I’ve lived in the capital for more than a decade. And for the last three years, I’ve been thinking about how and when I might move out of London. But it’s not easy.
How do you decide where else to live?
How do you find a job in a new city?
Is it better to move entirely or accept a long-distance commute?
Why leave London?
My reasons for leaving London are familiar to many people in their 30s.
Every couple of months a new story appears in the papers, profiling the young professionals for whom the capital has a dwindling appeal. Their reasons for leaving London tend to be consistent. We’re talking property prices, a desire for more space, access to the countryside. “Mature stuff.”
I’m not tired of London or of life here. The career opportunities and cultural experiences have been unrivalled. Most of my friends are here and are showing no signs of moving.
But my wife and I want more room – literal and metaphorical – into which we can grow.
And when we learned that our first child is on its way, the decision was made. We would move out of London.
Where to relocate?
We spent a long time reading through blogs like Life After London, creating complex spreadsheets of commute times and season ticket costs, and drawing up pros and cons of different parts of the UK.
We decided that we needed to be near to a city, though in the long run we don’t want to live in the city. A bit of a commute is fine; I like the reading time.
We wanted access to green space and the possibility of a garden. (See what London’s done to us?)
We also wanted somewhere with a bit of life to it. My wife and I met through playing in bands. These days, I’m more likely to be found at a folk session than a metal gig, but I’m not ready to sacrifice live music just yet.
To begin, we focussed on West Yorkshire, looking to commute into Leeds or Manchester. We’d look for jobs on either side of the Pennines and our move would be led by work.
How to find a job in a new city
As I’ve written before, in-house speechwriting positions tend to be based in administrative centres. Places like London, Brussels, and Washington DC.
These cities contain the organisations where the decisions are made which require speeches to announce them. They’re also where you find the organisations – political or otherwise – that are large enough to employ people for highly specialised tasks.
I realised that my post-London career would probably a shift from a highly specialist role to something more generalist.
In terms of my skill set, the shift itself would not be the main challenge. Speechwriting, while niche, covers many communication skills: messaging, strategy, negotiation, etc.
The challenge would be in crafting a compelling story about how my skills transfer to a different sector.
How can recruiters help?
I’ve had positive experiences of recruiters in London.
The good ones have been active and involved, and have made the effort to understand my priorities beyond my CV. And, having established myself within the relatively small world of speechwriting, I’ve been fortunate to be approached by specialist recruiters for all sorts of interesting and unusual assignments.
When I approached recruiters based outside of London, though, I attracted little interest.
Perhaps it was because the contact was being made remotely.
Maybe it was a reflection of the number of roles available in London compared to elsewhere.
Or it could be that I just had bad luck.
Either way, I felt that many recruiters in smaller cities were more interested in finding the person to fit a job, rather than the job to fit a person. I had better luck, and eventual success, with London-based recruiters who nonetheless had the occasional non-London role.
What to expect at interview
Most of my career so far has been in the public and educational sectors.
So, when I started getting interviews for new jobs outside of London, I was surprised to notice a difference between interviews for those sectors and for the private sector.
I’d expected private sector interviews to have space for a proper, full-on conversation. I’d expected businesses to want to interrogate me, to be creative, and to search for opportunities beyond their immediate need.
However, I found that smaller businesses often lacked confidence in interviewing. Larger public sector bodies and higher education institutions, despite (or perhaps because of) their highly structured interview processes, were keen to get a fuller measure of me.
From London to Manchester
Skipping forward a few months from the job hunt described above, I’m now one week into my new job and one week away from moving up to Manchester.
(The coronavirus pandemic has intervened, meaning I’ve started the job remotely. So much Zoom!)
Manchester simply offered more opportunities than Leeds which is, after all, smaller. My new role draws on both my communications skill set and my experience of working with researchers and healthcare professionals.
So far, five days in, it’s been satisfyingly complex and the people seem to enjoy what they do. I’m excited! No doubt I’ll be sharing more reflections on my blog soon.
All that said, I’m still open to approaches about interesting speechwriting or ghostwriting commissions. You can find out more about my professional experience on my LinkedIn.
Advice for jobseekers who want to relocate
Of course, all this is highly subjective and others may have completely different experiences.
However, if I was to offer any advice to jobseekers who want to move out of London, led by their careers, it would be as follows:
- You’ll require more time and budget than you first expect. The sheer number of opportunities available in London has spoiled you. Excellent stuff happens elsewhere, of course, though you might need to be patient. And when the interviews come in, those trains and hotels are expensive!
- Recruiters: it’s trial and error. Even with the many job sites now available, recruiters can get you noticed. However, if a recruiter doesn’t respond – even though they’re advertising a job that you think looks perfect – move on. Stick with those who show interest.
- How London-specific is your skillset? If “very”, ensure you have a strong narrative about how those skills transfer.