Our Take: Living in Limbo

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The status of bailout talks heading into the weekend could be a metaphor for the way many finance industry pros feel about their own job security at this moment. To wit: swaying to and fro atop the Washington Monument.

The demise of Washington Mutual after a classic depositors' run hammers home a point we made in last Friday's column: No one is safe now. If Congress fails to agree on some form of broad rescue plan for the industry, all hell is likely to break loose very soon. Even if bailout legislation is enacted, financial turmoil won't subside overnight. More forced mergers, divestitures, dissolutions and layoffs lie ahead under either scenario. That means substantial numbers of financial services professionals will continue to endure that slightly nauseous feeling that comes with realizing your job could be twisting in the wind.

Since the latest intensification of the credit crunch began two weeks ago with Lehman Brothers' bankruptcy filing, we at eFinancialCareers News have tried to provide news and advice you can immediately use to scope out opportunities, get a foot in the door and secure offers. On Sept. 23 we published a "Career Toolkit" - a compilation of links to our best how-to articles about networking, organizing your job search, resumes, cover letters and interviewing.

Extending the train of thought from last Friday's column, here are some further ideas about career and job-search strategies in troubled times.

Fortify and Nurture Your Professional Network

For many professionals, the word, "network" connotes going out and meeting new people. That can't hurt - but a higher priority should be re-connecting with and leveraging people you already know through prior work settings, educational institutions you attended, industry committees and other professional activities you participated in. Direct teammates and supervisors from past jobs represent your best possible connections to a new one. The second-best contact group is people you worked closely with from the other side of the table - your regular customers, clients, suppliers, and trade counterparties. Finally, people you teamed up with on projects while in university or MBA school also make excellent connections, if you've been in touch within the last five years.

Get an Online Presence

Set up your full career profile on LinkedIn, Facebook and other business/social networking sites. Think Facebook is for kids? Good - kids get hired in finance, old fogeys don't. Create a career Web site to showcase your credentials and your best work samples. You'll be able to publish information that won't fit on a "regular" one-page or two-page resume, such as your business and career philosophy, and details about awards you won or major projects or publications you completed.

If you are currently employed, these are all excellent tactics for getting recruiters to pay attention to you, without having to pursue them yourself. There's nothing a recruiter loves more than a "passive job-seeker." Just this week, one ex-colleague reported getting two calls from (legitimate) headhunters, within days after posting his profile on a popular professional networking site.

Go Outside the Box

Here two further avenues - one that we discussed in the past, and one that we may elaborate on in future articles.

- Consider opportunities located in fast-growing markets beyond the U.S. and UK.

- Consider public-sector opportunities in regulatory agencies. Compliance is a hot specialty now. Those who look down their nose at government work miss the fact that combining trading or other markets experience with experience as a regulator may dramatically improve one's marketability once banks start hiring again.

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