A collection of the best career advice for Lehman and Merrill employees (and anyone else worried your job on Wall Street) | Lindsey Pollak's Blog

A collection of the best career advice for Lehman and Merrill employees (and anyone else worried your job on Wall Street)

alg_lehmanboxes2.jpgHow bad is the situation on Wall Street right now?

“It’s very, very, bad, and things may deteriorate further. This is as bad as anyone alive has ever seen it. Wall Street is broken.”

That’s the assessment from Dealbreaker‘s John Carney in a recent interview with Fishbowl NY. This is a scary situation for everyone, most of all for people who were make their living at Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch.

While events haven’t totally shaken out yet and some jobs may be saved, it’s likely that thousands of Lehman and Merrill employees will be out of jobs. What can they do to move on and start new positions as quickly as possible?

Here are 5 suggestions, and this advice is only the tip of the iceberg. Readers: If you have additional advice (especially if you have Wall Street experience), please share in the Comments section. Thanks!

1. Create a search strategy. This tip comes from Toddi Gutner’s recent Wall Street Journal blog post, “Dealing with a Job Search When You Least Expect It”: “Despite the need to mobilize a quick job search, ‘you don’t want to send out a bunch of things into the marketplace without any thought behind it,’ says Mr. [Doug] Matthews [CEO of Right Management Consultants]. Take some time to create a thoughtful and measured approach to your job hunt. Be specific about the position you want and target the companies where you want to work.”

2. Have a plan B, C and D. This advice comed from LaVern Chapman, an MBA career services professional I spoke with this morning. If you’ve been working in a certain area of high-level finance, you’ll probably need to consider other areas of finance, smaller or more specialized firms, corporate finance or something altogether different. If you’ve been thinking about a career change anyway, now might be the right time to make the switch.

3. Spread the word far and wide that you’re looking for new opportunities. Don’t assume that people will know you’re looking for a job or what kinds of jobs you want. Call, email and set up meetings/chats with friends, former colleagues and other connections. The more people you talk to, the more eyes will be on the lookout for openings that fit your criteria.

4. Increase your social networking activity. Many companies and headhunters, especially smaller ones, are now recruiting solely through LinkedIn, so make sure you are making the most of this medium. For tips on how to stand out and get a job through social networking, check out my post on making the most of LinkedIn.

5. Get emotional support. Losing a job can be very emotional, especially when it happens suddenly. “Enlist the help of a friend, spouse, coach, colleague, etc. Someone who will listen and support you through this transitional period in your life,” advises Deborah Brown-Volkman on Eve Tahmincioglu’s Career Diva Blog . “Looking for a job can be frustrating, time consuming, and disappointing. Remember that you do not have to do it alone.”

Please share and read more tips in the Comments below!

Photo credit: New York Daily News

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  1. I second the advice given about LinkedIn. Now is the time to work those contacts you’ve been building. It’s amazing the opportunities that can be available if you look to your extended network.

    Don’t keep silent, now is not the time. Speak up, post messages, send individual emails, whatever you need to do in order to get your foot in the door.

    – Kristine

  2. I’ve got the same discussion going on over at my blog (great minds think alike!), so I hope you won’t mind if I share that link. People have been making suggestions, and they’re all good ones. Hope this helps: http://www.45things.com/blog.php

    Maybe one thing we’ll all learn from this debacle is to never say: “My employer is safe and sound. Nothing will happen.” We need to all have a strategy in place, no matter who we work for (even ourselves).

  3. Lindsey,
    This is all great advice! In particular, Toddi Gutner’s tip to take the time for a thoughtful and measured approach to your search is key. Really focus on what skills and accomplishments you have to market. What is special or unique about you? In an environment where many people are looking for opportunities at once, you need to be able to identify what sets you apart.

    Once you figure out your angle, be sure that all of your marketing materials are top-notch. Your resume, cover letters, linkedin profile – everything needs to perfectly target your intended employer. Especially if you’ve been thrown into a job search unexpectedly – IMMEDIATELY clean up your social networking profiles so that they are professional and wouldn’t cause any potential employer to think twice about hiring you. (Including your photos – make sure you are dressed like you are ready for work in your highlighted pictures.)

