A young Kiwi professional who moved to Britain to find work is warning others looking to do the same that scoring a job in London is no longer easy.

Alex Hazlehurst left New Zealand in February, hoping to secure work in the area she had studied here for three years - broadcasting. The 25-year-old, who grew up in Hawkes Bay, has a degree in broadcast journalism and worked as a producer for TVNZ's Breakfast for almost two years and later for NewstalkZB for just over a year.

Despite her work experience at some of the country's best-known media outlets, and being enthusiastic and young, she failed to secure a job until last month. Below she explains why London is no longer a happy hunting ground for Kiwi jobseekers on their OE:

It was starting to feel like this city hated me. I was angry, broke, drinking a lot, and lacking any of the confidence I arrived with four months ago.

I'm talented. I'm hard-working. I'm blonde. And I can charm the pants off the 60-something-year-old Italian who makes me my daily coffee.

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I'm also one of 30,000 Kiwis who have left Middle Earth for a city twice the population of our country. A city of 8.6 million people. A city that will chew you up and spit you out without so much as a farewell pint. So I may be many things, but in London, I'm irrelevant.


Now, we all know why Kiwis move to London; it poses as the perfect base between those Contiki tours, Sail Croatia cruises and Amalfi coast excursions. It gives you the invaluable UK experience on your CV and it means a short holiday from your student loan repayments.

But if you take a look behind the Instagram filter, is making a life for yourself in London always so peachy? To quote Urban Dictionary - the struggle is real.

This February felt like the right time for me to pack up my life. I had a specialist degree and three years' experience working for some of New Zealand's most reputable companies.

But it had also got to the point where I couldn't walk down Ponsonby Rd without bumping into someone I knew. So I guess you could say I was ready to conquer big city life. Before I left the Kiwi summer for -2C blizzards, I couldn't tell you the number of people who said, "Oh Alex, you'll be absolutely fine over there - they just love Kiwis!" And, "It's the greatest city in the world, you will have the time of your life!" Of course I believed them, because everyone from my boss to the next-door neighbour told me they had "walked into a job" in London, and I thought I would do the same.

Bursting with confidence and motivation, I touched down at Heathrow and before I had even slept off my jetlag, I hit the ground running.

I spent hours at internet cafes trawling through job boards (there are hundreds) and registering with recruitment companies. I was sending in four to five applications a day, emailing contacts I'd been given from home and stalking potential employers on LinkedIn.

Every morning, I would eagerly check my emails in the hope of an interview request or a "come in for a chat" opportunity. Sadly, my inbox stayed empty. It took me only a few weeks to realise that I might as well be sending applications straight to that company's junk mail.

It was then I decided that I might as well start really taking advantage of the recruitment companies everyone bangs on about.

I rang 11 that specialised in my industry, followed up with my CV, and asked if I could come in and meet them. I got a reply from two, saying they "didn't have anything at the moment - but we will be in touch". The thing about recruitment companies is, if they don't see dollar signs on your CV in the first three lines - you can forget about hearing back from them.

I was two months in, still no income, and my hard-earned New Zealand savings were disappearing at an alarming rate. I decided temporary work was the only way forward at this point. After all, 9 pounds an hour on reception was a start in helping to afford my new west London flat. I figured that in between answering phones and ordering stationery I could be surfing job boards and flicking emails off to recruiters. And then, all of a sudden, my originally two-week temporary reception job stretched into three months.

It was starting to feel like this city hated me. I was angry, broke, drinking a lot, and lacking any of the confidence I arrived with four months ago.

I was offered a permanent receptionist role at the luxury fashion company I had been working at, and when I turned it down, I wondered if that was the best I was ever going to get.

It was only after six weeks of pestering a manager every day on LinkedIn that I was offered two days' freelance work a week. After a month, those two days turned into four days, and things were looking up.

You may think my struggle is just a one-off, but the reality is, my story is very similar to many others'. Kate, an Auckland native and PR account manager, turned to nannying for the better half of a year before getting any work in the PR industry, and Ashleigh, an Auckland advertising creative with six years' Auckland experience, got some work freelancing, but 10 months later is still looking to land a permanent job.

Unfortunately, what the next-door neighbour doesn't tell you is London is not what it was 10 or 20 years ago. It is hellishly competitive. It doesn't matter if you work in law, finance, physio or marketing, there are hundreds of others trying to get the same job as you and a lot of them straight out of Durham University flashing around their A+ results.

Couple that with a housing crisis (I know nine people living in a four-bedroom flat), and you would have more fun battling Oxford St's sea of angry shoppers on Christmas Eve.

So here I am putting it to you straight: the "hard-working Kiwi attitude" no longer gives you an advantage in London.

The rumours about London employers "loving Kiwis over Brits" are a myth. The number of times I've had to explain that Auckland is a real city and not actually full of sheep is just too many to count. Because the truth is, there are just too many people fighting for survival. Too many great candidates, too many people offering to work for free, and too many people using daddy's contacts. I met a guy the other day who had been volunteering full time for 10 months at an interior design company in Soho just to get a paid internship.

It doesn't matter if you are Kiwi, Aussie, Canadian or British; London has become the Hunger Games of employment. So much so, a job will go up online and within 48 hours it has 786 applicants (I decided against putting my name in the ring for that one).

But the story ends like this: after five months of fighting off the masses, I'm proud to say I've finally landed a permanent job, at a great company, in the heart of Leicester Square. It was a 10-week process from the time I applied to the time I was actually offered the job, but nonetheless that contract's been signed, sealed, (Snapchatted) and delivered.

To close my job-seeking chapter, I caught up with the manager who interviewed me when I was fresh off the boat. I asked her why she didn't hire me back then. She said, "I don't know much about New Zealand, so I didn't think you would understand how we work here in the UK - and I didn't have the time to wait around to find out." It seems fair enough - why take a chance on someone from a country that prides itself on mountains and lakes? This kind of attitude is exactly what you are up against.

So to be clear, I wasn't someone who came to London to work behind a bar so I could scrape together some cash for the Kombi van tour of Europe. I came as a working professional and I got a very large reality check. Don't get me wrong, if you have more than five years' industry experience, you're more likely to have an easy ride. However, if you're like me, make sure the first thing you pack is your fighting spirit. Be prepared for tears, countless rejections, toast for dinner and of course the odd question about where New Zealand is on the map.

But if you can get through all that, it's then that you realise your next-door neighbour was right - London really is the greatest city in the world.

• Alex Hazlehurst blogs at lexinthecity.me

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"It was starting to feel like this city hated me. I was angry, broke, drinking a lot, and lacking any of the confidence I arrived with four months ago."

Posted by Herald Life on Sunday, August 23, 2015

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