Tuesday, 4 August 2009

My experience on the London IT job market during economic downturn

After a holiday in Ireland and the UK back in 2007, I decided that if nothing much was happening for me in New Zealand then I should head to the UK where I would have more opportunities to see the rest of the world.

In September 2008 my paperwork came through for my tier 1 visa to live and work in the UK.

I booked my flights so that I would arrive on the same date that the visa became valid, hoping to make a quick start at securing work.

Strange as it may sound, I didn't have any real experience of looking for work. My job in New Zealand had resulted from knowing a bit about a particular technology - CORBA - and a little bit of good luck.

I had initially hoped for some parttime work during my post-graduate study, but got invited to take on a fulltime job - with the option to continue studying parttime. Given that I was only studying to improve my chances of getting a job, this was an opportunity that I could not refuse.

Nearly 10 years later, and on the other side of the planet I had to actually apply for jobs and wear a suit to the interviews - as opposed to the "Pink and The Brain" t-shirt that had been part of my clothing selection back in 1999.

Working in a single company for a long time has some down sides, one of which turned out to be that the choice of technologies used did not match up well with what many job advertisements listed. Spring and Hibernate were the two biggies that I soon identified as being a big deal, so I read some books attended user group meetings etc. and even managed to win a 4 day training course.

After following other people's advice by applying for contracting roles, I started to consider permanent roles. After about the 3rd face to face interview I was lead to believe that an offer of employment was just a formality, so I stopped applying for other roles and considered having a little holiday over Christmas.

In early January the role fell through due to corporate re-structuring that had been followed by a companywide recruitment freeze. It was tough to get myself back into interview mode, so the next couple of companies didn't get a good impression of what I was capable of - 1 even told the recruitment agent who had represented me that I came across as though I wasn't that interested in being there.

After lowering my salary expectations I had more roles to consider, and soon came to the awkward situation of having to choose between two roles.

I chose the role that was located closer to home and the venue of the various technical user groups that I attend during weeknight evenings.

After being hired as a Java developer I accidentally painted myself into a corner that was labelled "Grails/Groovy development" at a time when Grails 1.1 and 1.1.1 were having stability issues.

At the end of my standard 3 month probation period the company shocked me by saying they were "letting me go". Given that I wasn't making much headway with the battle against the Grails issues, and several of their former colleagues had recently become available I can understand their decision.

Second time around on the London job market was a little easier. After six weeks and interviewing for eight different roles, I had two offers to choose from again.

I chose the well-established consultancy that offered greater potential for professional development, over that startup that offered more money.

No regrets.

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