A lot of us have an unfortunate habit of splitting the UK into two parts when it comes to deciding on where to work: ‘in London’ and ‘not in London’. There’s no denying that London is the cultural, political, and financial hub of Britain, but it’s also busy, expensive, tiring, and certainly not everyone’s cup of tea.
If you’re not keen on working in the capital, you don’t need to feel like you’re missing out. In fact, there are plenty of British cities which can offer you incredible career opportunities, and help you avoid the scrabble for graduate jobs in London. We’ve compiled a list for you to check out, pointing out which towns are perfect for you, depending on the sector you want to go into and what you value most.
London may have a strong start-up scene, but according to research by Instant Offices, it’s not the UK’s most entrepreneurial city. In fact, 5 cities – Liverpool, Birmingham, Manchester, Brighton, and Glasgow – all outrank the capital according to estimates of each city’s entrepreneurial population percentage.
If owning your own company or working for a quirky start-up is your dream job, you should definitely consider moving to one of these cities. Success doesn’t depend on renting expensive offices in London; other cities can offer better deals to entrepreneurs, and you’ll still be surrounded by a network of other innovative businesses.
Cambridge is best known for its world famous University, but the town has also become an important tech cluster – so much so that the town and surrounding area are also known as ‘Silicon Fen’. From video games to biotechnology, start-ups to global corporations, Cambridge is a young techie’s dream.
Less pleasant is the fact that the cost of living in Cambridge is pretty high – although still not as high as in London! But despite this, it topped Glassdoor’s 2016 table of the best towns and cities to work, scoring highly on factors including employee satisfaction and job availability.
Alternatively, Reading is also a digital hub; nearly a fifth of businesses in the city are in the tech sector. As well as hosting offices of huge firms like Microsoft and Verizon, it’s also home to several amazing independent tech companies, including Pulsant, which offers cloud services, and leading software company Atex.
Reading was also ranked as the best city in the UK to live and work in 2015 by a survey looking at economic performance and quality of life.
If you’re interested in finance but aren’t sold on working in London, look no further than Edinburgh. The Scottish capital is the second biggest financial-services hub in the UK; several major banks and investment businesses have headquarters there, including the Royal Bank of Scotland, Scottish Widows, and Standard Life.
Edinburgh’s also very beautiful and cultural. With Edinburgh castle at its heart, leafy parks and rolling meadows, plenty of museums and art galleries, and the Fringe – the world’s largest annual arts festival – there’s a lot to fall in love with.
Another industry, another amazing alternative capital to make your home; Cardiff is a great place to be for budding media enthusiasts. The Welsh capital has a strong TV production industry, especially around the waterfront, Cardiff Bay.
Not only does the BBC have its welsh headquarters and a major studio there – where episodes of popular shows like Doctor Who and Sherlock are filmed – but there are also loads of independent production companies.
When it comes to factors pushing people out of London, cost is one of more significant. After all, it’s the sixth most expensive city in the world. If finding somewhere cheaper to live sounds like a good idea, check out Glasgow.
Once a city in serious decline, the Scottish city has been revitalised, and is now a great choice for young people in search of decent rent prices. It’s also a great place to find cheap food and drink, and has plenty of entertainment on offer. There are several leading organisations across a range of sectors located there, so whatever you career you want, Glasgow might just be the place for you.
And it you want to stay in England, Leicester also offers reasonable average rents and house prices around 30% lower than the UK average.
Can you guess what the happiest city in the UK is? A survey by OPP, a business psychologist company, has the answer: Norwich. Amazingly, 77% of people there say that they love their job. Locals celebrate the city for still feeling like a tight-knit, friendly community, as well as being picturesque and affordable.
The runners up in the survey were Liverpool and Birmingham, both of which are well worth checking out when it comes to job hunting; smaller than London, they still both provide a cosmopolitan feel, without the downside of London’s business and prices.
Birmingham isn’t just happy – it’s also full of character. From the impressive Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery to the futuristic architecture of the huge Bullring shopping centre, it’s a city that sometimes divides opinions but that thrives on innovation.
If something a bit more classic is more your style, Bath has a rich history dating back to Roman times. Known both for its thermal baths, its beautiful regency-era homes, and its importance in Jane Austen’s novels, it’ll live up to your cultural expectations.
And finally, if you want to live somewhere with a vibrant reputation, and thriving, young population, Manchester and Leeds should be on your list. Known respectively as the ‘Northern Capital’ and the ‘Knightsbridge of the North’, both cities are major economic centres. And although Leeds is getting pricier, both are still significantly cheaper than London.
Claire Kilroy works as a content writer for the UK’s leading graduate recruitment agency Inspiring Interns. Check out of their listings of internships and graduate jobs in London (and beyond!), or head to their blog for more graduate careers advice.