A Guide to Living and Working in London
Are you thinking about getting a job in London but want to know more about what it's like working in London?
As of 2021, London had approximately 5.8 million workforce jobs. This is an increase of 58,900 jobs from December 2020.
If you're looking for a new job and want to uplevel your career, working in London can be just the change of pace you need. As a business epicentre with a diverse workforce, London can give you networking and career opportunities you can't find anywhere else.
But even if you've been to London before, living and working there is a lot different from visiting. From the job market to public transit, you need to know what to expect before you move here.
Ready to take advantage of the amazing career opportunities London has to offer? Below is our complete guide to living and working in London so you can decide if this exciting city is the right next step for your career.
Why Work in London: A City Snapshot
London is the capital of the United Kingdom and one of the world's oldest cities. In fact, London was founded by the Romans, meaning that it's almost 2000 years old!
Thanks to this long history and strategic location on the banks of the River Thames, London has had a long time to develop its culture, architecture, history, and convenient lifestyle, all of which draw thousands of new inhabitants as well as tourists every year.
And given how populated London is, it's also become a huge hub for business and a great place to find jobs.
Some of the top reasons people move to London for work include:
- A large number of jobs
- Entrepreneurship hub
- Lots of public transport
- Great social scene
- Higher average salary than elsewhere in the UK
In particular, London's vibrant job scene has been a huge draw for young people. Nowadays, 1 in 10 people in London is between 30 and 34 years old. Almost half of inner London has a population of people in their early twenties to early forties.
And since London is both a great place to live as well as a place with so many job opportunities, it's drawn workers and entrepreneurs from dozens of industries, whether you're in tech, finance, or a creative field.
Now that we've covered a snapshot of London's job scene and why London is so popular, let's dive into the various aspects of what it's actually like working in London.
Those who want to work in London will be happy with the huge job market the city offers.
Many large companies will have head offices or office locations in London. Some of the biggest companies based in London include Unilever, HSBC, and Tesco.
And 201 of the Fortune 500 companies that have headquarters in Europe, 87 of these corporate offices are located in London.
This means that there are a lot of career opportunities for those wishing to work at big companies, no matter if you're an entry-level employee or a specialist.
Working for a big company is also a great idea if you're looking to move up the ranks within the same company.
And while the pandemic has negatively affected the economy of nearly every city, London's job market is making a steady comeback. More than 3,000 new jobs will be created in London over the next two years, and the city already has more than 60,000 job vacancies.
London's popularity for work has also drawn plenty of entrepreneurs and self-employed people.
Many of these start-ups start and secure their funding in London. A lot of these are tech and finance startups, such as Monzo, TransferWise, and Revolut.
What this means for job seekers is that there are going to be more jobs available to them. And while working at a startup may be more challenging than working at an established company or government role, it also gives you a huge opportunity to learn new skills.
Some of the benefits of working for a startup include:
- Increased collaboration opportunities
- More learning opportunities
- Direct access to higher-ups
- Less supervision and more creativity
- Being surrounded by passionate people
Remember that if you decide to apply to work at a startup, you'll likely have longer work hours than at other jobs. Think about what kind of work/life balance you'd like to have, as well as what your other responsibilities are, such as parenting.
But if the job is right for you and you have the opportunity to learn invaluable skills, then working for a startup can be one of your most rewarding career experiences.
Be Prepared for Rejections
Given how many people move to London for work, you have to prepare yourself for job rejections.
Maybe it was easy to get a job in your smaller hometown, but in London, you have to compete with both people from the UK and with foreigners.
This does not mean that you should be discouraged. Instead, take the opportunity to improve your CV and tailor it to each job opportunity you think you have a high chance of interviewing for.
This is also why it's a good idea to secure a job in London before you move there. This way, you can stay at your old job until you're able to find a new one.
If you're planning on moving to London before finding a job, be prepared that it might take you a while to get one. Since rent can get expensive in London, make sure to budget enough money for at least several months' worth of living expenses. If you plan on living in London longer term, it will be worth speaking with a London mortgage broker like Think Plutus.
Major Job Sectors in London
San Francisco isn't the only place to get an amazing tech job. For those wanting to work in England, you'll be glad to know that there are several major job sectors you can choose from in London.
Of course, you can get lots of different job opportunities in London, no matter what field you work in. But if you work in any of the following fields, you'll have lots of opportunities and roles to choose from.