    Finally, when you are planning your networking, focus on information gathering and sharing. Don’t ask for meetings to discuss your need for a job. If that person doesn’t have a job to offer, he or she will probably not want to meet with you and will suggest you contact HR. The key with your networking is to expand your group of “loose contacts” – people who don’t know you well, but are willing to do what they can to help you achieve your goal. If you can present yourself as talented and skilled and make a personal connection, you will get much further with your job hunt.

    I’ll be posting more in my own blog (www.keppiecareers.wordpress.com) soon…The list of things to do when suddenly facing a job hunt is very long…Those who take time to regroup and are methodical in their plans are most likely to reach their goals sooner.

    Miriam Salpeter
    Career Coach, Keppie Careers

  4. I am glad you listed #5 in here. This is an extremely stressful time for many people and reaching out to close friends and family will help cushion the blow and provide the emotional support needed to move forward. People really should not be afraid to reach out to others at a time like this. More importantly, they should not put blame on themselves and accept any unnecessary guilt because this terrible situation was out of the hands of the majority of people working here. In addition, I would suggest that people look at the possibility of seeking out therapy to deal with the emotional difficulties one can have after such a loss (http://therapists.psychologytoday.com/rms/prof_search.php).


  5. These tips were sent to me by Diane K. Danielson at The Women’s DISH (http://womensdish.typepad.com/) —

    – Join forces. Find a support group. Yes, you MAY be competing against each other for jobs, but chances are, you won’t be, and it will keep you motivated and on track. Several sets of eyes and ears are better than none.

    – My favorite job-hunting trick – Ask someone you want to “see” your resume to “proof” it for you. Chances are, they’ll pass it along. Remember, it’s always easier to ask for advice rather than help.

    – Use this time to brainstorm a bit. Maybe it’s the sign you needed to broaden your horizons. This is where your support group can help you.

    – Finally, it’s time to get out there and go to all those networking events, test out all those online networking tools and everything else you never had time to do! Think of this as your first step on a new adventure.

  6. Willy says:

    Since I’ve been all about using Facebook ads to find jobs lately, I’m going to stick with that theme.

    (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you can see that Lindsey blogged about it here: https://lindseypollak.com/?p=452)

    I think that telling the story of how you were a casualty of one of these collapses in your ad copy could be really compelling.

    Something like:

    “Hi I’m Jane. I loved working at Lehman Brothers, but I can’t do that any more. Can you help me find another job that I”ll love. Click to see my resume.”

    Also, try sticking with your team. I know one woman who worked at Bear Stearns. She obviously lost her job, but her whole team got picked up by another company. The company didn’t have a New York City location, but they instantly were able to build one by taking an entire group that already knew each other and had worked together before. That’s a pretty cool resolution, although it’s probably pretty unlikely.

  7. Great idea Lindsey! I too have listed additional tips on my blog which people can link to above.

    Having been through an eerily similar situation with the Andersen/Enron debacle, I want to offer an insider’s perspective. It’s a surreal experience and one where it’s hard not be fearful of how you will survive. For those at Andersen, most jumped right into job searching but for me, I took a different path.

    I decided to soul search before my job search with the help of career coaching.

    And did I need it. I was so tired of reading about, talking about, and hearing about my employer’s demise and having to explain, getting pitied, etc, etc. that I just took some time for myself. I decided to reflect on where I had been with my career and where I wanted to go.

    The end of Andersen for me meant the opportunity to explore a new career path. The career coaching was so helpful in determining my own answers that I became a certified career coach to help all my Andersen friends through the same process.

    The end of one career meant the beginning of another and I have faith that for those at Lehman, Merrill Lynch, Bear Sterns, and any more to come, that they will be able to not only survive but thrive.

