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London Guide For Students - Working
Job hunt | Salaries | Taxes | Hints | My Experience

II. Working in London

For many reasons, the “Job quest” is the most difficult task to achieve in London, and the most important, too, for many reasons. First of all, working in London is an incredibly good experience. You will discover lots of new people, and new working methods. The second thing is about money. Staying in London is expensive, and working is the only solution if you want to enjoy the life there. And then, this is useful to validate your “Stage FH”.

Getting a job will probably not be an easy thing. In fact,

  • You are French, and French people aren’t English’s best friends,
  • In general, you speak basic English,
  • You’re coming from nowhere (yes, for an English, France is nowhere), and you have no job references,
  • You’re staying in London during only three months,
  • You can’t work one day per week, due to lessons at UCL,
  • And, worst of all, you have no experience or qualification.

For an employer, you are all but the ideal applicant. If another guy applies to the same offer, he will probably get the job.

Obviously, your only strength is French speaking. There are about 600.000 French people in London, so speaking French is a good quality. So, if you want a cool office work, look for jobs which require to speak French. But this is certain that this kind of work will not help to improve your English. If you want to do so (and this is by far the best solution), you will probably get one of these jobs :

  • Waiter
  • Cook
  • Cleaner
  • Barman
  • Cashier
  • Or just… Slave !

Or, if you’re lucky, maybe you will be sales assistant in computer shops or boutiques.

Maybe you will find a job like this...
Maybe you'll find a job like this !


1. Several ways to solve the problem

There are many solutions in order to find a good job in London :

The best thing is having a contact (or being part of a network) in London. If you’re in that case, lucky you ! For the others, do not expect to find your job from France (by Internet), especially if you give French address and phone number. I think one or two students managed to do that last year.

Because 120 French jobseekers are 120 less chances to get a job, the best thing to do is to go to London before everybody. Thatís harsh, but unfortunately, true!

Other ways are :


There are tons of offers. Jobs are usually interesting, legal and well paid. But these offers are often reserved to very experienced people. You will need to send lots of applications (about a hundred), and be patient, as replies are very slow ! Most of the time, you will already have a job elsewhere when the first answers will arrive.

Go to the Links section >>>


Temporary Work Companies

I gave my address and phone number to an Adecco office, but I never got an offer from them. In all cases, be patient, and do not rely too much on them, even if some students were successful with this system.

Go to the Links section >>>


Jobcentres (British ANPE)

The Jobcentre Plus Logo

This is a quite efficient solution. Just go to the closest jobcentre and sit in front of a computer. Then, seek for job ads and call them. There is a great range of offers, and you will probably find some suitable for you. But the rule is simple : first come, first served ! There is always a rush for the most interesting ads, so be quick. Let me give you an advice : go to the jobcentre every day, in order to get the latest offers.

Go to Jobcentreplus' Website >>>


The Phonebook / The Yellow Pages

It’s working very well ! Just choose a random page and call restaurants, by example. You have good chances to find one which is looking for somebody. There is a drawback, though : it will probably be moonlight work, which is very hard and poorly paid.

Go to Yellow Pages' Website >>>


Centre Charles Péguy

This is a French centre, which is located near Leicester Square. This centre has a job ads database, but you will have to pay £50 to read them. Moreover, you have no guarantee to find something, as the number of offers depends of the period.

Go to Centre Charles Peguy's Website >>>


Door to door seeking

An other solution : just walk through London and look for jobs ads on shops’ windows. If you see a good offer, enter the shop or the restaurant, and meet the manager. In the best case, you will be interviewed immediately, otherwise, leave a CV and a cover letter. Door to door is also a good way to discover London !

Each district has a speciality : you will find prêt-a-porter shops everywhere, but especially in central London : Oxford Street, Covent Garden, Leicester Square… Computer shops are essentially based in Tottenham Court Road (London’s Rue Montgallet), and bars are in Soho.


Call a friend

If you didn’t manage to find a job, try to call your friends who did. Maybe their employer needs somebody else…


To conclude, it's all about patience and luck, but you can be sure that if you are really searching and you are not too selective, you will be successful. Good luck, then !

Now, let’s see some useful information and advice about British’s employment system.


2. Salaries

Good news: the average salary in London is higher than in France !

