Executive Careers Blog

Career Options for Ex-Wall Street Workers

Michael Wilson, The New York Times

This week’s news that the city plans to spend $45 million to retrain jobless Wall Street executives may, understandably, have been met with less than sobs of gratitude in that demographic. After all, as the happily divorced like to say, stick a fork in a toaster once, it’s an accident. But a second time?

Ross Baltic, a managing partner with Mercury Partners, a headhunter in Midtown, said the

simplest transition might be the most straightforward: Analysts for investment banks might leap to the industries they analyzed, traders might move to the companies they bought and sold. “They may know the pharmaceutical industry, they may know aerospace and defense,” he said. “You may have skill sets and be able to transfer those to those sectors.”

But while Mr. Baltic said laid-off Wall Street workers had been calling “like you couldn’t imagine,” he acknowledged that executive headhunters were often of little help these days.

“We’re long on candidates and short on jobs,” he said.

While many of the tens of thousands of masters of the unemployed universe would most likely happily return to doing what they know, others may be looking for a change of pace. Here then, some possibilities for recycling a Wall Street résumé:

Lead walking tours amid the ruins of your past life. Who better to show people around the financial district than someone who has worked — who has bled — on the very spot?

Maybe, said Seth Kamil, founder of Big Onion Walking Tours. But Big Onion tour guides must have advanced degrees in history.

“We’ve actually gotten a couple of résumés from no-longer-employed Wall Streeters,” Mr. Kamil said. “I’ve been kind of graciously trying to say, ‘Working on the street just doesn’t do it.’ ”

Become a butler. “Somebody coming from the Wall Street arena typically would have management background,” said Keith Greenhouse, president of the Pavillion Agency, which trains and places household employees, including chefs, personal assistants, nannies and butlers. “It could tie in, indeed, to personal service.”

It can be a handsome living. “Butlers are starting at around $70,000 on the low end, to upwards of $150,000 a year,” Mr. Greenhouse said. “I’ve got to tell you, the salaries are terrific. A really good nanny could make $100,000-plus a year, plus benefits. That’s a top nanny.”

Of course, there is the possible awkwardness of a man used to having someone light his cigar for him suddenly finding himself on the other end of the match. But Mr. Greenhouse said he was used to riches-to-rags sorts crossing his threshold: “Divorcees coming in who were married to multimillionaires. All of a sudden they need to go to work and they come to us looking for a personal assistant job: ‘Oh, I know about this because I’ve had the rich lifestyle myself. I know how to take care of rich people’s affairs.’

“I’ve had people that come from all sorts of career paths and all of a sudden they want to be a butler,” he added. Speaking of cigars:

Sell cigars. Great idea, said Anthony Cee, manager at Florio’s in Little Italy, which contains the Three Little Indians Cigar Shop. The image of the Wall Street big shot, the Gordon Gekko type, is exactly what his store likes to project.

“Most of them are cigar smokers, so the education is there,” he said. “If you smoke cigars, I would say frequently you know a little bit about cigars. Professionalism is everything. ‘Dress to impress,’ that’s my motto.” One little problem: no one is buying cigars.

“We have no openings at all,” Mr. Cee said. “Different times, we help everybody. We had a lot of regulars who are out of work right now.”

Shred documents. No one knows sensitive paperwork like a Wall Street veteran. Just ask Al Vari, a salesman with Code Shred, whose service area includes Lower Manhattan.

“I spent 25 years on Wall Street, and now I’m in the shredding industry with two friends of mine,” he said. “It’s not an easy business. It’s a service industry. It’s a trucking company. You send out trucks to shred documents for people who have to shred them by law, or are, in a sense, paranoid.” Mr. Vari warned, however, that this is not a career for a person who has pushed a pencil all his life. “It’s done by a truck driver,” he said. “It’s a labor job.” He considered a possible Wall Street applicant. “These guys, the worst thing that’s happened to them is lead poisoning or deteriorated livers.”

Someone, however, does have to sell the service. “To be an outside salesman, to have contacts in the industries, they could probably make a living,” Mr. Vari said. “Not what they were making on Wall Street though, I’ll tell you that.”

Entertain small children. Because even sad clowns are a hoot at a birthday party, said Gary Pincus, owner of the Send In the Clowns Entertainment Corporation, which plans parties in the metropolitan region.

“We get a lot of calls from Wall Street guys who are looking to work with us,” he said. “They want to change their careers. I told them to call me when our season gets going in March.”

The party racket is more than just balloon animals and squirting flowers. “Selling parties, running parties, everything that goes with the party,” he said. “A Wall Street guy could come over and do magic shows for the kids, play musical games with the kids, do face painting with the kids.” There are positions for disc jockeys, stilt-walkers and mechanical bull servicemen. And, of course, the marquee job.

“We’ll hire clowns from Wall Street,” he said. “No problem.”

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