I moved to the UK in 2011, not knowing anyone and without a job. I had come here for a holiday in 2010, and it wasn’t until I got into regular boring old life when I got back home that I realised how much I wanted to move to London. Thankfully within a few weeks of moving everything fell into place, and it has been the best decision I have ever made.
I work as a senior marketing communications officer for NSPCC, the UK’s leading children’s charity. Marketing for a charity is very different from private sector; you are trying to market good will without a product or service in return so it involves having a strong knowledge of branding and charitable law. The stronger your brand is the more likely people are to support your cause, so it is imperative to get your charity to the front of people’s minds.
At any one time I can be working on around 70 projects. These can vary from large events, to corporate pitches such as Heart Radio and Debenhams, working on the Chelsea Garden Show or producing our quarterly magazine. Recently I was involved with developing all the materials and branding for our charity for the London marathon. It was amazing, but very stressful. I also managed to – name drop alert – meet Michael Caine at one of our events and the Countess of Wessex. The days are never boring. The job definitely keeps me on my toes and this role has taught me a lot about marketing and communication in general.
As part of my role I am also in charge of producing large scale photo shoots. It’s really rewarding seeing your work go from an idea through to completion and actually seeing the results. I love seeing people in the street with products or advertisements I have been involved in, as it makes me smile knowing that my work is being used by others. We recently launched a large campaign and hosted the launch at the Science Museum at night. It was very cool.
The opportunities given to me here would never have been available in Australia. Yes, the pay is less and the weather is worse, but this is easily offset by the chances you receive. My company had a tent at Glastonbury this year, had Maxim from the Prodigy create a work of art for us and made a video for a supporter climbing Everest for us. London is one of the most vibrant cities in the world and it still amazes me the types of roles that are available if you open your eyes.
For those looking to get into the NGO/charity sector, it is the same as any job — make sure you have an edge. This could be that you are very aware of the sector your charity works in, that you have knowledge of print management or any number of things. People in this industry are so passionate which means there can be stiff competition so make sure you show what makes you stand out. Before moving to the charity sector I was working in the mining industry so don’t assume that a sideways shift is impossible.
One difference I have noticed about living in London is that I’m always busy. I find myself having to plan for a night in because there are so many free events every night that I don’t have the will power to say no too. Life in the UK is unpredictable and I find because it can get cold here you really appreciate and use the outdoors more. Surprisingly there are many more rooftop bars and beer gardens in the UK than in Australia.
I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that the British say “you alright?” as a greeting and don’t expect a response. The British have a reputation for being stuffy, and whilst they may not be quite as open as the Australians, I would definitely never describe them that way. In fact, they are particularly open and willing to have a laugh at themselves. I like that the British, particularly the British in London as they have lived in such a diverse area for so long, don’t bat an eyelid at the unusual. One thing to remember however is that the Brits call stockings tights and tights leggings!
What I miss about Australia is savoury Shapes (not BBQ or Pizza) and Campbell’s Pea and Ham Soup. Also, I grew up on the beach so it was an adjustment not having that nearby. Luckily London has so many other things to offer that you don’t have much time to dwell. There is a certain familiarity with home that people tend to miss, but the adventure when travelling makes up for that. Especially now that contacting home is so easy.
My typical weekend in London would be busy! It would usually start with work drinks around Shoreditch; there are some really quirky bars in that area which usually leads to dinner. At least one morning of the weekend I make sure I go to my favourite Clapham café Esca, it’s really unpretentious but does amazing food. A typical Saturday afternoon is full with lunches, a trip to the V&A or some exhibition that is happening in town, then Saturday night is when we head out either to a bar or dinner. I also enjoy Spitalfields market or a play around in Hyde Park.
Edinburgh, it is my favourite place in the world, it reminds me of a Disney movie but with more fairy lights. This may have more to do with the whisky and haggis than anything but the people there are lovely. When I’m craving the sun however, San Sebastian is my ultimate for great tapas and sangria. It’s the kind of place you can either relax or have a massive party, plus the beaches are great and siestas are a brilliant invention.