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An ex-Goldman Sachs MD on the art of keeping your job

Hold on for dear life

2016 is a rough year. Are you worried about being laid off?

I started out in 1999, and within a year of starting we had the 2000 tech bust. Then came the 2002 recession where the S&P went down - 50% peak to trough. A few years after that we had the 2008 crash, then the 2011 recession (US downgrade), then the slowdown since 2014.

Many friends and colleagues fell by the wayside.

This is what I have learnt about how to keep your job through it all and the advice I want to give you:

1. Help others 

This is the hardest thing to do, especially for guys. Our egos don’t let us.

But the easiest way to ensure you're kept around is to be irreplaceable. And, how do you become irreplaceable? The easiest way, to do that, is to be useful, invaluable and helpful.

Become so essential to your boss and your bosses’ boss that they don’t dare to cut you.

How do you that? Simple. Figure out what is important to them, what their goals are, what they are trying to accomplish, what do they need. Then help them achieve those things. Make them look good.

That’s it.

Do that everyday and they will keep you around forever. Remember though focus on them, not you.

This is where your ego comes in. Make sure you leave it at home.

How do you figure out what’s important to people?

Ask questions. Be curious. Talk to people. Take your boss to lunch every week. Take the secretary to lunch every week. Too busy for lunch? How about breakfast, coffee, even dinner? Too busy for that too? No problem. No one says no to a guy with a donut in his hand!

2. Look for opportunities 

Just because you're helping others, this doesn’t mean that you won’t be let go if the entire business area is shrinking or if your boss is getting fired too.

You need to protect against that outcome. You always need to be on the lookout for other opportunities.

What part of the bank or firm is doing well? Do you know anyone there? What sorts of firms are doing well in this environment? What are the success stories?

Get close to the opportunities that exist in a tough market. Expand your contacts and your network. Find new people to help.

Treat each day, every meeting, every interaction like an interview. Remember the old Wall Street saying: ABC - Always Be Closing. Here, the most important product you sell is you.

And if the worst happens and you do lose your job? Let go of the past quickly and stay open to new opportunities. It might be the best thing that ever happened to you, because it introduces you to a whole new set of opportunities.

3. Become recession proof

Wall Street is a meritocratic place. You have to be good at something. In fact, you have to be great at something.

So, what are you really really good at? What is needed and what will people pay money for? Write down your skills. What can you do better than everyone else? What do people compliment you on? What are you great at?

Focus on these things. This is what you want to build your career around. This is where you build your competitive advantage.

There is always a place on Wall Street for those that are the best in the world at something. If this is you, it won't matter that your current job is about to end. There will always be alternatives.

Got it?

Ok, I have to go, I hear a ring.

The author is a former Goldman Sachs managing director and blogger at the site What I Learned on Wall Street (

AUTHORWILOWWallStreet Insider Comment
  • Ni
    8 July 2016

    Thanks for the advice. I wasn't doing any of this !
    Appreciate it

  • So
    7 July 2016

    Just pack your bags and come to India, jobs are abundant here.. but lifestyle is pathetic..LOL

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