Trading Places

Inside views on the jobs market

Looking for a job? A Wall Street recruiter tells it like it is

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Richelle Konian knows a thing or two about life on Wall Street, both from her experience working on it and now for it. After leaving a career in management consulting, she cofounded Manhattan-based recruiting firm Careers on the Move, which helps hundreds of job seekers find work in a seemingly impossible market. Her most recent success story? Finding a job for the poster boy of unemployment, the “Sandwich Board Guy” (aka: Joshua Persky, pictured above.)

Konian doesn’t paint any rosy pictures for 2009, but insists that jobs exist for those eager to do their homework and embrace change. “In this type of market, you have to figure out ways to set yourself apart, and you have to work that much harder to get to the place you were previously,” she says.

Here, Konian offers her tips for finding your way back into the job market.

Know what you’re up against:

“One of the things people should be aware of, particularly in financial services, is shrinkage. Sometimes I don’t think people understand the big picture. We’re now in a second wave of job losses; 9/11 was the first wave, and we’ve never recovered from it – we had some good years, but some jobs just haven’t resurfaced. Take asset management: there are far fewer jobs now than there were a few years ago. There are people who worked in equity research who have never got their jobs back, and they had excellent resumes, excellent backgrounds, and they were considered to be the upper echelon of candidates. Some of them have taken positions in other areas using the same skills. But there’s a lot of people with specific expertise who have been unemployed for years.”

Be Flexible:

Those lucky enough to find jobs have to flexible about their expectations, Konian says. “People who say to me, ‘I’m at this salary range right now and I’m not going to accept anything lower’ need to know that it’s the wrong market for that right now, and those who have made that assessment a year ago probably regret it now.”

Who’s got it worse — bankers, autoworkers, or techies?

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It looks like a falling tide sinks all boats.

Out-of-work Wall Street workers have been on the front pages for months. Auto workers at the Big Three have been struggling for years, and with GM and Chrysler on the verge of a possible bankruptcy and/or bailout their situation is also dire.

Now the so-called knowledge workers are feeling the pinch. Sony is cutting 16,000 workers, and Silicon Valley companies that initially resisted the swooning of the economy are looking to cut costs and shed entry-level positions. As Reuters reported on Tuesday, people in their 20s are finding a college degree is no longer their golden ticket to a dream job in high tech.

Do the right thing

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Goldman Sachs sent the business media abuzz this weekend with news that its top executives were voluntarily giving up their annual bonus in a gesture they hope will spread to the rest of the Street. The decision immediately won the praise of New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who hailed the move as a “step in the right direction”, while the firm’s spokesperson said, “They believe it’s the right thing to do.”

But don’t expect any applause just yet, at least not from Main Street. Taxpayers around the globe are still fuming about their respective government’s multibillion dollar bank rescue schemes, prompting no shortage of snarky editorials pointing to bloated paycheques and bankers’ cavalier actions for the financial meltdown.

Where the jobs are

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“We’ve hardly felt the financial crisis.”

Now there’s a sentence you don’t expect to hear these days.  It comes from a headhunter for a temp agency in Germany, where apparently the financial sector is like Teflon: although German banks foresee some of the job cuts afflicting its peers  –  RBS among the most recent — there have been relatively few layoffs so far.

In a refreshing twist to a dire employment situation, headhunters in Germany are now scrambling to fill a slew of temporary banking jobs. Problem is, jittery bankers don’t want to switch firms in the middle of a crisis.

When it pays to take a break

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Usually when a company announces dreaded plans to “cut costs” or “restructure”, it’s a sure sign a new batch of employees are about to be axed. But in a refreshing new take on saving money in the corporate world, one company has decided to move in a decidedly unique direction.

The term is “career break“, a solution that Irish Life & Permanent’s banking division has come up with in a bid to slash costs, not jobs. The plan offers employees $25,000 to $45,140 to take a 2- or 3-year “break” from their jobs, thus cutting expenses without actually firing anyone. The company didn’t say how many employees are planning to accept the offer — nor did it mention whether said jobs would still exist after the “break” was over — but it hopes the plan will appeal to bankers looking for more flexibility in their careers.

Can Obama save Wall Street?

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It’s funny how the stock market manages to tell a story. This week’s euphoric pre-election surge is all but a memory now, with stocks back in their all-too-familiar slump. If Wall Street could talk, it would be saying: ”You’ve got your work cut out for you, Obama.”

Indeed, the President-elect faces what is likely the most daunting list of challenges ever faced by an incoming administration — and America’s precarious job situation is chief among them. A report by outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas indicates that planned layoffs surged to their highest level in nearly five years during October, with cuts in the finance industry leading the way.  Meanwhile, the private job sector took a hit to the tune of 157,000 lost jobs last month, with signs pointing to further deterioration to come.

Desperate times

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The extent of the shrinking economy became abundantly clear today to American Express employees, a whopping 7,000 of whom will be laid off in a massive restructuring plan. Similarly, Legg Mason Capital Management says it will cut up to one-third of its workforce in a move described by one analyst as “inevitable”. The downsizing amounts to only about 50 employees, but more importantly marks the asset manager’s first job cuts in 26 years.

Is any sector or company safe? The short answer is no, although some industries are safer than others.

Forget your banking career – join the IRS

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In yet another sign of tough times on Wall Street, dejected financial professionals were among those lined up yesterday for a shot to work for none other than the IRS, the New York Times reports. It’s a curious career move until you look at the circumstances: the battered banking sector has been cutthroat in its downsizing, leaving virtually no job safe. But can anyone remember the last time the IRS downsized?

“You could get a lucrative job in the financial market right now, but how long can you keep it?” says ex-Lehman Brothers staffer Jean Delice. “Everywhere I look, I see layoffs. If I take a $10,000 or $20,000 pay cut, in the long run, I’m ahead. The government is not in the trading business. It will be around.”

Is Wall Street poised for a makeover?

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There’s no question Wall Street is undergoing a transformation of sorts with the recent rash of job losses and do-or-die consolidations. But once the dust has settled – what then?

It just may be the start of Wall Street’s warm and fuzzy rebirth, Forbes reports.

Job Bank – Oct.27

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The following financial services industry appointments were announced on Oct. 27, linked where possible to personal profiles on LinkedIn. To inform us of other job changes, please send an e-mail to: moves@thomsonreuters.com.

Deloitte

Deloitte Financial Advisory Services (Deloitte FAS) said it elected David Williams as chief executive officer and Kerry Francis as chairman for the U.S. portion of the unit. Williams, 46, replaces Frank Piantidosi who has been CEO since 2003. Piantidosi is moving into the role of chief executive of Deloitte North America Financial Advisory. Francis, 47, will continue to hold her standing title as leader of the group’s national Corporate Investigations practice.

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