Bridge in London

The Search for Something Better

Erstwhile Expeditions is an ongoing series in which I reflect on my past travel experiences. I recently wrote about how to meet new people overseas and my search for my first job in London. In my last post, I wrote about how I left that first job after only four weeks.

During my time at The Mockingbird, I remained in contact with the friends that I had met upon first arriving to London. They were instrumental in helping me find new lodging upon my return. Many of them had moved into a large flat that the BUNAC program also happened to own. Luckily, there was an opening in one of the rooms, and I immediately moved in.

Locating housing was easy enough, but finding a job was proving to be more difficult. After my experience at The Mockingbird, I was wary of taking another waitressing job. Several of my new flatmates worked office jobs that seemed decent, paid well enough, and allowed a reasonable amount of time off for travel. This seemed like a good option. One girl advised me to look for temp work; her job had started as a temp position and had become full-time!

I did a bit of research on local temp agencies, and found one that seemed to suit me well. It was a smaller temp agency, which meant less competition for jobs, but appeared to have a decent number of opportunities for work. I was able to register with the temp agency online and was shortly contacted by a woman there for some follow-up questions. She told me it might take a little time for me to get my first temp job through the agency, and to call back every morning until something was available.

First thing Tuesday morning, I called them up to find a job ready for me. It was a one-day position covering for a receptionist at a law office the next day.

I woke up Wednesday morning to one of the rainiest days since my arrival in London. I bundled up as best I could and made my way a few blocks to the underground. Despite the weather and the office’s somewhat hidden location (a non-descript door off an alleyway) I arrived a few minutes early. It seemed that nearly everyone in the office had taken the day off. One other office worker was present, but the lawyers at the small firm were out for the day. The office was dark and quiet, and the phone only rang once throughout the entire day. The other office worker gave me some simple clerical work to do on the computer. It was easy money, and wouldn’t have been so bad if not for the company.

The other office worker seemed miserable and, for whatever reason, decided to take it out on me. She did this by telling me how horrible England was and questioning my decision to leave a wonderful place like California. She did this all day. No matter how much I insisted that I was enjoying my stay in London, she continued implying that I was foolish for wanting to be in such a horrible place.

At least that job only lasted one day. On Thursday I called the temp agency again to find they had another job lined up for me: a two-day position at the front desk of The Guardian. I would start Friday, then go in again on Monday. While I don’t remember what exactly I did at The Guardian, I do remember that the job was quite boring. My temporary coworkers were much more pleasant. As I was working the front desk, I worked alongside a few friendly security guards. At least, they didn’t talk my ear off about their hatred for the place I was planning to call home for the next several months.

On Tuesday I called the temp office again, but no jobs were available. The same happened Wednesday. Then Thursday. And then Friday. I started to panic. I was beginning to run low on funds and knew I couldn’t afford to work one to two days per week if I wanted to both live in London and travel through Europe.

I decided it was time to take matters into my own hands once again. That Friday, I packed a handful of resumes in my purse and headed to a nearby shopping center: Fulham Broadway. My goal was to spend each weekday that I wasn’t working a temp job searching for work in different areas of London.

I selected Fulham Broadway specifically for the centrally-located TGI Fridays. I figured I had a decent chance of getting a waitressing job at an American-based restaurant chain, so I started my search there. I circled the area, collecting applications from some surrounding restaurants, many of whom didn’t seem to be actively hiring. Then I stopped at Bodeans.

I first noticed the tiny restaurant by the pink neon pig glowing in the window. Nestled between a realtor and a building covered by construction scaffolding, I might have otherwise missed it. The awning boasted BEER & BBQ. I entered.

Almost immediately, a smiling face and a thick New Zealand accent greeted me, offering me a table for one. I corrected her; I was actually curious if there were any job openings. The response to this was even more enthusiastic.

As it turned out, this tiny BBQ restaurant was part of a larger London-based chain of BBQ restaurants. And one of the waiters at this location had recently requested a transfer to one of the larger locations. Which meant that they were in need of someone to take his place. It also turned out that this bubbly New Zealander was the assistant manager of the location. She sat me down immediately to fill out an application and give me an interview. I went home that afternoon with a new job — and this one would last me for the rest of my stay in London.

Stay tuned for the next chapter of my travel series, in which I reflect on the amazing experiences I shared with my London flatmates.

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    Hello! I'm Erika, a quiet girl living in the noisy city of Los Angeles with my husband Eric and my cat Cookies. I enjoy exploring new places, going on adventures, eating delicious food, and taking lots of pictures! >> Read more

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