Life After Wall Street Layoff: Different Job, Less Money

The avalanche of Wall Street layoffs is leaving many in the financial industry feeling more than a little desperate.

That's because—unlike previous downturns—many of the Wall Street jobs that are disappearing aren't likely to come back.

"I've been looking at hedge funds and investment banks—but they don't exist anymore," says David Spring, a 44-year-old former hedge-fund executive from New Jersey who's been looking for work since September.


And the layoffs aren't even over. New York City's Independent Budget Office recently stated that financial related firms might lose some 82,300 jobs between 2008 and 2011. One financial industry headhunter says the situation for employees is the worst since 1985.

Couple that with reports that Wall Street bonuses will drop at least 50 percent to their lowest level since 2002, workers who have jobs are wondering what their next move should be or even if the have one.

There are jobs available, but not necessarily on Wall Street. As a result, financial types will have to make drastic changes in their approach and mind set. That includes going into a whole different field, accepting less money and possibly moving.

"Companies are hiring," says Mitch Wienick, President and CEO of Kelleher Associates, a career counseling firm for senior executives based in Wayne, Pennsylvania. "Most companies know that the economy is not coming to an end," says Wienick. "Those looking for work just need to be more thoughtful, more thorough, in the hiring process."

"Of course there are jobs," says Deb Wheatman, Career Expert at Vault, a web based resource for career management and job search information. "You just need to be very diligent and focuses to identify opportunities and pursue them and close the deal."

Job Seeker

Spring, a former chief operating officer at a multi-strategy hedge fund, says "I spend 4-5 hours a day reaching out to people, searching the web and working with a recruiter."

Spring says he has plenty of savings to tide him over for the time being and he's not too worried about his job search. But after 22 years in the financial industry he says he's looking in new direction. "Fashion is an interest of mine since grad school," says Spring. "I wouldn't mind something there."

Spring's change of mindset is what's necessary for financial workers, though it doesn't have to be as drastic says Ed Fleischman, CEO of The Execu/Search Group, a New York based company for professional recruitment and staffing.

"If you’re a senior executive, you're not going back to college" says Fleischman. "An investment banker should be looking at serving health care. They can take their talents there. Or go to a law firm that specializes in investment banking."

And for those looking only where they live, Fleischman says they need to develop a different thought process. "People have to think about re-locating. There are other areas of the country that would love NY talent. It’s not easy out there but the NY trained executive could find a job in Chicago. I'd go out there and just keep looking."

Salaries and Benefits

The handsome salaries and bonuses made on Wall Street will more than likely fail to turn up elsewhere, but that's part of the price of a new job," says Kelleher's Wienick. "Benefits like health care are not being cut back. But bonuses are more in flux with economy and companies are trying to budget. You can't look for too much there."

Fleishman agrees, saying "Lower your expectations when it comes to compensation. Someone might have made a 6 or 7 figure bonus in the past, but that shouldn't let that stop them from finding a new job."

Who's Hiring?

Employment consultants like Execu/Search Group's Fleishman paint a dire job picture for the financial service industry, many saying it's the worse in 25 years. But Fleishman and others point to areas that are hiring, such as pharmaceuticals, legal, accounting, technology and the government. "There are more openings in health services than in our financial recruiting, says Fleishman. "We were built for financial but have expanded."


Even some financial related firms are hiring. Despite the economic turmoil, The Guardian Life Insurance says it's looking to increase sales employment by upwards of 20%.

And Guardian says it would like to recruit more financial representatives from diverse fields. Upwards of 80% of its financial reps have reporteldy come from outside the industry.

Job Search Is Full Time Job

So how hard is it to find a new job? "You have to have a good mental outlook," says Fleischman. "Wake up every morning and go find it. Do every thing possible to get a job."

Experts, like Fleischman, point to several necessary steps job seekers need to take:

  • Reach out to friends, family, former co-workers and headhunters
  • Use organizations like alumni associations
  • Use web based services such as Linkedin to find work
  • Keep lists and notes of everyone you contact
  • Realize this is a job, spend 4-5 hours a day looking
  • Make yourself the best candidate for the new company
  • Don't take a job unless you are sure it's right for you
  • Keep positive through the whole process

"We seen a good 50 percent increase from the end of last year of people looking for jobs," Fleischman goes on to say. "It's not easy but finding a new one can be done."

Defined by Your Job—Or Lack Of One

The typical amount of time for finding a new job is about 5 to 6 months, according to headhunters but that's an average, and it can often take much longer. But no matter the time it takes, the process of job hunting can turn into an agonizing period of self-doubt.

"There's pressure to have a job in this country," says Kelleher's Wienick. "Many people are defined by what they do, or don't do. Even those well off want to get back to work if they've been let go."

Vault's Wheatman agrees. "Between jobs, people feel like they are in limbo. When you are laid off, your perception of yourself changes," says Wheatman. "People need to be confident and put away their fears. That would come across in an interview, so everyone needs to build themselves up and be strong."