Trading Places

Inside views on the jobs market

A time for change

September 26, 2008

Joshua Persky stands with his sandwich board advertisement in New York, July 10, 2008. Out of work for six months and desperate to find a job, one innovative New Yorker donned his new power suit -- a sandwich board -- and hit the streets of Manhattan to lure potential employers. Picture taken July 10, 2008.

We asked Joshua Persky, a former investment banker who blogs about his search for work, to offer some advice to others facing unemployment.

You may have seen a photo of me wearing a sign-board, “Experienced MIT Grad for Hire.” My goal was to hand out some resumes, generate a few new leads, and find a job. Instead, I became world-famous for being unemployed. OK, I’ve had my 15 minutes of fame – for the past three months – and my publicity is still generating more publicity.

Apparently, my creativity, bravery and transparency paid off — well, almost. I am still unemployed, but I am working on several start-up venture deals, speaking with some very interesting people from Europe and Asia, have a few interviews lined up, and have several other leads moving forward. I’ve also started a blog to document my search and keep in touch with people around the world who are interested in following my story. Who knows where it will lead? However, I am open to change.

I had expected to get a new and perhaps even better position in financial services two to three months after losing my last job, but instead Bear Stearns collapsed. Most of the large investment banks and commercial banks announced they were writing off billions of dollars and firing thousands of people. Then it was summer, and meetings took weeks to arrange. Everyone seemed to be traveling or on vacation. Currently, the situation is even worse. Lehman is gone. Merrill is gone.

My advice to unemployed bankers and all working-challenged financial services people is to look elsewhere as quickly as possible – and be creative. It will take years for the financial services sector to recover. Tens of thousands of unemployed bankers are now chasing a few job openings. I have learned the hard way these past nine months. It is time for a change. I am still applying to financial services positions and hoping for the best, but my focus is now on business development and selling my transferable skills which can be applied to a wide variety of industries. If possible, start your own business!

Because I am willing to think and act outside the box and willing to change careers, I am speaking to a doctor in Japan who needs help managing his cancer research clinic and disseminating his research and life-saving techniques throughout the world, and I am in touch with the CEO of an international furniture manufacturer based in Europe and Asia who needs a representative in the USA.

As the bard said:

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside
And it is ragin’.
It’ll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’.

- Bob Dylan “The Times They Are A-Changin’”


I wish you all the best….whats even worst is if you read the headlines today congress failed to pass a bill to extend unemployment benefits….but they’d rather bailout $700 billion, etc, etc you get my point


Best of luck to you. I do find the Bob Dylan lyrics in opposition to your career. I think you still need to examine what you did for a living, how it effected society and our country and….only you can do this: explore your political beliefs. I hope you will be able to objectively look at your situation and accept responsibility for what got you to this point. Your times and mine…they certainly are a-changing!

Posted by tom | Report as abusive

All the luck in the world to you. 15 years ago, I was in the same situation as you are in now. I was not even 50 then, and a world renowned computer company had to shed half its workforce (nearly 200,000 employees worldwide had to go. I was one of them!). There was no hope of finding any employment in the same line or locality. I came through, by starting my own business, in a totally different line. I was lucky. I was willing to do whatever was necessary to maintain a roof over my young family and see them through school then university. The current crisis, in my humble opinion is one of confidence, for surely, the total of subprime loans could not have been in trillions. With hindsight, it would have been cheaper for the authrities to pay off those loans!

Posted by bob | Report as abusive

This type of action presents a desperate individual looking for work because he is out of his comfort zone. A piece of advice retract, rethink and innovate something new. Perhaps this would open some new doors in your professional life and remember you are no the only chap out there. Good luck….


Parties over….Leave the country while you still can.

Posted by Phobe | Report as abusive

On February 27th, Mr. & Mrs. Reader, I predicted that Mr. Obama would be the democrat nominee and the next president.

Today, September 27th, I predict that the Obama-Biden ticket will prevail on November 4th, and that the democrat party ticket will garner at least 301 electoral votes…at least 31 more than the 270 needed to win.

What is my crystal ball?

I don’t have one.

However, I do have a very shiny, new 50:50 (even odds) penny. I tossed it in February and again tonight.

I am calm about the future at this point…and am ready to see the Obama/Pelosi/Reid legislative agenda for the first 100 days, come noon on January 20th.

It ought to be a doozy of an agenda that will turn over a new leaf for Our Great Nation and for Our Best & Finest Soldiers, Marines, Sailors & Airmen (I just love those guys!).

What happens during the aforesaid first 100 days will eclipse in a positive way the negativity of September 11, 2001, and all that has ensued since then.

OK Jack


I’d like to ask Joshua, his own opinion about the future of Investments Funds industry.

Thanks and Regards

Posted by Angelo | Report as abusive

Get close to physical infrastructure, and income generation. Learn humility early and willingly; you will have to learn it eventually any way. You will be surprised at how many stupid and arrogant people you will meet.

I was with Bell Labs. Many of those people thought their paycheck was tied to their technical ability, or intelligence, or their education. None of those apply. In the end it was all about the ability to generate revenue.

Tech, by the way, is slowly coming back (from post 2000/2002), but there is tremendous age discrimination, and the industry has fundamentally changed. The last non-government people stupid enough to throw large money at technology projects were well funded investment banks.

Posted by Xenophon | Report as abusive

Oh, yeah, and couple of more things.

However tough it gets, try to keep faith in the possibilities. I was nearly in a state of clinical depression when I left the labs, convinced that the future was all bleak. It wasn’t. Some rough patches, but overall life is good.

Some really important and valuable things cost nothing. You sort of know that, but it gets discounted because it sounds so cliche. The reason why the world is round is so no one can see to the end of the road. No ONE.

Talk to everyone, and do not be ashamed of your situation. This is now a common cultural experience and you will find deep pockets of compassion in unexpected places.

Posted by Xenophon | Report as abusive

Oh, and the best ways of dealing with free-floating anxiety attacks is rapid muscle movement. Gets bad, stand up and shake yourself hard. Take long walks. I know it sounds weird, but trust me; there has been a lot of study done in this area in the last 10-15 years.

Posted by Xenophon | Report as abusive

In the short term, the Investments Funds industry will feel the pain along with everyone else in terms of poor performance, less capital and lay-offs. However, in the medium and long term, I think the industry may even benefit, as this market proves once again that diversification has an important role for people who want their stock investments to survive the storms which seem to come more and more frequently.
Best Regards,
Joshua Persky, the “Oracle of New York”


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