New to London

First post of 2013.

So I’ve been living in London now for 2 months and I’m absolutely loving it.  The turnaround from leaving university has been non stop with one lucky event after another, but let me go back to the beginning to clear it all up a little.

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After graduating I moved back home to Essex.  This was lovely being with my family and my dog Polo, but I knew immediately that I wanted to live in a city again as I missed the independence and having a routine.  Just as I was leaving Manchester, I was offered a full time job at the University as a research secretary.  I had always planned to move to London and follow in both of my sisters’ footsteps, but part of me thought I would be crazy to turn down this job opportunity when I had no guarantee of any work in London waiting for me.  After much deliberation I decided to make a go of it in Manchester and look for a professional flat share to upgrade from my current student house share situation near the uni.

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Thankfully some uni friends had decided to stick around too so I wouldn’t be entirely starting a fresh.  So with these big plans for after travelling, I went up for the interview and fitted in as much house viewing as possible.  Unfortunately few were of good quality and only one seemed like he had a nice vibe, so I went for it.  And after 3 separate interviews I failed to get the room, it was crazy.  But as I hadn’t officially started my job they were reluctant to choose me over another girl who did have a secure pay cheque.  I was bummed from that and it only added to my already dwindling feelings toward Manchester and how I really wasn’t that fussed anyway.  So after some pep talks from the folks, I decided to hell with it and let’s give London a go!

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That’s when things really started to get going! I got back home from Manchester on the Thursday, went on Facebook on the Friday and saw that one of my sister’s friends was renting a room in the very young and social area of Clapham, where I also had many friends.  I asked my sister what she thought on the Saturday and she arranged for us to visit the house on the Sunday.  It was perfect; girly, clean and a great location; being near shops and bars and the only tube stop in the Clapham area where you actually have the chance of getting on in the mornings.  And after meeting the girls I would be living with on the Monday, it was official; I had the house! I was so happy that things had come together so soon, but now came the job of actually finding a job.

I signed onto an agency on the Tuesday called Hays – big and reputable, but after an impressive interview of promises and encouragement I failed to hear anything from my representative.  So I was forced to turn to Office Angels.  I had worked for them in the past in Romford, and had minimal luck, with just a couple of posts here and there, but mostly I knew that the kind of rates they invariably offered were £8-10/hour, which was in fact less that my earnings in Manchester, but I was desperate, so on the Thursday I went down for an “interview” and after being made to wait half an hour for my representative I was already a little apprehensive.  I sat down with a friendly woman and described my most recent job at the University of Manchester and its links with the NHS – and boom! She had just received a call the previous evening saying the NHS needed a PA temp asap, could I start tomorrow?! Of course I said yes, only to then find that the pay was Band 5, two pay grades higher than I had ever been on before. This was incredible!  In one week I had secured a flat and well paid job – it was a miracle.  The job was to be until Christmas and then I would hopefully be moved elsewhere in the NHS to support someone else.

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I took this two months to update my conservation CV and apply for jobs and wildlife charities and environmental organisations that would hopefully appreciate my conservation masters and administrative experience (whilst obviously enjoying and exploring the amazing city I was in of course – photo: Salvador and Amanda bar, Covent Garden).  Several jobs came up that looks perfect and I went for all of them.  Only 2 bothered to respond that I hadn’t be selected for interview and the others just ignored me altogether.  It was like 2 years ago all over again.  How can I graduate from university with such good grades, and have years of voluntary experience with various charities and NGO’s and STILL not be eligible?! What else did I need to do?!  After having this heart breaking conversation with my parents I was miraculously greeted with an interview requested for the Executive Assistant position at the London Wildlife Trust.  My boss at the NHS allowed me an extended lunch break to go and interview, and after returning to the office I received a phone call offering me the job! Finally somebody appreciated me for all the work that I had done, and all that I achieved since high school, and for once I didn’t think of regret for the time and money wasted on degrees that had got me nowhere, finally I was wanted by a reputable organisation that I only previously dreamed of working for.

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Now I don’t want this to be perceived as bragging, because that is not my intention.  I just want to show you that it is possible to finally get where you want to be.  I was in such a rut after my undergrad degree and didn’t understand why a first class honour Biological degree specialising in animals and conservation, meant so little to so many.  I didn’t understand why interviews for unpaid internships and volunteering were more serious than any paid job interview I had gone to before, but mostly I didn’t understand what else I could do to make a mark.  I still think its hard, even after volunteering so much and having achieved a masters in conservation biology, clearly shown by the lack of any other interview offers for the multitude of jobs I went for.  But I can only say keep trying, keep pushing and keep enthusiastic, because the application forms can be a b***h to complete and that alone can make you very depressed, but as soon as you get to that interview, this is where you have the real power to persuade people you are worth a damn, so make it count!

Since working for the trust I have met some really great people and have been inspired to get involved on the many reserves spread around London.  My induction has involved visiting some of the hub sites and really getting an image of the trust’s main aims and how important London wildlife is to its communities and the environment.  I have been involved in writing to London MP’s and Local authorities; updating them on the work of the trust, with the aim to gaining support in government.  To know I’m actually making a difference in some way is inspiring and I look forward to all the opportunities ahead of me.

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And since living in London I have made some really lovely friends and even strengthened some old friendships that Manchester had taken me from.  It’s been such an exciting start to what I hope is a long and happy time in this big smoke of a city!

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About wilsoemi

A 1st Class Biological Sciences graduate, with a Masters degree in Conservation Biology. Dedicated to nature and conservation, with over three years voluntary experience in environmental and conservation charities and NGO's. Currently working for the World Society for the Protection of Animals and volunteering for London Wildlife Trust.
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