  8. […] In a post for the Wall Street Journal, “Dealing with a Job Search When You Least Expect It”: Toddi Gutner notes: “Despite the need to mobilize a quick job search, ‘you don’t want to send out a bunch of things into the marketplace without any thought behind it,’ says Mr. [Doug] Matthews [CEO of Right Management Consultants]. Take some time to create a thoughtful and measured approach to your job hunt. Be specific about the position you want and target the companies where you want to work.” (Hat tip: Lindsey Pollak) […]

  9. great ideas here.

    i just posted about this on my blog.
    — marci

  10. Jane Pollak says:

    You’ve covered the bases, Lindsey. Well done!

    If this was anyone’s last straw, there is always the possibility of going out on one’s own. It’s not an alternative everyone is suited for, but if it’s for you, you’ll never be in this position again.

  11. […] Pollak starts with A collection of the best career advice for Lehman and Merrill employees (and anyone else worried you…, and includes job search advice from Wall Street Journal’s Todd Gutner, in his article […]

  12. These suggestion are terrific! I would add to #4 and #5 that you want to be strategic about your networking. I made some suggestions about how to do that here:

  13. […] A collection of the best career advice for Lehman and Merrill … […]

  14. Erika with Qvisory says:

    It’s so alarming to see these big companies going down in flames so suddenly! I think your tip about getting emotional help is valuable, this kind of thing doesn’t get mentioned very often!

  15. Thank you to everyone for your very helpful suggestions. Keep ’em coming!


  16. […] Click here for more tips on job hunting in the new financial landscape. addthis_url = ‘http%3A%2F%2Flindseypollak.com%2Fblog%2F%3Fp%3D473’; addthis_title = ‘Are+start-ups+more+stable+than+Wall+Street%3F’; addthis_pub = ‘Lindseypollak’; […]

  17. Why are we just focusing on these people who are losing their jobs on Wall Street? Is it because it’s trendy and newsworthy? People are losing their jobs everyday — and have been for ALL of 2008! And those who ARE employed still — luckily — should be doing everything in their power to showcase their value to their organization… because, as we know, it’s not just financial institutions that are suffering right now… retail, hospitality, education, manufacturing, construction, etc.

    For those folks who have been downsized, here’s a tutorial we’ve developed on QuintCareers.com: Rebounding After a Layoff Tutorial — http://www.quintcareers.com/laidoff_tutorial/

    And for those folks who are trying to protect their jobs, we have an article on QuintCareers: Seven Strategies to Recession-Proof Your Careers — http://www.quintcareers.com/recession-proof_career_strategies.html

  18. Holly says:

    What great advice! I work as a recruiter in Boston for Hollister Staffing (www.hollisterstaff.com) and I specialize in placing people in finance jobs. I have a couple clients right now who were seeking for jobs at big financial institutions right before all this happened, and are now very discouraged about their future in the industry. I think you have some really great advice here for people like them, and I especially love your point about social networking, it is so important in today’s market! I am planning on passing your post along to some of my discouraged clients, thank you so much for sharing this!

  19. I guess we are all on the same page here. Here are the tips I offered on my BullsEyeBlog:

    – Don’t leave without work samples if still possible
    – Download your email “kudos” folder if still possible
    – Consider relocation – do not rule out overseas
    – Change careers
    – Join or start your ex-employers’ alumni association
    – Call your parents and siblings; get them networking for you
    – Work with outplacement firms
    – Recent grads should reconnect with their college career centers


  20. Janet White says:

    You can do all the job search techniques you want — high tech, low tech or no tech — but I guarantee that if you think or talk about about how hard it will be be for you to either keep your job or get a new one, you’re right — it will be hard.

    This is because of the Law of Attraction (“The Secret”), which states that anything you think about, especially with feeling, is going to show up in your life reflect those thoughts and feelings.

    Your most powerful job-finding tool isn’t Facebook, Linkedin, your network or your resume; it’s your mind. Imagine yourself now being in a job in which you have everything you desire — lots of money, a position of responsibility, a terrific benefits package and the joy of being paid to do work you love.