The Minimum National Wage (English’s SMIC) is about £4.50 - £4.85 per hour, but it depends of your age, your job or if you work at night or during the day.

Job Avg. salary per hour
Waiter, cleaner £4.50 to £4.85
Cook, barman £5 to £5.25
Sales assistant £5.25 or more
Basic office work £5 to £6

If you are paid less than the MNW, you are probably working in an illegal job. Some of these works are only paid £3 per hour, so be careful !

Most of the time, you will be paid weekly. Monthly-paid jobs are less common, especially for small works, such as waiter or salesman. Be careful, as you will probably not be paid for the first week. You will receive your salary one week later, in order to avoid brutal leaving. If you plan to quit your job, you will need to warn your manager in advance. Otherwise, you won’t be paid for your last week.


English aren’t lazy !

If you like France’s “35 heures”, you’ll be disappointed ! Overseas, most of the jobs are from 40 hours per week to... no maximum. You can find 48h jobs, and even 60h a week for illegal jobs ! Part time works are from 8 to 30 hours per week.


3. Tax System

If you have a legal job, you will be taxed. In fact, you have two types of taxes : NIN (for National Insurance, English’s “Sécurité sociale”), and PAYE (which is very badly named, isn’t it ?). Taxes are about 10% of your salary, but it depends of your work and your Tax Code.

For all I understood, the Tax Code number represents the amount of money you will have to pay. The rules used to determine it are quite obscure to me, so if you think you’re paying too much, tell it to your employer, he may change your tax code. If he doesn’t, go to an Inland Revenue office, and ask them to do so. You will have to fill a form and give it back to the IR office. Your Tax Code will be changed in three or four weeks, and your PAYE tax will be refunded (not the NIN).

In order to be refunded when you come back to France, if you did not manage to change the Tax Code, ask your employer for a P45 form of your last salary (tell him in advance, as it may take several days for him to get it). With this form and all your payslips, you can be refunded in France.

Go to Inland Revenue's Website for more information >>>


4. General Advice

  • If you are living in suburbs, do not expect too much to find a job near your location. Indeed, most of jobs offers are in London, so, let me give you an advice : don’t live too far from London centre (zone 3 or 4 is the maximum).

  • If you are doing door to door seeking, it is best to wear proper clothes.

  • Try to train yourself in the first days of you trip. Take a street, enter each shop which doesn’t have job offers, and ask them. By this mean, you will be ready when there will be a real offer.

  • You should always bring CVs and cover letters with you.

  • Don’t hesitate to adapt your CV : write a “normal” CV, a “salesman” CV, and a “pub/restaurant” CV. In certain cases, you will be more trusted if you do not mention your EFREI studies and replace them with experience in a restaurant or a shop…

  • In your CV, write your professional experience at the top, and your education after (even if English lessons at EFREI tell us to do the opposite)

  • Be strategic and diplomatic ! Don’t tell your manager that you will only stay there for three months. Rather, say that you plan to live in London but you have training lessons one day per week, during two months. But be careful, as you will need to tell in advance that you want to leave !

Looking for a job abroad is a very difficult experience, but it worth it ! I can tell you that you will never be feared about searching a job in France, after that !


5. About my personal adventure…

My main work tool :)

I had many difficulties to find a job. In fact, I worked during the whole summer, so I took about two weeks of holidays in London ! But when October came, I was really in need of a job. I tried the jobcentre about ten times, but there was nearly no interesting ad. I also did door to door seeking in London, but I was unsuccessful. But, in the middle of October, a friend called me and offered me a job. Oh, excuse me, it was not a job, it was THE job. During two month and a half, I was video games tester for VMC Consulting.

It was an amazing job, we had to test all European games for the XBOX console. I was playing eight hours per day, for a fee of £5/hour. Not bad, isn’t it ? I tested few great games, lots of not-so-great games, and a couple of hopeless things, but it was such a special feeling to be paid for playing !

The job was very funny, but it was very serious, though. There was tons of things to check during testing, and we had to write a report for each bug we encountered. We were doing a lot of multiplayer games tests.

I also met people from many countries : Sweden, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Germany, Italia, France, and a lot from UK and Ireland, of course.

Unfortunately, it was not a full time work, and I hardly managed to do 140 hours of work (in order to validate the stage FH). My office was also far, far away, as I was spending about five hours per day in transports. But, after all, it was the coolest job I ever had !


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