While this list isn't exhaustive, the top job sectors in London include the following:
Due to the number of investors and corporations with head offices in London, you can find many tech job opportunities in this bustling city.
Leading tech companies like Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Amazon have offices in London. So if you're from the UK and it's always been your dream to work for one of these companies, you'll be glad to know that you don't have to immigrate to the US to work for one.
One of the biggest advantages of working for tech giants like these is that your experience makes for a very impressive CV.
You're also more likely to have more opportunities for promotion, move between departments, and even to manage your own team one day.
London is also home to smaller yet successful UK startups like Lumio, Emotech, and Intelligent Robots.
Many of the tech offices in London are centred around the Shoreditch and Old Street areas, so include these areas in your search if you're looking for a tech job.
Keep in mind that London's tech centre attracts many talented people, so you'll want to brush up on your interview skills and beat your job interview nerves so you can impress your hiring manager.
Since Medieval times, London has been a huge financial centre for Britain. Nowadays, you can find most of the financial district in the Square Mile and Canary Wharf areas.
Some of the biggest job opportunities for finance in London include traditional banking jobs, as well as insurance jobs.
London is home to many banks as well as globally known finance companies. These include Accenture, Goldman Sachs, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Ernst and Young.
London is also a huge centre for foreign exchange and bond trading.
So even if you're not from the UK, you can still take advantage of the many banking jobs in London. This is especially true if you have highly specialized skills or experience.
If recruiters can't find local talent to fill the right job gaps, then they'll look overseas to find the right employees. Be sure to keep an eye out for these kinds of job postings.
Aside from finance, the hospitality industry is one of London's top job sectors. Since so many tourists come to London each year, the city needs lots of people to staff hotels, restaurants, coffee companies, bars, and tourist attractions.
So if you have a passion for customer service and love talking to people, then make sure to look at hospitality jobs in London.
This is also a great opportunity to get more work experience, especially if you've just started out in the hospitality industry.
It's not only the high-tech jobs that are in demand in London. In fact, it may surprise you to find out that creative jobs are also very popular in London.
If you're in the marketing field, you'll be glad to know that London has the head offices of some of the biggest marketing and advertising companies.
Other creative jobs in London include jobs in film, television, publishing, theatre, and video games.
If you're looking for a job in London's creative industry, check out jobs in the Camden and Soho areas, which have offices for many of the top creative companies.
Most In-Demand Jobs
If you're having trouble finding London jobs, then one great strategy is to look at which jobs are most in-demand.
So even if there is high competition for these jobs, you're more likely to find a position that suits your skills, experience, and career goals. Make sure to update your LinkedIn profile as well so that recruiters can find you for these jobs.
According to the London Economic Plan, the most in-demand jobs in London are currently in information technology (IT). Some of the most common IT jobs include:
- IT technician
- Quality assurance tester
- Network administrator
- Computer programmer
- IT support specialist
- User experience designer
- App developer
These jobs are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to IT, so be sure to include all your relevant experience on your CV.
And given how many opportunities there are in IT, keep your career goals in mind and decide how your next position can help you get there.
These types of jobs also tend to offer larger than average starting salaries, which can be a great help if you have a lot of student debt you need to pay off.
Another in-demand job field in London is the services industry. Since London has such a large population, the city also needs many workers to staff its various restaurants, hotels, and shops.
Services jobs you can find in London also include property jobs, education jobs, and healthcare jobs.
One of the biggest parts of living and working in London is the commute to and from work.
Since London has such a large population, it unfortunately doesn't have very good traffic. People often get caught in traffic jams, and the average commute time for Londoners is 74 minutes a day.
Thankfully, London has an excellent public transit system. Some of the ways you can commute around London include buses, trains (both underground and above ground), boats, taxis, and trams. You can even bike to work if the weather's nice!
The most popular way to commute around London is by the London Underground rail network, known to locals as "the Tube."
The Underground rail network has 11 Tube lines in 9 zones. Your fare will depend on how far you need to travel, what time of day you travel, and how you'll pay.
The Tube runs from 5 am to midnight on most days, with some lines offering Night Tube service on Saturday and Sunday nights.
The cheapest way to pay for Tube fare is to use an Oyster card.
An Oyster card is a contactless, pay-as-you-go card for use on public transport in London. You put money on your card as credit, and then the appropriate balance is deducted every time you use transit in London.
