Simple as a preschool primer, the story comes out in colors and numbers. The financial industry, normally associated with green and black, has instead turned pink and red. Pink for the unwelcomed slips in employees' last pay envelope, red for the ink on the balance sheets. Then come the numbers. The International Monetary Fund's Global Financial Stability Report estimated the sector's aggregate losses at $945 billion in April 2008. And financial firms' more than 150,000 layoffs in 2007 broke the annual record with nauseating speed - summer had barely ended when the number of cuts surpassed that of 2001, the previous holder of the "worst-year-ever" title.
There may be a glimmer of hope, however. Jobs have been lost, but that doesn't mean they've ceased to be. According to a special report by CNNMoney.com, openings at hedge funds "climbed 38 percent during the second quarter from a year ago." And while divisions dealing with mortgages and fixed-income may remain closed off while licking their wounds, some "key areas" are on the lookout for staff, especially experienced professionals who can be snatched up "on the cheap." These areas include commodities (gold and, of course, oil are currently flying high) and regulation and compliance, clearly a hot spot now with government intervention looming. Nevertheless, a downturn is a downturn, and those job seekers who have been long in the search, or those engaged in the "wrong" specialty, may take little comfort in these supposedly bountiful opportunities.
To get a better idea from someone who frequently deals with Wall Street professionals, those seeking new work or merely hoping to hold on, Vault sat down for a Q&A session with Roy Cohen, an executive coach and career counselor with The Five O'clock Club. Cohen primarily advises senior and midlevel executives, in the financial industry and others. He was also the in-house career and outplacement counselor to Goldman Sachs for more than a decade. Read carefully, you'll notice that Cohen differs significantly from CNNMoney on the topic of who will have the hardest time finding a new position.
Layoffs: what's the best tack for an employee who feels insecure about his position?
When there's heightened attention on layoffs it causes a great deal of anxiety and fear, which can be self-fulfilling. Why worry? It's out of your control.
Which employees are most likely to get pink slips?
Most vulnerable are non-revenue-producing jobs, operations, back office, technology - anything that can be outsourced or is redundant as a result of mergers and acquisitions.
What are the best opportunities for laid off investment bankers?
Investment management, risk management, buy-side (hedge funds, private equity firms), compliance, bankruptcy, turnaround companies. Know what options exist, then decide how you are going to package yourself to be distinguished from the crowd. You need a good game plan. Be rigorous in managing your job search - embrace it! Whatever you do, don't just say "I was downsized." So were many others - come up with a better story.
Who will likely find it more difficult to land new jobs?
The more senior you are, the more difficult it may be to find a new position because there are fewer of them. It's important to keep your skills current ... with technology, for example.
As a career counselor, what advice can you give someone who has been laid off?
Get busy. Demonstrate your value. Network. Do something that conveys a sense of purpose, such as taking a leadership position at a nonprofit, or even just travel. Show that you are in the driver's seat. If you feel betrayed by your company, get over it. You have to take care of yourself.
Get busy, and take care of yourself. We couldn't agree more. Until better times, this is Vault, wishing you good luck and happy hunting.