What to Do When Your Firm Heads South

September 17, 2013

Millions of Americans have lost jobs in the years following the economy’s implosion and it is an unquestioned blow to their self-esteem, finances and life in general.

Americans are particularly vulnerable to the effects of job loss on self-esteem. Culturally, a person’s job defines who they are. This cultural tendency, although pervasive, is more prevalent in the nation’s white collar workforce. Doctors, lawyers, investment bankers, hedge fund managers, venture capitalists, Wall Street traders, executives, junior executives and managers of all stripes, are identified, to a great extent, by the work they do—the position they hold. When that position evaporates, it is often as great a blow to self-esteem as it is to finances.

When the job loss results from an employer scandal, the effects on self-esteem are multiplied. Never mind the innocence or guilt of the employees who worked there—the taint is transferred to everyone like the exploding red dye-pack in bait money stolen by a bank robber. It is nearly impossible to wash off.

As story after story, headline upon headline, unfolds in the more than decade-long insider trading investigation of Cohen’s SAC Capital Advisors, LP; it appears increasingly probable that many in the firm will fall victim to job loss. SAC has suffered billions in outflow via redemptions and, based on reports, virtually all remaining external capital is earmarked for withdrawal over the next several weeks. While that still leaves about $9 billion in assets under management (largely Cohen’s personal fortune), the staff required to manage a portfolio sixty percent its original size will unquestionably be smaller. SAC has something north of 1000 employees by most estimates. Even something as improbable as a forty percent staff cut wouldn’t move the needle on the nation’s unemployment numbers.

The shrinking assets under management at SAC will unquestionably have a ripple effect throughout Wall Street, creating a potential for job losses outside the firm as well.

This begs the question, “What to do when your job heads south?”

While no single answer exists, suggestions abound! Here are a few of the better ones:

1.) Consider the services of a career coach. Initial meetings with career coaches are typically gratis. With nothing to lose, and the possibility that a meet and greet may yield actual benefits, it is an option worthy of consideration.

2.) Don’t forget to network. Networking can play a critical role in the pursuit of new employment. Inventory the power players in your network; they are the people who know the most people. Begin by letting them know your present circumstances and see what develops.

3.) Maintain a working lifestyle. It is all too easy to slip into lethargy. Do not disrupt your routine. Retire for the night and rise in the morning as if you were still on the job. The job now, of course, is finding a new one. Discipline is essential. Dress sharp, no slacking on personal hygiene and recognize the possibility that the next person you meet may be your new boss.

4.) Exercise! Yes, exercise is an important factor in overall health, particularly mental health. Depression is not uncommon in those who have suffered the loss of a job and one of the most effective means to suppress the onset of depression is regular and vigorous exercise.

5.) Keep a high profile. Memberships in professional organizations, groups such as Lions, Kiwanis and other clubs or organizations should not be neglected. Not only do these provide networking opportunities, they serve to let others know you are not down for the count.

Lastly, maintain your health coverage. Any stress associated with the current situation is detrimental to health. Maintaining coverage is important as the transition to new employment unfolds.

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