at 5.4%, a six-year low and according to a recent study by High Fliers, graduate employment is at a ten-year high with more graduate jobs on offer now than in previous years, however, competition for these roles remains fierce.

Language skills are becoming increasingly important, making many foreign nationals desirable candidates in the world of business. The international language of business is still predominantly English.

With the country’s diverse work sectors, good working conditions and numerous employment opportunities it’s no surprise that the UK is a popular destination for international graduates wanting to kick start their careers.

Job market in the UK

The UK is highly globalised meaning the job market is competitive. Major industries in the UK include:

  • agriculture for seasonal work
  • production
  • services
  • technology
  • finance

The services sector dominates the UK economy with banking, insurance and business services all key drivers of the country’s growth. Industries in decline include manufacturing, although it’s important to note that this sector still employs large numbers of workers and makes up a significant part of the UK’s output.

Growing industries include:

  • construction
  • creative
  • engineering
  • financial services
  • hospitality
  • IT
  • law
  • leisure
  • marketing and sales

The hospitality and retail industries often recruit all year round due to a high turnover of staff. The creative arts and design sector, although highly competitive, is often recruiting in London, while marketing and PR is thriving in cities such as Birmingham and Manchester.

In demand occupations exist in sectors such as:

  • arts and entertainment
  • engineering
  • healthcare
  • IT
  • teaching
  • agriculture for seasonal work

Get tips on how best to approach the job market and find a job.

Graduate schemes are available at many of the UK’s large and multinational companies in sectors such as:

  • banking
  • technology
  • engineering
  • retail

A list of companies offering schemes can be found in the Prospects website job sectors and Prospects graduate job search.

For small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), you will have to apply directly. Research individual companies to find out what graduate positions and work experience is available at SMEs.

Job vacancies

For job listings in the UK, see:

  • Graduate job search – for the latest graduate schemes, placements and jobs.
  • Guardian Jobs – national news site advertising UK and international jobs.
  • Indeed – job site listing vacancies throughout the UK.
  • Telegraph Job Site – Search for a job and get help with your career.

Teaching in the UK

The main languages taught in schools in the UK are French, Spanish and German and some schools are now employing Mandarin teachers. This leaves room for many of the other languages now prevalent in the UK.

If you are coming from outside the UK and possess skills in one of these languages, you may be able to find teaching work as a modern foreign language (MFL) teacher.

Due to a shortage of professionals in these subjects there is a high demand for talented individuals. If you have a university degree or English equivalent, and a good grasp of the English language, you may be entitled to bursary support in order to complete the required postgraduate study.

For more information on teaching languages in the UK, available bursaries and training options, go to Teach Modern Foreign Languages.

Work experience and internships in the UK

To get a foot in the door of an organisation, many students in the UK look for work experience. Work experience opportunities will vary in length, depending on the organisation. In some cases a placement will be as short-term as one day; others may last for several months and lead to a permanent position.

It’s important to remember that all work experience is valuable and many students are successful in securing a place for several months.

If you are attending a university or college, the international office can help you find and apply for work experience and internships.

Volunteering in the UK

There are lots of voluntary roles in the UK that can help you to develop your English skills and allow you to give something back to a charitable organisation.

If you can afford to work unpaid in order to gain experience, taking on a voluntary placement will be worthwhile and can help boost your cv.

  • Do-it is the UK’s national volunteering database, listing opportunities from thousands of charities and social groups.
  • Vinspired has a range of opportunities for 14-25 year-olds. Search by category, project and organisation to find a suitable project.
  • Volunteering England is part of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO).
  • Volunteering Matters works in partnership with UK organisations to deliver programmes that enable people of all ages and backgrounds to put something back into the community.

You can find further volunteering projects that are happening locally in your community by checking local newspapers and notice boards. Make sure you thoroughly research all volunteering opportunities and always check the terms and conditions before committing yourself to a scheme.

Language requirements

If you are looking for work in the UK, you will need to speak a certain level of English. GOV.UK has details on language requirements and other specifications for people wishing to settle in the UK at GOV.UK – Settle in the UK.

UK visas and immigration

Immigration categories are dependent on a points-based system and non-European migrants will have to research their category requirements before applying for visas at GOV.UK – Work Visas.

According to the European Commission, European Union (EU) citizens have the right to:

  • move to another EU country to work without a work permit;
  • enjoy equal treatment with nationals in access to employment, working conditions and all other social and tax advantages;
  • stay in the country even after employment has finished.

For more information and to check what conditions and restrictions apply, see:

Depending on your occupation, your qualifications may be recognised in some countries. To find out more, visit Europa – Qualifications for Employment.

Working conditions

In the UK the average working week is Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm, although in an office you will have some choice about your working hours. Working hours should be set out in your contract of employment and unless you choose to, you shouldn’t have to work more than 48 hours a week.

Part-time and flexible work are also possible.

