How long are you out of the market before you become completely unemployable?

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Someone has asked a question. 

Specifically: they’ve been unemployed for 10.5 months having previously worked in fund derivatives structuring and sales and want to know when to give up hope. As they point out, we've previously suggested that it becomes difficult to re-establish yourself in a financial services career after a mere six months away.

But what now? Given the harshness of the times, are employers any more lenient than they used to be?

Sort of.

“It’s pretty tough in fund derivatives right now,” says the head of one boutique search firm. “It’s even more difficult if you’re in structuring, which is a shrinking pool. There are people who’ve been out for two years and still can’t find a niche.”

Nevertheless, recruiters say there are opportunities for individuals like the questioner – but they may need to broaden their horizons. “It could be that you’ve been working in a role that involves old technology – like credit structuring,” says one. “In that case, you’re going to find it hard to get a new job in a bank, but you can try somewhere like the FSA, or Lehman’s restructuring on a contract basis.”

Mid-ranking staff become most unemployable most quickly

The speed with you become obsolete when you’re unemployed may depend upon how experienced you are.

“It’s more acceptable to be out of the market for a while if you’re senior,” argues a partner at one search firm. “There are simply fewer roles for senior hires, so it’s inevitable that it may take you some time. At a junior level, it’s less acceptable. The City moves around quickly and there will be a lot of people who’ve been let go more recently and are fresher than you are.”

However, Dan McCarthy, founder of financial services recruiters One Search, says some juniors can find new roles relatively easy because their population is small. “Banks didn’t hire that many graduates in recent years. This means that if you’ve got 18 months’ experience in M&A and a really good academic background, you will get a lot of offers very quickly now even if you spent the past 10 months’ travelling,” he says. “There are a lot of boutiques keen to take advantage of people who’ve come out of the bulge brackets.”

By comparison, McCarthy says there’s very little hiring at VP level and that anyone with more than a couple of years’ experience will struggle to find a new job in this environment - no matter how recently they were let go. He also says that the people who do find jobs after several months out of the market are those with impeccable CVs: “It’s a buyers' market. Candidates need to tick all the boxes and to be realistic about what they are going to get.”

Plan B

If you’ve been out of the market for 10 months, it is advisable to develop a plan B.

“You’re not dead if you’re out of the market for 10 months, but you do need to remember that there are more and more people being cut every week and that the new people coming onto the market kept their jobs longer than you did,” says the head of another financial services recruitment firm.

“The longer you’re out of the market, the tougher it gets,” he advises. “The aim of the game is to pay the rent and the mortgage. Yes, clean CVs are going to be few and far between in this market, but ultimately it’s all about making ends meet.”


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