The Quest: Search Experience

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The last couple of weeks have been a particularly challenging time for the financial services industry. While on one hand I wish I was managing a portfolio during this period, on the other hand I had the opportunity to gain a valuable lesson as a job seeker observing reactions from my prospective employers.

Prospective employers' conversations with me exhibit some similary with the way institutional investors behave during a market dislocation. As an investor, I tend to find more opportunities in this type of environment, and I would work very intensively to take advantage of a market dislocation. Likewise, in the middle of the market turmoil I received a call from a firm after we had suspended conversations for over a month. Now, that firm - let's call it Firm A - wanted to resume conversations to possibly hire me. This prospective employer kept its powder dry, and as it felt the sentiment in the job market was becoming more negative, it thought this environment offered a good opportunity to resume negotiations.

On the other end of the spectrum is a prospective employer I'll call Firm B. I had a series of positive conversations with Firm B until the market turmoil in mid-September. At that point, however, this firm decided to put my interview process on hold due to the financial markets environment.

Two Useful Lessons

Firms A and B reacted in opposite ways to market events. From this I learned two lessons that will be helpful as I move forward with my search.

First, while investment managers' hiring decisions are indeed correlated with the health of financial markets, there are employers who act as contrarian investors do, stepping up hiring activity during turbulent times. Second, unexpected events that damage market sentiment may impact the hiring process of a firm and jeopardize a potential job offer that otherwise might have been extended to a candidate in a normal environment.

My first observation should be encouraging for anyone in the investment management business. The second finding, meanwhile, shows a risk element that I have not factored into my job search process so far.

These realizations illustrate how a job search is a learning experience every day. The recent events changed my perspective on the time value of a job offer, making me more sensitive to potential external risks or factors outside of my control as I interview with potential employers.

James Weldon (a pseudonym) is a portfolio manager. This weekly column details his strategy and tactics in searching for a new job after he was let go by the hedge fund group at a bulge bracket investment bank in New York.

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