Adult workers are entitled to at least one day off a week, four weeks paid annual leave, sick pay, maternity and paternity leave. Employers are not required by law to allow days off on bank or public holidays, although many honour these dates.

In England and Wales there are eight bank/public holidays a year, in Scotland there are nine and in Northern Ireland there are ten.

In the UK if you are aged 16 or above you are entitled to receive the National Minimum Wage NMW

Year 25 and over 21 to 24 18 to 20 Under 18 Apprentice
April 2017 (current rate) £7.50 £7.05 £5.60 £4.05 £3.50

Income Tax is the tax you pay once you start earning a wage. Taxable income includes the money you earn from employment and any profits you make if you’re self employed. Most people get a personal allowance of tax-free income, which is usually around £11,000. The basic rate of Income Tax currently stands at 20%.

Finding a job

Applying for jobs

‘I put in my cv my marital status and my date of birth until someone told me not to’ Danish

‘It’s really hard work applying for jobs and you have to keep yourself motivated’ Spanish

1. Your written application

If you are looking for a job in a large company, they will have an equal opportunities policy, this means that all jobs will be advertised so that everyone has an equal opportunity to apply and succeed. They may either ask you to fill in an application form or to send a cv (Americans call them resume) and a covering letter saying how you match what they are looking for in the job description.
You need to work hard at both of these and make sure your cv or application shows what you have achieved in your jobs or in your education. Don’t just send one cv off to masses of employers, you will need to make it fit each employer.
Large organisations such as the NHS or Civil Service use one job site for all jobs and you can register your interests with them and they will let you know when a job for which you are suitable is advertised.
If you are looking for a job in a smaller company, you could try volunteering for a small period with them, working temporarily for them or as an interim. People often like to recruit people they know and trust. If you need experience and can afford to, volunteering is often a great way to start a career.

2. Your cv / Application Process

This summarises your career. You should start with contact details and a personal statement summarising your career and what you are looking for. Then summarise your career, starting with the most recent position. When you summarise, don’t say what you did, say what you achieved and if you can, use numbers. Finish with your qualifications, any publications and voluntary work.

Preparing for an interview

This needs practice. You need to do lots of things to prepare for an interview:

  • Research the company
  • Develop and practice your stories showing what you have achieved and how you achieved what you did
  • Prepare what you want to tell the interviewers about you personally e.g your strengths and weaknesses – this is one the most likely questions you will be asked
  • Prepare a question that you will ask the panel
  • Think about what you will wear – you will need to dress appropriately for the company and sector you will work in
  • Make sure you know where the interview will be held and how long it will take to get there

3. After you apply

If you don’t get the job, you might just get a letter. If you have had an interview, it’s worth ringing the the interviewer and asking for feedback. This might help you with your next interview. Always be charming when you get feedback, you never know if you might meet the person again.
If you are offered the job, now is the time to negotiate your salary or your hours etc. Don’t ever negotiate in the interview.

4. Starting your new job

Tips on how to be successful once you got the job

People will tell you a lot when you first start so make the most of this opportunity to find out as much information as you can. You have only a few weeks to find out the most basic information so if you are working in an office, make sure that you know the following: where the stationery is, how to claim expenses, how to book meeting rooms, the filing procedures, where the shared and personal drives are on your computer. Attend the induction, even if it’s boring, you will meet people who might be valuable to you later.
Do something – you need to work out quickly how you can make a contribution and take some action. If you make a mistake, it’s early days, no one will mind.
You need to start getting people on your side. Mostly, people like it if you are curious about their work and like to talk about it. Have some questions ready, ‘how can I help’, ‘what is it you want from me?’. Remember people are far more interested in the world around them, than your last employer.

5. Your manager

Here are some thoughts on how to work with your manager which should help:
Your manager hates being caught out by other managers with information that you have and you haven’t shared it with them.
Make sure you take the lead in giving them information – have a weekly or fortnightly meeting with them – even if you sit opposite them. Think of lots of things to put on the agenda. Tell them what you are doing, what you are thinking about and ask for their insights. If they know what you can do and you are working to create a relationship with them, they will think about interesting projects for you.
Don’t bend the rules e.g. take more annual leave than you should, never exaggerate on a time sheet and fill in absence forms once you get back. For some of these things, you could lose your job and even if it’s not that serious, your boss will stop trusting you.
Follow instructions. If you don’t understand what they are asking you to do, check back with them. It’s fine to say, ‘I don’t understand, can you explain again?’ It’s better than irritating them by getting it wrong or looking at them blankly.
If you disagree with a decision your boss is making, do it politely, you could, for instance, say ‘may I challenge that?’ or ‘I would like to make a different argument, is that ok?’ So don’t just make a challenge but give it an introduction. Make sure you know when it’s time to stop arguing and your boss has made the final decision.
Your boss writes your reports, gives you reference and speaks about you so make sure you work well with them.