A regular single fare on the Tube costs £5.50. But if you use an Oyster card, it costs £2.40. So if you're planning on using a lot of public transit, be sure to get an Oyster card for valuable savings.
If you live in the UK, you can get your Oyster card mailed to you for a refundable deposit of £5. If you don't live in the UK, you can't buy an Oyster card until you arrive.
If you're a foreigner working in London, you'll be glad to know that the UK has an excellent health care system.
And if you're from places like the US, where you often have to pay a portion of your health care even if you have insurance, you'll find it a relief to know that you get free health care in London.
As a worker in London, you'll get free healthcare and medical treatment through the NHS (National Health Service). Of course, like all workers, you'll need to pay tax to help fund the NHS, but you won't have to pay when you go to the doctor or hospital.
Health care areas where you might have to pay yourself are with optical services (such as reading glasses), some prescription medications, and dental treatment.
The UK also has some of the best and biggest ambulance services in the world in case you find yourself in an emergency.
Finding a Job in London
While London is a very safe city full of rich culture, you'll need to use some top strategies to get ahead in the city's competitive job market.
First of all, take a look at which areas of London have the most job offerings in your industry. This will help you when researching where to live and where to apply.
Next, make sure to include keywords relevant to your niche in your LinkedIn profile. This will help local recruiters find your profile and hopefully ask you to interview with them.
You want to make use of job boards as well. Be sure to use the filters to filter by area, salary, field, and job type (e.g. contract, freelance, permanent).
You can also attend networking events in London to meet other people in your industry. This is especially useful if you're new to the city.
Make sure to get business cards and add your new contacts to your LinkedIn account. You never know if your new contact has just the job opportunity you were looking for!
And if you're not a UK resident, you'll need to get the proper work visas first.
Due to the UK's exit from the European Union, there have been some important changes to work visas.
Each of these visas has different conditions for entry. For example, a Skilled Worker Visa lets you come to the UK to work, as long as it is for an eligible job with an approved employer.
One of the biggest benefits of working in London is the higher salary compared to other parts of the UK.
Londoners earn a median pay of £690 per week, which is £80 more per week than the second-highest earning area (the South East).
You can also compare the highest wages in London by location. Currently, the places with the highest average salaries are the Barbican District, Cannon Street, and the Bank Area.
Some of the jobs with the highest salaries in London include:
- Real estate associate
- Construction lawyer
- Enterprise architect
- Quantitative analyst
Salaries in London are not only higher when compared to the rest of the UK, but they're comparable to other large cities in the world.
This is a huge help given that the cost of living in London is higher than in many other places in the UK.
Depending on where you're from, you may be used to a rigid workplace culture that requires you to do the work without asking any questions. This is especially true of highly competitive corporate environments.
While workplace culture will of course vary depending on the company and industry you work in, there are a few similarities that many UK workplaces share.
First of all, UK workplace culture is fairly relaxed compared to some other places. While people still work hard, colleagues like to socialize after work and maybe even bring a cake to the office if it's somebody's birthday.
And don't be surprised if your colleagues ask you to come with them to the pub on a Friday after a week of hard work.
Depending on which country you're from, you may also have gotten used to calling your superiors "Mr. or Ms." In UK work culture, you don't have to call people by their full title.
But unlike some other places, UK work culture requires that you show respect to every worker, regardless of their hierarchy. Constructive criticism is also very common, so do your best to listen and improve your work.
And while UK workplace culture tends to be more relaxed, people can still work very hard. Sometimes, you may not have time to take one full hour for lunch.
It's also normal for workers to eat lunch and drink Hoxton Coffee at their desks if they have to keep working, so don't be surprised if this is a necessity during busy weeks.
The UK workday also generally begins at 9 am and ends at 5 pm. You are expected to be on time for work and for meetings, so be sure to budget extra time to make a good first impression.
Harness the Countless Benefits of Working in London
Working in London can be a dream come true, especially if you're in the tech, business, or hospitality industries.
Whether you've just graduated or are advancing your career, London's balanced workplace culture and decades of history can give you a unique and memorable experience.
To make the best of your London job search, you want to harness all the resources available to you. Our London job board is one of the best ways to find jobs in your field and skill level with the salary you're looking for.
Take advantage of our detailed search filters to find your dream job today!