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Someone junior pinched your Wall Street job. Here's what to do about it

If you're unemployed and have mouths to feed, you may have to settle for a job that you're overqualified for.

Banks on Wall Street love their juniors. Finra data suggests a full 31% of people working for Goldman Sachs in NYC have less than three years' experience. That's a lot of up-and-coming talent. But as juniors rise, more senior staff are often put out to pasture. What can you do if you're a vice president or managing director who's fallen foul of the juniorization trend?

First up, how desperate are you? How much cash do you have in the bank? Can you hold out or do you need to jump at whatever comes your way?

"The most important thing, if you have the luxury of time in a scenario when you’ve been let go, is to get to the right firm,” said Anne Crowley, co-founder and managing director of Jay Gaines & Co., a Wall Street recruiter. If you choose wrongly, you'll may well find yourself in the same situation two years' on.

Taking time to find the right new firm is fine in theory, but maybe not in practice. “You should figure how much you need to make to pay your bills,” said Roseanne Donohue, an executive recruiter, resume writer and career coach who worked previously at J.P. Morgan, Morgan Stanley and Citigroup.

If you can't pay the bills, you're going to need to do something. The temptation will be to jump at anything you're qualified for. However, this can be a mistake: banks aren't always be willing to hire over-qualified candidates, says one trader - juniors are often easier to deal with. The real danger, though, is that once you're in a lower paid job it's going to be harder to scale-up again.  Caroline Ceniza-Levine, career expert and co-founder of SixFigureStart, points out that, "past salary is a strong anchor in future negotiations." In other words, if you accept a job paying $70k, it's going to be a lot harder to land another one paying $200k.

The better option, therefore, is to go for contract work while you figure out what to do next.  “Ideally, you should take a contract job doing what you like and what you are good at and that is close to what you were doing before," says Donohue. Continue looking for a "proper job" in the evenings.

At some point, you might need to get real. If your previous role is being phased out (think compliance monitoring jobs being lost to regulatory software, for example), maybe it won't come back. Maybe you weren't that interested anyway? Maybe you'd be better off doing something something else entirely? In this case, the worst thing you can do will be to jump at a lower level role similar to the one you just did simply to get back in the market.

May Busch, a former Morgan Stanley MD and founder of May Busch & Associates, a career and leadership coaching firm, said she's currently coaching a banker who made this mistake - and is struggling to extricate himself from the new role. “If you feel like you’re overqualified and underpaid, then it’s not a good transition to the next step in your career," Busch says.

You're better off biding your time as a contractor. And when you do move, make it worthwhile - but be aware that the right new role for you may be very different to the last one. "“You don’t want to be too rigid and stuck on what was your title, what was your comp, what do you think you deserve,” says Gina Schiller at Jay Gaines & Co. “Your world going forward may be very different."

Photo credit: lolostock/GettyImages

AUTHORDan Butcher US Editor

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