Do Graduates Need to Move to London?


Reeling from the news in The Independent that there are now only 43 homes in the whole of London that are deemed affordable for first time buyers, I started thinking: is moving to London after university the only way to get the job of your dreams?

London is a wonderful city, filled with opportunities and more career options than anywhere else – or so thousands and thousands of graduates every year are lead to believe. According to new research, London has more graduates in employment than anywhere else, with 53 per cent of the workforce holding a degree. However what those statistics don’t take into account is whether those graduates are working in their desired career field, whether or not they’re overqualified for the jobs they’re doing, or whether or not these graduates are progressing in their work.

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The crowded and competitive reality of 20% of British Graduates moving to London means they often have to resort to desperate measures as rents soar. According to the Office of National Statistics, in 2012, London had the highest concentration of graduates of any region in the UK.  An estimated 60% of the residents of inner London were graduates and 45% of the residents of outer London were graduates. This intense concentration of qualified and skilled young people in one place, all competing for the same jobs leaves the chances of climbing your chosen career ladder even slimmer. As a result many grads turn to unpaid internships as a means of demonstrating passion and drive within their sector, hoping and praying that they will reap the benefits later on. However with everyone doing them it isn’t possible for everyone to feel the benefits and climb the greasy pole, and according to a poll conducted by the guardian, 67% of unpaid interns felt exploited or undervalued. The added problem with unpaid internships is that not everyone is a in a position to even take one on. Being able to work for free requires financial income from another source (be that parents or second jobs) and as this YouGov Survey shows, 39% of people who were offered an internship had to turn it down because they were not able to work for free.

Also, the influx of graduates in London leads to overcrowding, which in turn leads to problems with housing. As a result sofa surfing has seen a rise in recent years, as young graduates face the financial constraints of living in a city where ‘rents are so high you have to share a bed with a stranger’. Surely there must be other options than the capital city?

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This article by The Debrief has tons of honest advice straight from graduates who have moved to other cities to pursue their dream and are doing well. For example 21 year old Lauren, tells about how she got onto an IT sales grad scheme at Hewlett Packard in Glasgow:

With any of the corporate companies, the competition is fierce wherever you are, and a lot of the companies I wanted to work with had offices outside of London. Dell and Microsoft aren’t in London, either. It just depends which industry you want to go into.

It is not just corporate businesses that take their offices out of the capital either, as Jessica who studied journalism at Bournemouth found out:

”After I qualified, it was the London roles that I steered clear of as journalism doesn’t pay well (especially as a trainee in newspapers) and London isn’t cheap by any standards. Birmingham turned out to be a happy medium. There’s a lot to be said for mastering your trade outside of London.”

Equally, the BBC is based in Manchester, Liverpool is full of creative start-ups, and you can find job opportunities outside of London here, such as publishing in Gloucester. Mike Hill, chief executive officer of Graduate Prospects repeatedly tells graduates that London is not the only option:

There are lots of jobs in respectable, well paid and interesting small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) beyond the capital, and people live a good life working for them. I think that’s important to remember.

And it seems that the experts are in agreement as Emma Pollard, a senior research fellow at the Institute for Employment studies states:

Some regions do have less of a vibrant financial services sector – the East Midlands, for example. However, there are top-level manufacturing jobs. In Wales, there may not be so many company headquarters, but there are very senior public-sector roles. Everywhere has top jobs in health and education.

Essentially, the UK has a vibrant diverse jobs market that isn’t all focused in London, so research the career you want to pursue and see where in Britain you can go after it without paying the hefty price tag of London living.


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