How To Get Your First Job in the UK

As an expat in the UK, getting your first job can be tough. Here’s my top tips for getting employed in Britain. This is for people who are already in the UK on a visa like the Youth Mobility Scheme visa, but don’t have a job.

First Up – make getting a job your new job

Every morning I’d have a routine – which helps for the jet lag and settling into life in the UK – but is also really important to get a job.

After getting up, having a coffee or making my breakfast, I’d then check a group of job websites, sort from “added in the last 24h” and then go through them all.

By doing it this way, you’ll see all new postings once they’re up. Once I’d reach the end of the job listings for the last 24 hours, I’d stop until tomorrow. And repeat.

Getting your first job in the UK

What job sites should I use?

Because I was living in Kent (the South East of England) I literally Googled “jobs in Kent” and picked about 5 different websites.



Total Jobs

These sites are great for positions around the UK and super useful for finding your first job (or second or third!).

Jobs in Kent – this one in particular is great for Kent but there are other region-based websites depending on where you settle in the UK.

Repeat this process for whatever region of the UK you’ll be living in. Pick a handful of websites and check those for new postings in the last 24 hours. Make sure to apply to more than you think you should.

What should my resume look like?

This is hard to explain but a good question. In the UK, it’s called a CV and typically employers like something that’s straightforward, concise and relevant. You can google UK CV examples if you want to have a look, but I would recommend having:

  • what visa are you on, make sure they understand that you’re able to work in the UK
  • contact info like mobile phone number
  • work experience
  • schooling, if not too long ago and still relevant
  • any volunteering you do, or distance learning, professional development, etc
  • a brief list of your skills and knowledge
  • make it as few pages as possible – 3 pages is way too much

Need extra resume help? Check out my post here: how to write a great UK resume.

When should I start applying?

When you receive approval for your visa, whether that’s for the Youth Mobility Scheme visa or you’re joining your spouse in the UK on a Family Visa, you’ll receive a date or a window when they want you to arrive in the UK.

What I did was I started applying to jobs from Canada about a week before I arrived. If you do this any earlier and they actually want to interview you but can’t because you’re still in your home country – you’re wasting everyone’s time. But by waiting until the last week, by the time my application was reviewed and I was contacted, I was given interview dates for when I’d be in England.

I actually got two job interviews this way for my first week in the UK. They were both entry level and I felt pretty confident – one of the jobs I had even done before and was promoted to a higher position.

I was rejected for both.

This section is simply called: be prepared to fail

It was tough to get a job in the UK on a visa. I’m not going to pretend that it’s not. But if you go into the process knowing that it’s hard, I hope that can help make the rejections feel a bit less painful. I’ll be blunt: I remember crying on the train when I was rejected by one company and the other company never even bothered to call me back and tell me.

Your first full month in the UK (or two) many be dedicated to getting a job.

If you are looking for any entry-level job, apply to as much as you can and know that it could take awhile.

If you can a specialist in a particular field, you may have better luck, or it could be harder because there may be less jobs available.

Jobs in sectors that are desperate for employees is something to consider – the UK pretty much always needs teachers or healthcare professionals. If that’s something you’re qualified to do, I would definitely consider getting sponsored by a UK employer to come here for work.

Worried about attending a job interview? Check out my post here about my top tips for a successful job interview.

What’s the best way to apply to jobs in the UK?


My Dad was very much the type of guy who was like, “you need to go into the company and shake someone’s hand and give them a resume” and I think we’re pretty much past that now.

In my opinion, everything should be handled online and should you go into a company with your resume, it’s likely that they’ll ask you to apply online instead.

What about temporary work?

This is actually how I got my foot in the door and I always recommend expats looking into this for themselves.

I was contacted by a recruitment agency. They were trying to fill a full-time temporary admin position at a local college. It was for three months and then the position would be reassessed if it was still needed. I ended up being in that job for an entire year.

After a year of being a temp agency worker, the college decided to essentially “buy” me from the agency and hire me directly as a college employee. I then worked with them for another year in full-time employment.

This is huge. Lots of British people don’t want temp work – who does? But that’s a way for you to get your foot in the door and get UK experience on your resume.

After getting two years experience with the college, I was able to get a more specialised job in the UK, but without that original experience, it would have been really difficult.

Just keep in mind that getting a job as an expat is tough, but it’s not impossible. You just gotta really work for it.

Other things to consider:

When getting a job, there’s a few other steps required: you’ll need a National Insurance Number and a UK bank account to be paid into.