Scottish Money Exchange Abroad Assignment

With my to-do list, computer and steaming cup of coffee, I get settled into my favourite comfy spot. I have a list of tasks in front of me with the entire day to complete them. I take a moment to relish that sweet, special joy that only a day off can bring. A couple weeks ago this would have been my boring, monotonous morning routine with the words "job search" in all caps, highlighted at the top my list. However, having finally landed my first job abroad (yay!), I now get to fully appreciate this uneventful, wonderful day.

Securing a job in Scotland took a grand total of two and a half months. In reality, I was quite surprised by how similar the job searching process was to what I am accustomed to in the States. However, being aware of the minor differences made the entire process flow much more smoothly. Here's what you can expect:

The search

The best UK job-hunting sites I encountered were Indeed, Reed and Gumtree (the equivalent of Craigslist or Kjiji for the UK). Gumtree tended to have lower-level positions, however it was definitely worthwhile to browse daily. If you’re looking exclusively for positions within education, the only site worth knowing is MyJobScotland.

However, I mostly just utilized these sites as a reference as to who was hiring. Each time I was called in for an interview, it was because I had persistently called the companies or stopped by the coffee shops to drop off a CV ("resume" to us North American folk). I always made sure to stress that my working visa lasted for two years and was ready to give my desired hours, availability and starting date (as they always asked).

The application

The main difference between a CV and resume is beefing up the previous work experience details and adding some references. After submitting my application and CV, I learned the most crucial task was following-up.

Shamelessly, I would telephone companies, visit cafes and even offices reminding them that I was still available and keen to work there. Although it was a bit (okay, extremely) awkward I popped in Contour Café a month after dropping off my CV to alert them I was still available. The next day the owner contacted me and less than a week later I had a trial shift.

The interview

Trial shifts, trial shifts, trial shifts! This was the biggest different between applying for a job in the States and Scotland. 

Out of five interviews (two cafes, a restaurant, an analytical lab technician and head of tours for a brewery), all of them progressed from the interview stage to a trial shift.

What you do is obviously dependent on the industry, however typically you are shadowing and completing small tasks to see how you fit into the position and atmosphere. For bigger positions (i.e. head of tours), I was expected to design and lead a tour. Essentially, it's a chance for employers to make sure you can walk-the-walk instead of just talk-the-talk.

Although working at a café is not the total dream for a freshly graduated biochemist, the attractive hours, opportunity to learn a new skill and flexible, laid-back atmosphere make it a pretty great first job in Scotland. I still have time to travel and can continue applying for more career-advancing positions. I have started to make some local friends and truly cherish the fact I am no longer just spending money without making any.

As I continue to job-hunt in Scotland it’s important to remember what’s worked so far—call or apply in person, be annoyingly persistent and be ready to shine in your trial shift. Happy job hunting!

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Sydney Paulsen

Sydney Paulsen, an adventurous biochemistry graduate, is always looking to push her comfort zone. After returning from studying abroad in Buenos Aires, she has moved with her boyfriend to Aberdeen, Scotland to keep figuring out this thing called life.


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There are three banks in Scotland which issue banknotes - Bank of Scotland, Royal Bank of Scotland, and the Clydesdale Bank. Each has their own designs. They represent the same currency as English notes (pounds sterling), so there's no exchange rate or fluctuation to worry about.

In Scotland, there is technically (and strangely) no legal tender (except coins - see below). In practice, you will find only Scottish notes are dispensed by ATMs, banks, etc. (although some "English"-branded banks will dispense English notes, as Rabbit points out), but both Scottish and English notes are accepted pretty much everywhere, and (correction) sometimes retailers may give you English notes in change if they've picked some up along the way. In theory, you might be able to get Scottish notes abroad or from currency exchanges, but from experience I think this is highly unlikely, unless perhaps you are exchanging currency in Scotland itself.

In England, English money is the only legal tender. Contrary to popular opinion, Scottish money is not. Many, if not most, retailers, taxis, vendors, and so on will take it, and sometimes you can try to insist, but technically they aren't required to, and sometimes you'll have trouble in more rural areas; as such, folks who've visited Scotland often try to get rid of their notes before they leave. Banks and post offices will take them though, so that's your last resort if you are having trouble elsewhere.

The coins are identical in both countries (correction: as Rory says, sometimes the designs do vary, and as Mike says, they are valid in both).

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