Wednesday, August 29, 2012

London: the be-all and end-all of graduate careers?

Our editorial intern, Laura is back with yet another insightful blog.

I’ve recently graduated from a university that is heavily dominated by people from the south or aiming for careers in the City, and moving to London after graduation seemed to be number one thing on most people’s priority list. Partly because of the kinds of financial careers or grad schemes they were aiming for or partly just down to the fact that they came from the south anyway. Honestly though, I’ve never really wanted to move to London and I’m not sure whether that makes me weird or just normal compared to the high proportion of wannabe investment bankers at my university.

I come from the North West and until I went to university London had never really been on my radar. I’d been there a fair few times and had visited the odd family friend or cousin who’d moved there for career reasons, but I’d never desperately wanted to move there. The closer I got to my graduation, however, the more I felt like I would eventually have to move there.

Speaking to a friend from the Midlands a while ago, I discovered that I wasn’t alone and that there is a whole underground movement of graduates who feel propelled towards London purely because they feel like ‘that’s where all the jobs are’ and that they have to go there to have a successful career. I’m not going to lie, I still feel like that sometimes, but I’m beginning to realise that I’m wrong.  

Two months into my post-uni life I’ve already discovered that Oxford is a great alternative to London. For one thing, it’s a university town, which means that there are loads of young people around and what’s more, it’s not that far from London if I do ever want to go there and spend a weekend being a ‘young professional’ in the city. Like I said, I don’t hate the place, I just don’t particularly want to be there all the time.

If you do want to live somewhere in the UK that’s not the south of England, my advice is to choose your industry carefully. It’s definitely easier if you’ve chosen a career like medicine where you’ll be needed everywhere but when the rest of us are choosing our career paths it’s important to know that certain industries are based in certain places. Oxford, for example, is one of the main centres for publishing, and most investment banking takes place in London. It’s a sad fact that career success in certain industries can depend on how prepared you are to move away but what no-one ever tells you is that not all of the UK’s graduate opportunities are in London. Manchester and Birmingham, for example, are two of the largest financial centres in the UK and that plenty of grad schemes are also located in Newcastle, Leeds, Edinburgh, and all over the UK. What’s more, pretty much every company everywhere will have a finance department, an HR department and a sales or marketing department, which means that people who choose these career paths could pretty much work anywhere too.

What I’m trying to say is that London and the south of England are not our only options when it comes to careers and that no-one’s career success depends on whether they move to London. London can be a great place to spend your twenties but if the City’s not for you, it doesn’t mean that you can’t have a great career and fun life as a graduate somewhere else. You just need to focus your job search on places where you know the jobs are. 

Thank you Laura. On that note why not have a a look at our city guides to see what industries and graduate careers are available in the top UK cities.