On the Prowl With the Pink-Slipped

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As soon as I stepped in at last night's Wall Street Pink Slip Party, I faced a practical and moral dilemma: whether to stick with the green bracelet that a staffer handed me - the color reserved for recruiters - or exchange it for a pink (job-seeker) or blue (friend) one.

What the heck, I figured. People often mistake eFinancialCareers for a recruiting shop. I was there to meet job-seekers. And while I have no jobs to fill, I can tell them useful things they wouldn't hear from a recruiter. Green, natch!

I did inform anyone who sought me out that I was a reporter, not a recruiter. Among the steady stream of aspirants lured by my green bracelet, all but one or two stuck around to chat with me anyway. I've given them fictitious first names in what follows. (If only I'd had one of those green glow-bracelets back in my single days! My whole life would have turned out different.)

Are the Introductions Worthwhile?

There was Ahmet, laid off last July from a derivatives trading technology firm. He has some savings, but just learned courtesy of TurboTax that he'll owe $5,000 for last year's taxes. "So my money won't last as long as I thought," he said. Not to worry, though: Ahmet has an interview scheduled next week. And being at the Pink Slip Party itself may help his cause. "I made a lot of useful contacts tonight," he told me later in the evening. "I'm feeling more upbeat about my prospects."

Laura, a portfolio manager, saw less value in the recruiters' presence. "They're mostly IT people," she observed. Since her job disappeared two weeks ago, Laura is taking things one day at a time, starting with basics like polishing her resume. She plans to target opportunities at private equity firms that can use her expertise managing distressed credits. "I've been doing this 22 years. It's what I'm good at." So she's eager to get back to work, even though money isn't a problem. "I got a great (severance) package," she told me. "And my husband is a doctor."

Expatriate Dilemmas

Wei, a risk manager, is less fortunate. In March, he was laid off from a bulge-bracket bank's prime broker unit. As his savings wind down, he's torn between continuing his search or returning to his native China for the second time in a year. A naturalized U.S. citizen who's lived here more than a decade, he'd rather not move to China for the long term, even though the financial job market there is noticeably brighter than in the U.S. But, having had no significant interview since November, he says he'll leave if he's still jobless after another three months or so.

Another job-seeker had also pursued an opportunity in his native country since losing a Wall Street job. Robert, an asset finance specialist, was laid off more than a year ago, when the sub-prime collapse killed demand for asset-backed securities. He took an 11-month contract in Germany. When that ended, in late 2008, he moved back to New York. He's marketing his services for financial restructuring, and is open either to permanent or contract work.

Louis is still employed, but worried. He's a fund-of-funds analyst specializing in managed futures and global macro - two strategies that performed relatively well last year while most hedge funds went into the tank. But he's concerned because his employer's corporate parent, a global conglomerate, is pulling in its horns in various areas, which might lead to layoffs. What's more, the Madoff scandal has made it much harder for funds-of-funds to attract and retain assets.

The party in a midtown Manhattan bar-restaurant drew about 375 people. Organizer Dan Yu, who put together the first two Wall Street Pink Slip parties last November and December, plans similar events for job-seekers in the future.

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