1. The Bear Stearns Casualty
RESIDES: Jersey City, New Jersey
Moved here from India in 1993, then finished a four-year engineering degree in three years. Worked as a techie with Reuters, got a masters in computational finance from Carnegie Mellon, and spent three years as a risk consultant at Deloitte and Touche. At Bear Stearns, monitored trades for two hedge funds until they went bankrupt. Moved over to the firm’s credit-trading desk and got laid off in August.
What He’s Looking For:
A risk-management role at an investment bank, private-equity firm, or hedge fund. Bhargava isn’t bitter about Bear’s downfall and has kept busy giving tennis lessons in Jersey City. Still, he sees ex-colleagues landing jobs “pretty easily,” while his own interviews have so far led nowhere.
Desired Salary: $115,000
(Competitive with his 2007 salary, not including a $30,000 bonus.)
What the Pros Advise:
Keith Feinberg, Director of Permanent Placement, Robert Half International
Bhargava fears that the demand for risk analysts has dried up, and that could be true, says Feinberg, who oversees recruiting for the financial-services headhunter Robert Half. But Bhargava also hasn’t done a good enough job of setting himself apart. “He has good technical skills and a history of working for marquee companies,” says Feinberg, but so do lots of other Wall Street castoffs. In his cover letters and during his interviews, Bhargava should emphasize his experience launching the U.S. office of a European software outfit and his consulting work at Deloitte and Touche for investment banks and hedge funds, explaining how this experience would directly benefit the company. Experience like this—both entrepreneurial and client-focused—could appeal to the boutique financial firms that are filling the void left by Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers. Bhargava could also work for a financial software outfit that could be looking for investment bankers who can translate between programmers and Wall Street clients.
Cindy Caruso, Senior Vice-President, HR, ING Investment Management
Caruso’s assessment starts with Bhargava’s résumé. There’s a tremendous amount of information crammed into the first page, but just three lines of type on the second. “Make it worth printing the damn paper out!” she says. She doesn’t like the way he’s listed his positions title first, employer second; he should reverse the order. He should also consolidate his three positions at Reuters under one company heading to clarify that he stayed with the firm for six years—otherwise he looks like a chronic job-hopper. As for where the jobs are, Caruso believes Bhargava will have more luck on the buy side—outfits that invest money for clients—since these firms need help understanding the convoluted investments they bought from sell-side firms like Bear. She warns him that the firms might not bother calling because they may assume they can’t afford him; Bhargava should communicate in his cover letter that he’s willing to accept a modest pay package. Finally, Caruso suggests that he polish his responses. “You take long pauses when describing your life, like it’s the first time you’ve thought about it,” she says.
“Cindy’s comment about selling yourself was pretty insightful,” Bhargava says. “But it’s hard to do that consciously. You can’t really change yourself too much.” He will, however, redo his résumé. And if he can’t get a job in asset management, he might broaden his search to software companies.
2. The Anxious M.B.A.
RESIDES: Yorktown Heights, New York
A summer stint as head lifeguard for the Yorktown Parks and Recreation Department. B.A. in economics from Franklin & Marshall College, a small liberal-arts school in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Eighteen-month financial-operations internship at Pepsi Bottling Group. In January, will obtain an M.B.A. degree from Pace University’s Lubin School of Business.
What He’s Looking For:
Entry-level role in corporate finance or investment management. But Grove’s worried there’s nothing left for him on Wall Street. “I kind of got screwed over with the timing,” he says.
Desired Salary: $50,000+
What the Pros Advise:
Jenna Campolieta, Assistant Director of Internships, Pace University
Grove might be competing with thousands of laid-off financial veterans when he hits the job market in January, so he, too, needs to rethink his résumé. He’s devoted half the space to routine academic project work when Campolieta feels he could be highlighting real-world accomplishments. “Not every student has a long-term internship with a company like Pepsi,” she says of his current job. As described on his résumé, Grove’s internship duties simply don’t sound impressive, so Campolieta says he should ask his immediate supervisor or an HR rep at Pepsi to send him a formal job description, which he can crib from. And what about that summer Grove spent as a head lifeguard? He can mention the number of lifeguards and the hundreds of swimmers he oversaw. “You’re minimizing to a fault,” Campolieta says. As far as landing a full-time job at Pepsi, he shouldn’t bother with HR. Grove should tell his supervisor that he’s interested in opportunities at Pepsi. “If you have a good relationship with your supervisor, he will advocate for you,” Campolieta says. “He knows you best.”
