- Purchase the complete Expat Arrivals London Guide (PDF)
London has a diverse business environment. From bankers to fashion designers, computer specialists to graphic designers – expats from a variety of backgrounds will find that there are many opportunities for career advancement in the city.
Working in London is both a challenging and rewarding experience for ambitious expats looking to build their careers and gain valuable experience.
London is one of the world’s leading financial centres for international business and commerce. The city is the economic powerhouse of the UK and generates almost a quarter of its GDP.
Businesses in London come in all shapes and sizes. From large multinationals to small- and medium-sized companies and social enterprises, the business landscape of London is fertile ground for all types of companies.
Job market in London
London has an overwhelmingly service-based economy. Historically, the dominant industry has been finance, but the media industry has a strong presence here too. The BBC is a key employer and several other broadcasters have headquarters around the city, while many of the UK’s national newspapers are also based in London.
Of course, tourism has played a significant part in London’s economic success – and is one of the city's top employers – as the capital attracts international tourists in their droves each year. Though Covid-19 has of course put a damper on the tourism sector, it is sure to pick up in future.
Creative industries such as film, design and fashion are thriving in London. The city is home to the European headquarters of a number of the world’s leading advertising and digital agencies, while the technology sector has grown markedly, too.
Given the growth of the IT sector and the need to adapt to changing world circumstances, the digital realm of the job market has also exploded. The impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic have seen the shift of jobs into online roles. Everything from the recruitment and hiring process to team meetings and completing projects have become digital. Many companies are operating fully virtual workspaces or at least opportunities to work from home. When job hunting, it's worth looking for opportunities that offer remote work.
London is home to a number of internationally-renowned universities. Many experts in fields such as biotechnology and the life sciences come to the metropolis for its world-class research facilities. Medicine and engineering are also prominent sectors.
Finding a job in London
Expats who want to move to London are advised to secure a job offer before arriving in the UK. Those looking to take up unskilled jobs may struggle to earn a good salary that is in line with the high cost of living in the city.
Expats will find that the recruitment processes in the UK are usually fair, transparent and based on equal opportunities. That said, networking is key in London, as recommendations and referrals will get expats a foot in the door. Having a personal business network can also help alert job seekers to upcoming vacancies and offer candidates a head start in the application process.
Before arriving, it's best to do some research on job opportunities within one's industry. There are several avenues to peruse. Online job portals, including social-networking sites such as LinkedIn, as well as online listings on the websites of local newspapers, will provide expats with a good idea about the job market. Expats working in a niche industry will find that there are many specialist recruitment agencies available online.
Expats hoping to take up a job offer in London may need a work permit to legally work in the capital.
Work culture in London
The work culture an expat experiences in London will be greatly influenced by their industry. The dress and atmosphere at a finance job, for example, will be more formal than that of a media company.
Politeness is highly valued, and it's best to avoid showing too much emotion as this can make locals uncomfortable.
Londoners tend to have a 'work hard, play hard' philosophy. During working hours, business is top priority, but after-work drinks are common and are a great way to make friends with coworkers.