For many Wall Street professionals, the market has been an unfriendly, even hostile, environment. For those who have been out of work for a long time and for others who are employed but eager to make a move, the question is inevitable: Is it worth it? How do you pursue a career on Wall Street when it feels like the odds are overwhelmingly stacked against you? There is no easy answer to that question and there are certainly no simple steps to follow. To suggest anything other would be irresponsible.
On the other hand, if you love what you do, then you owe yourself the right to give it your best shot. Have you tapped every possible relationship, put yourself out there, honed your message and your value proposition? If the answer is "No", I will share with you a few thoughts and recommendations on job search and career strategy. Please be mindful that any specific situation - be it a challenge or an opportunity - requires a bespoke and focused intervention. Generic rules only apply to generic situations. But they do serve as a benchmark for measuring your progress and as a starting point to reignite a stalled job search:
1. Re-examine your search: Overall strategy, targets, the message. If you've been hitting a brick wall, give yourself a deadline by which you'll begin to pursue an alternative direction. At some point you may need to throw in the towel if your job search is going nowhere. But before you do so, make sure you've done everything possible to achieve your goal.
2. If you're looking for a job like the one you've had, what's missing in terms of your skills, experience, etc to allow you to compete successfully? If you're making a career change - e.g., a desire to move from the sell- to the buy-side - what skills and training are required to do this new job? Where are the opportunities? Regional firms, foreign banks, consulting? Are you willing to commute or relocate? What about learning a foreign language?
3. Establish realistic expectations in terms of the time to land and career options. Job search takes a lot longer in this crappy market and you need to be prepared to jump through many more hoops. Research and information are critical. Firms are needing to justify the headcount even if it's just replacing an existing open position. That means when you interview the burden is on you to show your potential to add value immediately and to offer solutions, and most important, to follow-up.
4. Re-define the story you tell folks so it sounds like you've used your time off productively: Break it down into stages to explain and re-energize. Organize the time out so it doesn't sound like you've been out forever.
5. What is your value proposition? As a graduate of one of the world's best MBA programs, what makes you different and better? How have you used this credential to distinguish yourself and how valuable will it be in the role you want?
Last but not least, please make sure that your emotional needs don't cloud your good judgment. Landing at any cost may come with a big price tag that is not immediately apparent. But if you need a job desperately then just know that a mediocre option is better than none. Accept the offer and continue to look. Recognize what job search is all about: Volume and rejection. A good search involves an outsized level of activity which, by definition, will produce an enormous number of rejections. You can't personalize them. It's not about you.
ROY COHEN ’85 has substantial experience as a career counselor working with sell-side and buy-side clients, i.e., investment banking, research, private equity, corporate development, hedge funds, venture capital, etc., and clients in management consulting, marketing, branding and strategy. His book, The Wall Street Professional's Survival Guide, was released by Financial Times Press in June 2010. www.careercoachny.com