Vilma Schonwetter, Recruiter, Assistant Vice-President, Citi
Schonwetter says Grove’s blank-slate résumé would be vastly improved by a killer cover letter. In it, Grove needs to explain why he’s interested in a particular job despite his lack of experience, so that it doesn’t look like he’s applying for random positions. The letter should also include specific anecdotes to illustrate his transferable skills. If he’s applying for a position in new accounts, for example, he could cite his experience calling vendors at Pepsi about their accounts. Schonwetter suggests he try for jobs accessible to candidates with little practical experience: in new accounts, derivatives, or as an operations analyst. He might also look beyond Wall Street. There might be more openings at a consulting firm like Accenture, says Schonwetter. Grove could also take a high-level temp job at an investment bank to pad his résumé and develop contacts. “Citi hires a lot of temp-to-perm,” she says. Lastly, she recommends he check out Adecco, a placement agency that has a contract with Citi, or Michael Page International, a financial-services recruiter.
“I’m more optimistic than I was,” says Grove. “It’s probably more difficult to find a job than it was three years ago, but it’s certainly not the case that no one’s hiring.” He plans to implement some of the résumé suggestions and ask for a meeting with his supervisor to discuss his future at Pepsi.
3. The Back-to-Work Mom
RESIDES: Larchmont, New York
Spent the nineties working as an account manager for a direct-marketing firm followed by two years with IT advisory firm Gartner. Later, moved into sales for a market-research firm; most recently worked as a corporate-account exec at MCI.
What She’s Looking For:
Accountant management position, preferably at a marketing or IT-consulting firm. After Brennan was laid off from MCI in 2004, she took a three-year break to stay home with her newborn. Now that Luke is in preschool, she’s ready to get back to work.
Desired Salary: $75,000
(Competitive with her last salary in 2004.)
What the Pros Advise:
Tory Johnson, CEO, Women for Hire
Despite applying for dozens of positions through job sites like Monster.com, Brennan can’t get an interview. Johnson, who runs the career-coaching and recruiting service Women for Hire, says online job applications provide a false sense of accomplishment: “Those résumés go into a big black hole,” she says. “You need a direct, person-to-person connection.” She advises Brennan to launch a profile on LinkedIn, which lets her do several things: reconnect with former co-workers; seek out hiring managers at desirable firms by searching for the company and the manager’s job title; request introductions to managers through her network; make her profile and résumé Google-able. Off-line, Brennan should tell everyone about her job hunt—especially the other moms at the playground. “They have sisters and husbands who work where you want to go,” says Johnson. Finally, while she approves of Brennan’s black suit and patent-leather flats, she advises her to lose the barefaced look: “Makeup eliminates the aura of the stay-at-home mom who just went to the park and the grocery store.”
Harry Weiner, Partner, On-Ramps
Weiner, whose recruiting firm specializes in jobs with flexible hours and telecommuting options, says that Brennan is impressively professional in person, but he had qualms about her résumé. The problem: It is just too vague. Instead of listing that she managed financial-industry accounts at Gartner, she should specify that she cultivated relationships with CFOs at Fortune 500 insurance firms. Weiner’s other gripe: Her account-management experience is stale. He tells Brennan to shore up the skills gap by seeking out a freelance consulting gig with a big company; he suggests Reader’s Digest because it’s near her home in Westchester. Since these jobs are rarely advertised, she’ll have to make new contacts through LinkedIn or by going to industry conferences. Weiner recommends that Brennan focus on industries such as media and management consulting, which are less likely to be turned off by a three-year résumé gap. He especially recommends nonprofits. They love folks like Brennan who have corporate experience, “and frankly, you don’t need to take much of a salary cut.”
“My biggest challenge was my lack of a network,” says Brennan. “LinkedIn is a great tool, and I didn’t have that.” She already has a professional profile with thirteen contacts, and a Facebook profile to boot. With Johnson’s help, she just landed her first consulting gig—a short-term market-research project for a staffing firm.