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

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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.

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