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Stuck in the Middle: why it’s still awful being unemployed

In the second of his regular “Stuck in the Middle” series, our new mid-level candidate columnist explains why the recent rise in recruitment is cold comfort if you’re already out of work.

If you haven’t read his first article, click here.

Over the past month, it appears positive sentiment has slowly been returning to financial markets, and the giant that is the banking industry is gradually returning to life.

I recently wrote an article about my difficulty in finding work during the current downturn.

In that regard nothing much has changed. Prospective roles are by word of mouth, and even then (after the initial meetings) the process is developing at a very slow pace. However, it is heartening to see major financial institutions finally mentioning the word “recruitment”.

Capital risings have boosted balance sheets, and equity markets, buoyed by profit results that have outperformed market expectations, have risen to nine-month highs.

This positivity appears to be flowing back into the financial employment markets, with rumours circulating that investment banking teams will soon be bolstered, and that groups which cut too deeply (last year and during Q1) will also be looking to hire.

That being said, it remains incredibly difficult to find work if you are NOT currently employed. Networking, networking and networking is the name of the game. However, there remains a distinct skew in the market to hiring/poaching those already in work.

Frustratingly, the first question you are almost always asked is “what new business can you bring to the table from day one?”, and unless the answer is a considerable sum, all bets are off.

Having recently come back from London after four years away (and having returned due to family illness, for those who questioned the logic of my decision in the previous article), clearly the amount of business I can generate will be less than someone coming straight from another firm in Sydney.

While this is entirely fair, it’s also frustrating, and clearly indicates the sector is not expanding, but only playing musical chairs. So maybe those with rose-tinted glasses need to take a closer look at the fundamentals driving the markets.

Whilst I toil away speaking to leads and looking for that elusive position, I am becoming increasingly concerned about where the markets are heading.

Now, I may be wrong, but I am led to believe that considerable loan sums are maturing in 2010, and raising debt to roll these loans over will be substantially more costly than many expect.

With the “Rudd Fund” closing, money will need to be raised from overseas markets at far heftier margins than this year (not that they weren’t already hefty margins!). Word on the street is that we may be facing further serious liquidity issues over the next 12 to 24 months, and we most definitely haven’t seen the last of the financial crisis yet.

From a seeking-work perspective, this sends a chill down my spine. If things revert to the carnage that was 2008, all this recent employment optimism will seem like a speck on the distant horizon!

At the moment I am clinging onto comments (passed on through contacts in the industry from major Australian, UK and US banking groups), that the major financial institutions may yet be looking to recruit in Q3/Q4 this year.

So let’s all pray for the bull market to continue, and most of all, for the return of economic stability and growth. Oh, and to all the prospective employers out there, one can only hope that you look past the quick dollar and invest in people for the long term.

Comments (5)

  1. I am currently trying to find Fin markets work and I hear your pain. I have UK FO insto equities experience and highly analytical experience with top tier IB’s, plus good formal qual’s to go with it.

    Made the mistake of going to a boutique when I first got back. Now Im struggling just to get interviews.

  2. Quite agree. Employers (and Recruiters) more often than not are hiring for the short term gain but forgetting the long term pain after all the Customers that can be “brought” over with the new encumbent – dry up! What about past that initial change? I would rather stay looking than get caught up with that attitude! Haven’ t they learned anything out of the turmoil of the last 2 years?

  3. You should all forget about top level IB. I am starting my own IB company with ME money focussed on oil and gas and resources. If you trust your own abilities, then do something yourself.

  4. Yes they seem to be very short sighted. Two years ago I was getting emails while in London from recruiters begging me to come back. Now they dont return my messages.

    It is going to be interesting when things really do turn. As long as Australia has strict immigration and an Anglo centric mentality we will have a long term skills shortage in this country. The current job environment is just a temporary thing. But the experience will certainly make me a lot more ruthless when dealing with potential employers and recruiters in the future.

  5. My view is that the historic model for recruitment firms where they were charing exorbitant fees (up to 20%) to an employer are finished. In the past due to a shortage of candidates and good economic conditions companies would pay for what can only b described as mediocre service from recruitment firms. Now the market has changed and there are plenty of candidates firms are doing more of their own recruiting. Most of my colleagues believe they can do a much better job than most recruiters out there.

    If your currently out of work then you cannot rely on recruitment firms alone. Networking is one method of accessing those hidden jobs; but there are many others. An honest review of your skills and experience may reveal opportunities in other fields. You need to ask yourself honestly have you done everything you can to gain employment. As “usal10” mentions maybe self-employment is an option.

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