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"I took a sabbatical from finance to travel. Now I am unemployed"

Three years ago, I quit my job in risk to travel the world. It seemed as good a time as any to try something different. - I'd been working in the industry for nearly five years and I wanted a break.

At the time, it seemed I'd have no problem getting back in again. I wasn't even looking for a job, but between 2014 and 2016 I was getting five or six calls a day from headhunters who were desperate to hire someone with my kind of regulatory knowledge. 

I quit in February 2017 and had a great 14 months traveling around Europe and Asia. It was everything I could have expected. I don't believe that humans are made to sit at desks and it was the kind of break I needed. 

Since I've been back, however, life has been tough. I've applied for a lot of jobs in my previous field and I've had almost no responses from recruiters. I've been out of work for over two years, save a very brief period of consultancy work. Things couldn't be more different.

I'm not sure what to do. I'm living of my savings, some trading income, and a small portfolio of rental properties and it's starting to seem like I'll never get another job in finance. It's been a shock - I've gone from being the person everyone wanted to hire to the person at the bottom of pile and it seems that one year out of the market did that. It's scary really. It's like headhunters have 50+ CVs to choose from nowadays and I'm just not seen as relevant. 

I'm tempted just to buy a van and go back on the road. Any advice from people reading this article would be much appreciated. 

John Jones is a pseudonym

Photo by Tommy Lisbin on Unsplash

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AUTHORJohn Jones Insider Comment
  • SG
    21 September 2019

    I have around 10 years risk experience in London but have been out of the job market for over 2 years. So i completely understand the article. Recruiters do not care about me although i do get the odd interview, but literally all have been roles for outside London. I think these roles are harder to fill so they are more desperate. If i had many interviews i am sure i could get a role as i am good at interviews. Its just that there seem to be not that many roles at all and i am now disadvantaged due to the gap. I am technical and i know how to code in Python - I have built some tools in python myself just for fun so I think I would really do well in a risk role that uses it, because my risk experience is already pretty solid.

    I would like to enter the investment risk space as i am more interested in the buyside risk but only have sell-side experience. Was wondering JK if you would consider me?

  • Bl
    21 September 2019

    I had a discussion with a recruiter at a major firm and he said once you have been unemployed for over six months your employment attractiveness diminishes significantly. That is why one of the first questions they ask you if you call a recruitment firm is "are you working." If the answer is "no" they will politely try to quickly push you off the line.

    The rationale is that since employers are paying recruiters employers are looking for the best people on the market. The assumption is the best people are probably currently working. One employer said don't send me any long term unemployed people because they could find those people on their own.

    So if you have been out of work for over a year you are probably not a great candidate for a recruiter unless you are quite senior (they take longer to find similar roles at the same level). You will probably get better results networking and going direct.

  • PB
    21 September 2019

    Have to say my experience in 2019 is at complete odds with what JK says. JK are you definitely in the UK? If your firm is hiring like you say that is good news.

    2019 has been a shocker not helped by Brexit uncertainty. I have been contracting for 11 years and have never had problems finding anything but this year has been a graveyard. Both contract and perm roles. My experiences have been the same as yours - no responses from recruiters, jobs filtering through at a slow rate. As for compliance, trying to even get an agent call back is like getting blood from a stone and I have over 10 years regulatory experience.

    Some of the conduct by recruitment firms this year has been horrific and they need to take a good long hard look at themselves.

    For contract work, IR35 uncertainty is a hammer blow as no one has really decided their strategy.

    Anyway good luck and keep trying - it’s tough - there are jobs in reg reporting, not that many but they are there. The constant change in regulatory landscape always ensures it.

  • JK
    20 September 2019

    I find your story quite surprising. i have been working in investment risk for more than 10 yrs and was responsible of recruiting quite a few people. So I know the market very well and it is booming at the moment.

    Unless you are a senior professional like senior manager or head of team, you have no difficulties getting job offers ( after does not mean that the job will be interesting). People with no prior risk experience manage to get into risk to tell you how tight it is. Your career break might be a deterrent for the best recruiters but still not a problem to get offers.

    And if not risk, compliance is hiring by the dozens, one of my mate landed a 80k job without any prior xp in compliance.

    I would be curious to have a look at your CV as there must be a problem with your skills:

    * How good are you proficient with coding?
    * How do you look for jobs? Are not you too narrow in your search ?How much money are you asking for?
    * Do you have any asset class knowledge? How good are your quant skills?

    Sometimes it is a few small things that let you down ...


  • Ob
    20 September 2019

    If you're getting the urge to go on the road again - how about using your risk knowledge to use as a volunteer for Kiva or Technoserve?

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