The latest round of redundancies in Asia began back in mid 2011 and recruitment hasn’t revived in the meantime. This has created a growing group of people who have been without work for six months or more. In a financial services context, they are the long-term unemployed.
“Time and time again we see resumes of these candidate – they are struggling to even get a foot in the door,” says Justin Reid, associate director, South Asia, Aurec. “The longer you are out of work the harder it can be to get back in; it’s a vicious cycle.”
But there are ways that unemployed financial services professionals can fight back and put themselves on the path to finding a job. Here are some:
Set sensible salary expectations
Mark Enticott, managing director, Hong Kong, Ambition, says many senior candidates want to maintain their previous compensation and this intransigence may prevent them picking up work. “You need to be flexible in your demands, but don’t go too far the other way, don’t apply for roles that pay a lot less than before.”
Employers are generally reluctant to consider candidates who are open to taking massive pay cuts, says Enticott. “At interviews they will always question why the individual is attracted to the role when they clearly have a higher level of experience.”
Seriously consider contracting
“Understand the market; the market has changed,” says Reid. “In some areas, for example technology, we have seen a boom in contracting. It’s a great way to get a start and then impress.”
Vivian Ng, managing director, Shanghai, Morgan McKinley, says candidates should not be put off by the stigma traditionally associated with contracting in Asia. “The requirements for short-term contract jobs are often lower than those for full-time permanent roles. It can be a way to get into an area where you have no prior experience but were wanting to get exposure.”
Contracting, says Ng, usually advances your career and enhances your skills, giving you exposure to new systems, reporting standards, or products. “A six-month contract between jobs is definitely viewed more favourably by employers than a six-month gap.”
Know how to network
“The best thing you can do professionally and personally is to stay busy,” says Amanda Lote, managing director, Lote & Partners. This means observing a working-hour daily routine and using your newfound time to network. “You should not be shy of meticulously going through your contacts and making a strategic assault on all of your relevant friends in your professional field, warm historical relationships, ex-clients, and more obscure contacts – in that order.”
This rigorous approach, when properly applied, can be a full-time task in itself. “You should think in terms of relationship building rather than an instant fix. You are unlikely to be offered a job over a first coffee meeting, however, over several months you may be able to build rapport and credibility with someone, which may unlock an organisation or mean you meet senior decision makers,” says Lote.
These meetings shouldn’t be a one-way flow: candidates should have useful information to impart, too. While you’re unemployed, it’s important to stay informed about economic conditions and industry gossip, and to express personal views on these topics. “Can you offer useful introductions or advice to your contacts? If so, you are more likely to get further meetings.”