If you happen to be a laid off banking or investment banking professional, odds are that you aren’t the only one looking for a well-connected contact in the industry to help in the job search and recommendation process. But for those on the other side of the equation—those gainfully employed—it can be difficult to know how to deal with an endless stream of requests from unemployed friends and associates looking to coordinate a quick lunch or coffee to “discuss” their career plans.
It’s a very common experience for those who are left standing in the banking and investment banking world to feel overwhelmed, and often powerless, to help their unemployed friends find a leg up at their bank or firm. In an interview with eFinancialCareers, Deborah Brown-Volkman, a professional career and life coach, confirms that a growing number of her employed clients are approaching her for advice on how to deal with the many requests for career help and recommendations. She reminds them that they aren’t the only ones fielding these sorts of calls, and that it’s always best to remember the golden rule.
If unemployed friends and associates are constantly ringing your cell or e-mailing you for job advice, Brown-Volkman says to skip the urge to blow them off or lie. She recommends a more compassionate, straightforward, professional and honest approach.
“Most of the people I talk to don’t like to say no when someone asks them to meet up,” she says. “They will often say yes in the heat of the moment and then cancel at the last minute.” But it will most certainly end up hurting the relationship, Brown-Volkman notes.
If you do say yes to coffee or you simply have a long phone call with your unemployed friend, make sure to be honest and upfront about what you can and cannot do for the job seeker.
“If your firm is still laying off people and there’s a hiring freeze, be direct and simply let them know that,” she says.
But Brown-Volkman adds that you should still make the effort to ask them for their resume and a brief paragraph about the type of job they are looking for at your company or firm. If your division at the firm or bank operates in a monstrous silo, you just might want to let your unemployed friend or associate know that you don’t have much pull in the division or department they’re looking to join.
Brown-Volkman also reminds that it’s best to consider the plight of your unemployed friend before you make any hasty decisions. Think about what you might need if the roles were reversed, she says. In every situation, whether you have tons of pull or not, pass on the resume to HR and, if you can, the appropriate senior person in the relevant department. It’s always smart to extend goodwill, as you never know when you might be on the “receiving end” from the very same person you helped, she adds.
Alden Cass, author of Bullish Thinking: The Advisor’s Guide to Surviving and Thriving on Wall Street and a licensed clinical psychologist who works with Wall Street professionals, agrees with Brown-Volkman’s thoughts, noting that he does believe in the old adage of “what goes around comes around.” Cass tells eFinancialCareers that even when you can’t offer concrete help, you should always agree to meet or at least chat on the phone to offer encouraging words of support.
“When you help someone or advise someone, that person then goes to speak to other people and spreads good words about you," Cass says. It may not be the first thing that comes to mind, but Cass reminds that it pays to be helpful.
The conversation needn’t be a long one either. The content is key.
“You can quickly meet for coffee or call them on the commute home,” says Cass. “People are often pressed for time.”
But when you chat, Cass does confirm that honesty is the best policy. Even if your company isn’t hiring, you may have an idea of another company or firm that might be the right fit. Cass also recommends that for those who are gainfully employed, don’t forget to regularly organize your own lunch dates or time for coffee with mentors, since you never know when you might need that helping hand. It’s wise to keep your network current, he adds.