FinanceLadder member Pam shares her story on pursuing jobs in the finance industry after being laid off.
“I was pretty shocked and flabbergasted at being laid off,” said FinanceLadder member “Pam” of the termination of her position at the beginning of this year from a top-drawer global brokerage. Layoffs were in the air, but Pam had been an excellent performer and had not expected to be in the line of fire: “My reviews and compensation – and on Wall Street both reflect on your performance – had been some of the highest in the group. So, I would have expected that when it came time to layoffs, they would have looked more toward those who had lower scores on their reviews.”
Instead, the company adopted a more sweeping approach. “They took a certain level of people and just laid them off, regardless of performance. So it certainly was a surprise.”
To complicate matters further, Pam was out on maternity leave when the axe fell, making it hard to communicate her change in status to clients and colleagues at a time when Wall Street was awash with pink slips and white-collar workers were scrambling for the exit.
Nevertheless, Pam refused to give up on finance. “I did think there were some positions out there, and you just have to be focused on where you are looking and not simply give up. Given that, I knew some places were only hiring a few people – I continued my search.”
Pam signed up for FinanceLadder and said she found Ladders useful in three ways. “It has a resume-critique option that helped me brush up and bring my resume up to date. The second way that it was really helpful was that it weeded out those jobs that I would not have even considered. So that made the job search much more efficient. And thirdly, unlike some other Web sites, Ladders actually sends you e-mails with job options. So being the mother of a young child, getting e-mails every day in my field really helped.”
Her resume turned the tide
Pam is now the assistant vice president and counsel at a large, international asset-management company in New York. A resume that truly popped was, said Pam, the X factor in her final hiring process: “I do believe that, in my case, having a great resume helped me stand out among other applicants. There were about 30 applicants for the position, and the company was actually already in the process of hiring somebody else when my resume came in and they thought, ‘You know what? Why don’t we look at her as well?’ So having a great resume really made the difference.”
Her enhanced resume shed new light on skills and experience essential to the position. Because her new role is in restructuring and distress, it is best-suited to a candidate with a legal background. “So that was really a big key,” said Pam, who has a law degree and has worked back and forth between law and business. “I was willing not only to focus on what I had been doing the past eight years, but what I did in my past by bringing back some of my older skill set to the table so that it would be considered as well. And that made a big difference.”
Although not every Wall Street firm is shedding jobs, painfully few companies are able to acquire new staff. How could the new company afford her? Pam said it had been more prudent in the boom years than some investment firms. Furthermore, while the company is aggressive in some respects, it has tended to be a little more conservative when it counted.
If few men are being hired in the six-figure category, even fewer female finance executives are nabbing top positions. So does gender bias still exist in the upper echelons of the finance world?
“My experience on Wall Street … was that, yes, top management is very much a boys’ club, ” said Pam. “I think part of it could be that there is some bias, and I also think in some cases … the work environment [is] not a conducive one for someone with a family because the demands are just too great.
“And, unfortunately, in finance and other competitive sectors as well, being very, very committed is really the only way to make it to the top. So it has hard to have both.” The exceptions to the rule, Pam said, are generally women who have a great support structure around them. “In my case, our boss is a woman, and she is the portfolio manager for the hedge funds in our group. Just looking at her and looking at her background, she was able to get to where she is because she has a husband who is very supportive of her.” Pam cites her husband as being her rock and her inspiration: “For example, yesterday our nanny called in sick and he stayed home with the baby. And if you don’t have that, it is hard to make it to the top.”