    Really feel yourself being in that kind of a situation and then start thinking, speaking and acting AS IF it’s already happened. That means you must live your life to the best of your current ability as if you had that new job right now, especially if you’re thinking of changing careers.

    For example, let’s say you always wanted to be an advertising copywriter but now you’re writing investor relations reports. You believe you’re probably going to lose your job and start sending out resumes, answering job postings, network like crazy and contact recruiters so you can get hired as an advertising copywriter.

    But you won’t get hired as a copywriter until you start thinking like a copywriter, and start acting like one by building your own portfolio of advertising copy. You’ve worked on Wall Street for a long time and know how to write for the financial markets, so there’s nothing to stop you from writing ads for financial institutions and financial products.

    If you need to learn how to write copy, take some classes on copywriting at NYU, Columbia or the New School. Everything you need to learn how to be a copywriter is literally at your fingertips — either locally or on the web.

    Forget networking in the hopes someone will know someone who knows someone; go join the trade organizations comprised of the professionals who are doing what you want to do. These people are your future colleagues, peers and cohorts, and there’s no better way to become one of them than to get to know them.

    If you have a clear vision of what you want and embody the “being-ness” of having it, then as you move towards it, you will find you won’t have to do much of anything in terms of a traditional job search because, thanks to the Law of Attraction, you will have attracted it to you.

    Just so you know — I’m a native New Yorker and worked in Midtown Manhattan during the 70s and 80s and I used this approach over and over and over to get every job I ever wanted for 35 years. In fact, I used it just last winter when I got suddenly laid off from my job a week before Christmas and got a brand new job a mere 18 hours later.

    To read how I did it by using the Law of Attraction and learn how you can do it too, email me at janet@jobmarketsecrets.com and put “18 Hours” in the subject line.

    Janet White, author
    Secrets of the Hidden Job Market: Change Your Thinking to Get the Job of Your Dreams

  21. Hi Lindsey,

    I strongly agree on your tips here but using LinkedIn is something new to me. I’ll give it a try. Having a plan B, C, and D is also on its way for me.

    Thank you very much for this timely advise

  22. Hi Lindsey –

    I am new to the blogging space but am passionate about the topic of job search having experienced the ups and downs personally in 2007. After that experience I pulled my notes together and built a job search strategy to help my friends who were still out there as well as give back in general to all those who helped me out along the way.

    I hope that my blog which started here (http://quixoting.typepad.com/spin_strategy/2008/09/job-search-2008.html) will add something new to all the great content that is out there . . .



  23. @Edwin – thanks for visiting my blog. Hope you’ll check out LinkedIn. Good luck!


  24. @Tim – thanks for the comment and sharing news about your blog. I’m looking forward to checking it out.


  25. […] career advice to the General Y workforce.  A few weeks ago, Lindsey also published a great collection of tips for Wall Street employees worried about their […]

  26. […] A collection of the best career advice for Lehman and Merrill … […]

  27. […] In a post for the Wall Street Journal, “Dealing with a Job Search When You Least Expect It”: Toddi Gutner notes: “Despite the need to mobilize a quick job search, ‘you don’t want to send out a bunch of things into the marketplace without any thought behind it,’ says Mr. [Doug] Matthews [CEO of Right Management Consultants]. Take some time to create a thoughtful and measured approach to your job hunt. Be specific about the position you want and target the companies where you want to work.” (Hat tip: Lindsey Pollak) […]

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  30. Salvatore McDonagh says:

    Getting laid off or made redundant is a traumatic experience, especially when the industry you based your career on is in complete turmoil. I was made redundant in 2004 from one of the big 5 IT companies, in their third round of layoffs. This meant that I and every other employee had been worried about keeping our jobs for the previous 3 years. The stress of not getting laid off when many of your colleagues have been is as bad, if not worse, than getting your own pink slip. I ended up changing career, and the layoff was the opportunity to focus full time on the new career. Before the fateful day I’d been a bundle of stress for years. When it finally happened it was a relief. Life goes on, and it can actually be a better life, if you are open to changing.