The Lost Girl and finding a job in London

August 31, 2015 § Leave a comment

For all of July and much of August, D.H. Lawrence’s The Lost Girl kept me company as I traipsed around London in attempts to settle myself within the city. I brandished the aged, orange Penguin almost like a shield as I rode the tube back and forth between appointments. I met with recruiters, all promising the world, or at the very least, a place where I could be productive and my skills be put to use, where my mind wouldn’t continue to congeal and my confidence disintegrate. In the meantime, I carried The Lost Girl as a symbolic gesture — I am not of this place, it announced, and I am completely out of my depth.


The first month of job-hunting was nerve-racking, but I expected that. I’d heard horror stories about the two-year visa I was on making me illegible for just about all positions that weren’t short-term, because no one wants to hire someone who’s guaranteed to leave within 24 months. With each passing week, I became more aware of my numbered days depleting, making me less and less appealing to employers. And those recruiters who’d promised the world? They went quiet. I was still receiving daily calls from new recruiters, who’d stumbled across my CV on recruitment website,, but the majority of these were for technical positions that I wasn’t interested in. Discovering this, they would promise to pass my details on to a team member who could help, but, as far as I can tell, this was never done. I was, for all purposes, on my own.

In the meantime, I continued sending off job applications for positions I found advertised on and LinkedIn. When possible, I went direct, having found I had just as much success getting interviews this way as when recruiters did the groundwork for me. And I continued to travel around London, The Lost Girl wedged between my mother’s travel wallet and my pair of £2.50 Primark sunnies in the one black handbag I brought with me, working on perfecting my spiel about who I was, where I’d come from and what skills I had.


In one job interview, after hearing that I’d been in London for little more than one month, the woman I was meeting suggested that I was only at the beginning of my job search. As someone who had developed cabin-fever of the worst kind from too many days housebound to keep costs down, this wasn’t what I wanted to hear. How many months would signal the middle of my job search, how many until the end? Moving to London wasn’t supposed to be like this.

Well, despair was no good, and being miserable was no good either. She got no satisfaction out of either mood. The only thing to do was to act: seize hold of life and wring its neck. – D.H. Lawrence, The Lost Girl

In the end, I was contacted by a company directly, who had found my CV on and thought I could be a good fit for a position they had available. It wasn’t this, but another role, I ended up interviewing for with them. After a couple of meetings, the offer came through and the rest is history. Insert big sigh of relief. Really, I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect belated birthday present.

Now, for the lessons: if I could do it all over again, rewind back to the beginning of July and start afresh, how would I recommend my past self approach the job hunt?

  1. Alter your CV to comply with the standard UK format, making an effort to include key achievements for each position held and mention of all necessary technical competencies and skills within the CV itself. Do not reserve these for the cover letter.
  2. Do not under any circumstances include tables in your CV — some software used by recruiters cannot properly trawl your CV for keywords if your CV is presented in this format.
  3. Register with, complete your profile and upload the updated CV there. Many recruiters and internal HR departments regularly search on Reed for candidates. Likewise with LinkedIn, so ensure that your profile is up to date.
  4. Don’t spend hours labouring over creating the perfect cover letter for each application sent out. Many UK recruiters, by their own admission, do not read the cover letter you submit, many preferring to create their own on your behalf or put your CV forward without a cover letter. If you know the job ad has been posted by a recruiter, a slightly tweaked, generic cover letter should do it.
  5. Of course, if you are applying to a company directly, do take care to tailor your letter and CV to the job specifications outlined in the description.
  6. Rehearse your spiel detailing your own experience aloud ,many times. Be confident in articulating what it is you did every day and how that relates to the position you’re currently interviewing for.
  7. Don’t be timid.

I finished The Lost Girl a while ago now and no longer have a need to carry it around. However, its lessons I will take with me, to go out on your own, take chances and rest assured that you will be found in the end, even if that end doesn’t quite look like what you anticipated.

Have you ever tried to find work overseas — what was your experience? Was there something you did or referred to to keep yourself motivated?


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