Career transition expert HUGH DAVIES has some suggestions for the
growing number of financial services professionals who have been retrenched.
And here’s a hint – they do not revolve around immediately trying to find a job
and a pay packet to match your last one. Aside from taking the blame for recent
economic travails, many executives and professionals in financial services
firms have also had to live with being retrenched. For many this has been
traumatic – and then their discomfort and confidence has been further impacted
by the extreme difficulty landing another job like the last one, in a
contracting market for financial services firms. How should you handle this
situation – assuming of course that a return to well remunerated work is
desired?

HERE ARE FOUR SUGGESTIONS Firstly, recognise that whilst your job has
been removed from the former organisation, your career, your achievements and
your talents remain with you as a strong platform from which to relaunch
yourself. Do some work capturing what you are really good at, and build a fully
professional resume. Don’t allow the event of retrenchment to lower your
self-esteem for one minute: you are still the same bundle of talents and
capabilities that you were before the event! If you have been offered
outplacement, take it and work the services effectively. Ask to be matched with
a consultant who matches your level of seniority and insist on face-to-face
coaching which can support all of your interests.

If your employer has only
offered a time-limited superficial outplacement program, consider asking the
supplier to match you with a senior consultant over a longer period and pay the
difference. (Or persuade your employer to supply an appropriate level of
program.) Secondly, recognise that while you should put some energy into
applying for jobs like the last one in new organisations – assuming you enjoyed
it – the absolute number of opportunities has contracted and you will need to
be patient in how long the process may take. Thirdly, to the extent that you
are working the “jobs” market, of course you should work the visible market:
responding to advertisements and talking with recruiters.

But recognise that
most new appointments are in fact won in the invisible market – reached by
networking, referrals and direct approaches to organisations. You may need
coaching in networking, and you may need to take advice as well in how to craft
a direct letter to the CEO of a desired organisation – but don’t neglect these
activities. In our experience, considering that 80 per cent of new career
opportunities are achieved in this invisible market, you should invest 80 per
cent of your time researching fields and organisations of interest and opening doors
where you can. Fourthly, you may need to seriously consider ‘re-inventing’ your
career.

Re-invention can include • Looking at how your capabilities might match
other occupations. You should consider researching alternatives and shooting
for them. For example, some financial services people have moved into
professional services firms, some into property investment and development, and
some into business advisory work. • Considering project-based employment:
interim executive roles via agencies (or as landed directly through your own
initiatives), and leadership of projects.

• Looking more creatively again at
working on a more self-employed basis: starting your own services or consulting
business. Taking the third of these ‘re-invention’ ideas a little further,
starting your own business need not cost a fortune, and you can put some
boundaries around the risks. You might envisage little or no income for six
months or so – and this is of course a “cost” – but you might say to yourself
“If this venture has not earned a fee within six months, then I will stop it at
that point…” In starting up a new venture, you would need to thoroughly test
your business concept, with a range of trusted advisers, and of course build a
rudimentary business plan.

(There are plenty of books and websites around these
activities). You can do all of these things without incurring set up costs,
accounting fees, office leases etc – and it is a good idea to go as far as you
can before sinking direct costs into a new venture. In fact, your accountant
can form a company and set you up in three days flat! He or she can be doing
that for you after you have commenced your first project if need be. You might
also start using a contractor services organisation to handle invoicing
initially, so that you are operating under the name of your new venture, but
without the administration and related costs associated with your own company,
in the first few months as you trial this experience.

A final comment here: the
most stretching issue in conceiving of a business is carefully defining and
testing the market for your new services, and working out how you will reach
that market cost-effectively. Crack these challenges and everything else is
easy! In the current market, more than ever before, professionals and executive
need to consider new ways to add value in the market-place: new emerging needs
(such as green energy auditing), and new vehicles in which to capture and
create value-added work. Regular employment in a “job” is not the only vehicle
in which to capture work and get paid for it.

If two people approach a CEO and
one says “I am looking for a job with you” and the other says “I am looking to
tackle a major challenge you are facing – and being paid for this project
without further promise of employment” – in the current environment, who is
more likely to land work? In this example, the second individual is even more
likely to succeed if he or she has researched the organisation and their
market, considered emerging market needs, and is talking of needed solutions in
the business.

In the work we do with senior executives, we are seeing
investment bankers move into angel investing, business coaching and consulting,
into interim executive roles and into portfolio careers, including
directorships combined perhaps with consulting. Our work is increasingly
focused on building the right frameworks for new emerging businesses – even if
these are often a “business of one”.

Career resilience – with a lessening
dependence on organisational employment – rests on seeing yourself in this
light: a “business of one” with a need to continuously explore emerging needs
and to refashion or adapt your capabilities. I should conclude by acknowledging
that none of this is easy. The exploration of new ways of working in a tough
economic context following retrenchment is challenging. Seek out advice and
support, link up with others undertaking the same journey and see if you can
turn a challenging time into one of discovery and hopefully a new opportunity.

 

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