Tired of London….tired of life (or just struggling to pay the rent?)

Every year, people at the first stage of their career flock to London. Why? The answer is quite simple. More opportunities, more employers, higher salaries, and great diversity. London is one of the world’s greatest cities, and with so much to offer, it’s the perfect place to start a working life.

Unfortunately, the streets aren’t paved with gold, and what starts off all rosy and shiny can soon turn into a struggle for some. For the Market Research Industry, it’s very much a practical problem. London is becoming increasingly expensive with un-affordable housing, sky high travel costs not to mention striking railways on the daily commute, yet interestingly most of the UK Market Research graduate schemes are offered by London based agencies.

As a recruiter, we are now seeing that London is becoming unrealistic for many graduates or entry level researchers who don’t have family in a commutable distance. In the last six weeks alone we have seen several people in the early stages of their career looking for a move beyond the M25. Calculating their rent, travel costs, general living and most likely a student loan, it’s unlikely a graduate on an average entry level salary of say £22,000 would be able to survive in the city. The ‘out of London move’ has always been a common trend for those in their thirties, who are settling down and wanting more for their money, but not so much for those in their twenties, who are just starting out in their career. What we are starting to witness is the possibility of our young, emerging talent, our next generation of leaders leave the capital due to the increasing financial pressures of living in London.

Salaries within the Market Research industry are simply not competitive with the other professional services and so, with the obvious financial pressures of living in London, and with no sign of these pressures becoming any easier it makes working in the industry increasingly less attractive. It’s becoming a real concern, and as recruiter we are now seeing highly talented junior researchers actively seeking a move out of London so they can live comfortably elsewhere whilst perusing their career. This is obviously great news for the many brilliant agencies throughout the UK, but not so great for the agencies within the M25.

My fear is that if, as an industry, we don’t address the very real problems being faced by our young talent the industry will suffer, not today, perhaps not tomorrow but the knock-on effect will be felt in the years to come with the real possibility of London suffering the much talked about “brain drain” resulting in significant impact on the industry overall.

So, what are the answers? Well at Hasson Associates on an issue of this magnitude, frankly we don’t have all the answers but we do absolutely recognise the need for an industry wide conversation. Do we need to increase the starter salary to compete with other top professional services? Do we consider bringing back good old fashioned London weighting, perhaps offer to pay travel expenses, agree to annual bonuses or tailored packages that can help support starters and attract them back into a career in Market Research in this wonderful, global city? There’s no definitive answer, no one size fits all but the problem isn’t going away so let’s talk about how we can help those who want to pursue their Research career in London.

By Sinead Hasson

Published by Impact Magazine

Issue 17, Page 84