If you're miserable in your current job, don't assume you're stuck. The robots may be coming for you, or your business area may be in structural decline, but there is hope – follow these steps to land a better Wall Street job.
1. Get a feel for the market
You shouldn't blindly quit your job if there are no opportunities available.
Kim Ann Curtin, the founder/CEO of The Wall Street Coach, has seen burnt-out Wall Street professionals find something completely out of the industry, becoming everything from advertising executives, actors and yoga instructors to consultants and entrepreneurs. Others start their own hedge fund or find another niche within financial services.
“Talk to more than a handful of people to make sure it’s what you want to do,” Curtin says. “Especially if you’re no spring chicken, there’s not a lot of time to waste, so talk to people about the downside as well as the upside.
“If you’re miserable, you think any change will be an improvement, but sometimes the devil you know is better the devil you don’t know,” she says. “Offer to take people out to lunch, coffee or drinks and ask about the hours they work, the money you’re hoping to make and the negative aspects of the role."
Chances are you have classmates and former colleagues who are at other banks, hedge funds or private equity firms. Seek out your contacts to see if they have employee-referral programs where they would endorse you for a job in a new area, says Janet Raiffa, the ex-head of U.S. campus recruiting at Goldman Sachs and a career adviser.
“The fact that you have connections within the firm who are willing to endorse you can help mitigate HR and line-manager concerns about a change in job sector or focus,” she says. “Applicants who come through employee-referral programs are more likely to receive first-round interviews and may already be seen as a culture fit because they have internal support.”
Get involved in an association related to your job target, suggests career coach Robert Hellmann, who previously worked at J.P. Morgan and American Express. That way, people in the organization will not see you just as bulletpoints on a resume but as that great person who was so helpful in the last meeting.
“Many Chartered Financial Analysts who have gotten involved in their respective CFA societies or the CFA Institute have had an easier time making significant transitions because of the relationships they’ve built there, Hellmann says. “For example, run an association committee, such as events, marketing or budgeting.”
2. Look internally
Career coach Michele LoBianco, who previously worked at J.P. Morgan, suggests exploring other opportunities across different areas within your current company.
“If you feel comfortable, have a career conversation with your manager and ask for support and advocacy,” LoBianco says.
“Ideally companies will support employees who want to make internal moves,” she says. “It benefits the company in many ways, because if they don’t, they’ll lose these employees.”
LoBianco worked with a portfolio manager at an asset management firm who thought he wanted to leave his organization, but it turned out that he really wanted to go for his executive MBA and then work in alternative investments.
“He communicated his desires, and that’s exactly what he got – the firm paid for his MBA and he was able to manage more alternative asset classes,” she says.
3. Show results
Changing careers, even within the financial services industry, is about proving that you can get results in the new area you’re targeting. Employers typically hire based on a track record of results, not potential, says Caroline Ceniza-Levine, career coach at SixFigureStart who previously worked at Goldman Sachs and Citi. A career-changer is a risk because you’re untested, and therefore, your job as the candidate is to mitigate their risk.
4. Bypass HR
Don't just apply and then wait for the recruiter, HR executive or hiring manager to call, Hellmann says. You need to be "perfect" to get noticed through this channel, as this is the front door that everyone tries to go through.
“If your background doesn't line up perfectly, that might be an issue,” he says. “The initial screen is often a computer or a junior HR person – someone who doesn't really know the job and is just looking for keywords on your resume that line up with the description.”
Get introductions to get in front of people at the firm, or even contact personnel directly via email, phone or social media. Make meeting requests mutually beneficial and include something about them and what makes you interesting, Hellmann says.
“It's not even about interviews at this stage – just meetings with people in a position to hire you,” he says. “Then, if you're pitching yourself the right way, and you keep in touch with these people, and you're having enough of these meetings, the interviews will come.”
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