The financial crisis took a heavy toll on Wall Street. Nearly 200,000 financial professionals lost their jobs in New York alone—500,000 nationwide.
And with the collapse of such major institutions as Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers, many of those jobs disappeared forever.
Some Wall Streeters have found new jobs in the financial sector. Others have moved on to different career choices. And some still haven't decided what to do with the rest of their lives.
While Friday's unemployment report showed some improvement in the jobs picture, many Americans are still struggling to find work. And Wall Street is no different, despite the sharp rebound in the stock market and strong earnings at many big financial institutions.
CNBC.com interviewed four people who were laid off during the financial crisis and asked what their lives are like now. Here are their stories.
Still Looking for Work
"I had a variety of roles in investment banking, securities and lending operations," says Tom Dietsch, who was managing director at JP Morgan Chase for eleven years. Dietsch, 50 years old, was let go from JPM in October of 2009 in a restructuring move.
"It was a shock for sure," says Dietsch, who lives in Monmouth County, New Jersey with his wife and four children. "My initial reaction was to just re-connect with my family and recharge my batteries and then get right back into the game. My full time job now is to find a job."
Dietsch says his wife doesn't work but that he was making a six figure salary and received a severance package. So for a while, he's OK financially.
But the money won't last forever. And just as importantly, he wants to work again in the financial sector. To do that, he says, he would even move overseas to get a job.
"It's challenging to say the least," Dietsch says. "I have several irons in the fire and I'm reaching out to people and doing my networking. I'm excited about the prospects."
In the meantime, Dietsch uses career services to improve his resume and job search strategy. He hunts down job leads and reaches out to contacts by networking. He spends time with his family. And just as he did when he was working, he gives time to local sports coaching activities.
Dietsch remains optimistic—but realizes it might take a while to be employed.
"It could be the next two months or six months when I find a job," he acknowledges. "You have to let companies know how you can help them. And in the end, part of it is being at the right place at the right time."
Taking a New Career Path
For Claire DiLorenzo Paquin, the financial crisis was the right time to look in another direction for her career.
"I had been on the Street for 11 years, working in institutional convertible bond sales and ending up as a managing director at Bear Sterns," says the 34-year-old Paquin, who lives in Scarsdale, New York with her husband—who works on Wall Street—and two small children.
"When Bear collapsed (and sold to JP Morgan in 2008), I thought it was a natural break if there ever was one," says Paquin who new runs her owninterior design start up businessout of her home.
Paquin admits the financial lure of investment banking is strong.
"It's hard to get off the Street—they offer you so much in bonuses and stock but I wanted to try something new."
So Paquin turned to her creative side.
"I had always been into photography or art of some form and I didn't know if I would get other offers—and other firms were not doing well. So I thought I'd start my own business," Paquin says.
Paquin started her firm just a couple months after leaving her job and says it's been profitable. "I don't have much overhead and I've been using my own money," Paquin admits. "Just a laptop and a filing cabinet to tell you the truth."
Paquin gets most of her customers from referrals from friends and from offering her expertise to charities and marketing herself. She says she wants to make her business grow to the point where she takes on other designers. That's a two to three year plan.
As for heading back to Wall Street, that door is still open—if only a crack.
"If I can't make my business successful, I will try and go back," she acknowledges. "But I want to give this a 100 percent shot before that happens."
No Desire to Return
Elaine Tsai feels she gave 100 percent to Wall Street but will give no more.
She had worked her way up in several positions, from technical support specialist to business analyst, but found herself out of a job in January 2009.
"I have no desire to return at all," says Tsai, 31, who was let go from her position as a project manager at Deutsche Bank during a restructuring.
It wasn't long after the job loss that Tsai moved to San Francisco from Manhattan to start a new life. She is currently doing freelance administrative work when possible and living off savings and a severance package.
Tsai says she hasn't decided what career path to take yet, though she is considering the non-profit sector.
But after working in finance for nearly nine years, she says she knows she doesn't want to return to another bank.
"Getting let go was a shock and I didn't understand it," Tsai says. "It was disappointing news. But removing myself from the old environment has helped me re-think my life and help me cope in ways I didn't think possible. I don't think ever of going back."
Tsai admits her move across the country hasn't solved all her problems.
"The job search process here has been somewhat difficult," says Tsai. "Recruiters don't respond in a timely manner. But at the moment, I have enough to survive on. And I'm hopeful about the future."
Finding Work Again
For New York City resident Justin Woddis, getting laid off from Goldman Sachsin January 2009 is one experience he'll never forget.
He had only been at Goldman a year and a half, working as a product manager and helping put together technology for the Wall Street firm and its clients.
"I knew something was happening that day," Woddis remembers. "I didn't think it would happen to me. It was a shock, to say the least."
The 46-year-old Woddis didn't sit around much after being let go.
"I did some freelancing and it was okay, but it never reached a level of being comfortable on a regular basis," says Woddis. "My goal was to get a full time job."
Woddis is working in financials full-time again—as close to Wall Street as he could get.
He's now a product manager of trading systems at the midtown offices of Bloomberg Financial Services, the media and financial firm owned by NYC's mayor, Mike Bloomberg.
"I had talked with some Bloomberg people in 2007 before I went to Goldman, but they didn't have a job for me then," says the English-born Woddis. "I heard a bit while back that one of the people I met there had a kid, so I sent a congratulatory note and he called me and said he had a job for me if I was interested. I was."
Woddis says he's in a good place now.
"I'm reasonably happy," he says. "It could have been a better salary, but it's not bad."
As for being laid off, Woddis says the experience taught him a lesson.
"I'm keeping in touch with a lot of the people I contacted in my job search," he says. "I believe it's a mistake not to. You never really think losing your job will happen to you. It can."