Getting Fired From the Wrong Job Can Give You a New Lease on Life, Says Former Banker

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What happens when it turns out your job in financial services “just isn’t that into you”?

It’s happening more and more often these days as banks downsize their ranks, but it needn’t be the end of the line. In fact, for former Citi Private Bank executive Rob Harper, it was only the beginning. Harper tells eFinancialCareers that when he was laid off from his private bank compliance position on his 15th anniversary with the firm, he realized that for him, at least, the change was long overdue.

Harper says he had begun to view his career overall and his role at Citi in particular with dissatisfaction, asking himself, “Is this really what I want to do?” When he began to be short with colleagues he had once enjoyed, he knew for sure something wasn’t right. “Having worked my way up as a contract employee to chief of staff for the director of compliance, you would have thought my job was secure and that I’d retire with the company,” says Harper.

But something was telling him way before then: “Leave. This job isn’t for you.” Harper said he was good at his job, but he had been a journalist and his true passion was writing. So when the ax finally fell, Harper was in large part relieved.

Now, he's written a book, That Job Just Isn’t That Into You—Starting Over When It's Over, designed to help Wall Streeters and other professionals realize there is life outside their current job title.

Among the themes Harper says he discusses in his book are:

  • Follow your passion
  • Don’t define yourself by your job
  • Don’t take a job termination personally

Try not to view it as the end of the world, says Harper, because it could be the best thing that ever happened to you, opening up new opportunities more closely aligned with your talents and even your lifelong aspirations.

If the aforementioned strikes you as overly simplistic—(easy for someone else to say—they haven’t been in your shoes!)—you’re correct. That’s why Harper decided to include the experiences of several individuals, all with their own story to tell and each with their own special brand of wisdom.

An investment banker who’d sold mortgages to Wall Street and got laid off from that job slowly learned that by being nice to others in a a similar boat and by working to get them on their feet too, he felt more confident about himself.

The banker explained how he’d “always remembered the stories of the Holocaust and how the Jewish prisoners that actually survived the longest were the ones who gave up their daily bread rations to other inmates and went hungry. It was a truism that demonstrated how extending humanity at a time of high stress and feelings of hopelessness gave them the strength to carry on,” he said. Today the former executive is preparing to join a Spanish bank and has purchased a program to teach him Spanish so he’ll be better prepared.

A former Computershare manager who ultimately was hired by Bank of New York Mellon for 20 percent more than she’d been making previously got laid off yet again and used the time to do all sorts of things she loves: golfing with her sister, taking walks and cooking. She is now in a consulting job and doesn’t worry about what might happen if it ends. One piece of advice she offers is to put money aside in case you need it going forward. Having a back up plan will be invaluable should that occur, she says.

Other rules of the road from Harper

Understand that few things last forever and that the days of “cradle to grave” employment are over. Try and put away six months worth of expenses in reserve just in case. Let yourself mourn for a day if you get laid off. Then, “Cast your job fishing net wider and in deeper waters. Network outside your territory. And never give up,” says Harper.