Dear Matthew: I can't get a job because UK bosses discriminate against foreigners

BD’s career doctor advises an Italian architect who is struggling to find work in London

Question: I am from Italy and I have been looking for work in London. I send out many CVs, and never get an interview. I think employers here are anti-southern European. I find out later that they have employed an English person. They have no interest in me; only in local people.

Answer: It is very hard place to be in, firing off CVs and not getting anywhere. But it is a place only you can move away from. There isn’t going to be a saviour magically coming out and plucking you from the hordes. I always try and be as positive as possible with people who write in, but I fear what I need to say to you may be somewhat direct.

I give this advice while assuming you are an excellent architect, and very employable. But even that is not enough: you need to switch your attitude. You’re exuding a victim mentality, as if it is somehow everyone else’s fault but your own that you have had little success in your job hunt.

You are quick to assert that the issue is where you are from. But whatever the barriers the fact is London, with high levels of incomers and a hugely diverse population, is a much easier place to get work than most cities. A look around any London work force will show you that people from anywhere can make it, though rising up in organisations, and entering at a higher level may be more complex.

Of course, a non-UK education might count against you in some ways. Many of the people from other countries working in the UK have completed part of their education here. Perhaps there is a grain of truth in thinking that graduates of certain countries’ systems are more easily integrated into the UK’s way of working. But you need to counteract these tendencies; for me, the conclusion that people are discriminating against you is a little too easy.

After all, in architecture you already have a huge advantage because it is a field where historically much value has been placed on those with experience from overseas.

You can help yourself in many ways. Judging by your email, your written English is not strong, and if an email has mistakes in it, so I imagine does your CV. If there is one intolerance here, it is for having to make an effort for people who don’t have a good command of English.

I can’t imagine a better place for someone arriving. And the time is pretty good: there is work around. You just need to realise that London is a competitive place. It is the nature of big cities: you have to strive to get on. After all, there are a lot of eager people out there.

So my advice is get serious, or give up looking here and wasting whatever money you are living off. Firing out standard CVs is not the way to get a job. Get networking. Tailor your application to each practice. And improve your English.

Architect Matthew Turner of has worked at a range of offices as well as being a client adviser, project manager and competition juror

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