Before I arrived in Edinburgh, I thought I’d be able to get a job working part-time at a library, a departmental office, or student organization. In my final year of undergrad, I worked as the Research Coordinator for the Associated Students of the University of Washington Experimental College, a non-profit organization that provides alternative classes to the Seattle community. I assumed I’d be able to get a similar job in Edinburgh.
The job market turned out to be a lot tougher than I expected. I don’t know if this holds true for all schools in the UK, but the University of Edinburgh has few campus jobs. Edinburgh is about the same size as a large public state university, but it doesn’t have as much funding, hence, as many libraries, offices, or organizations. In addition, the UK doesn’t have a Federal Work Study Program. This doesn’t mean you can’t find jobs on campus, but you have to look harder and act quickly.
Your best bet is to look outside the university. There are several ways to look for jobs off-campus. One place to start is your university’s career center. Make an appointment with a career counselor to talk about potential employers and come up with a plan of action. Also, check your university’s employment website for job listings. The University of Edinburgh has a wonderful vacancy and employer database called SAGE that allows you to search for part-time and full-time work all over the UK. You should also check Gumtree, which is basically the British equivalent of Craigslist. You might also check Idealist to see if they have any interesting non-profit openings. You can also take a more hands-on approach. Print off a bunch of generic cvs, walk around the city, and drop them off at cafes, restaurants, and other potential employers. Talk to everyone you know about job openings. Lastly, remember to follow up on your applications.
Getting a part-time job in Edinburgh isn’t easy, especially as an international student. You know the job market must be bad if you’ve got over three years worth of retail and customer service experience and are rejected from H&M, when they are looking for new employees, without so much as an interview.
But it’s not much easier for UK Nationals. I have classmates who are British with BAs and work experience who have spent about a month looking for a job in a cafe or restaurant with no success.
Of course, if you have specialized skills or experience, your chances of getting a job are much higher. For example, a Chilean classmate of mine recently got a job working as a radio producer in Glasgow because she has over five years of experience in television and radio, having worked for companies, such as Paramount, Comedy Central and Fox News.
I am only on week 1 of my job search. I have applied to about five jobs in retail and customer service and I am still waiting to get callbacks. Although I don’t have my classmate’s breadth of experience, she gives me hope. Applying to jobs in Edinburgh can be very discouraging, but you just have to remember to be patient, resilient, and maybe, a little less picky.