Taking a Leap to Land a Finance Job

This FinanceLadder member’s job search was moving slowly – until she gambled a steady paycheck against job satisfaction.

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“Kristen Reed” has always been lucky, at least when it comes to job hunting. The 40-year-old Long Island, N.Y. resident said in the past when it was time to search for a new position, she simply picked up a newspaper or logged into an online job board, and was usually offered whichever position she happened to apply for.

“I’d always worked with smaller companies where I could make a larger impact,” said Reed (who asked Ladders not to use her real name).”And I have an entrepreneurial spirit, so I was always able to work independently, take charge and exceed performance expectations.”

From automotive to mortgage to hedge funds

After spending 12 years as a finance manager working in the automotive industry — where Reed said she was the highest-achieving employee on Long Island — she decided it was time for a change. Reed moved into a management role at a mortgage broker and made a third move to a different company where she re-evaluated portfolios for various hedge funds.

But while the finance-management role at the hedge fund was lucrative, it wasn’t her cup of tea. The position was less independent and didn’t give Reed the freedom she craved, but the final straw was the devastating financial collapse of 2008, she said.

“I wanted to get back into a sort of independent/entrepreneurial role, and then, of course, the financial crisis happened,” she said. “Sure, I was making quite a bit of money, but then the industry fell apart! Where was I supposed to go back to when the mortgage industry was gone — the auto industry?!”

A trial run with a recruiter

So, Reed signed up for FinanceLadder in October 2008 and quickly made contact with a recruiter looking to fill a financial-advisor position with a major New York financial firm. The experience was new to Reed, who’d always searched for and found new jobs on her own, but she said she was incredibly satisfied with the process.

“I’d never worked with a recruiter before, and I didn’t know what to expect,” Reed said. “But she was fantastic. She held my hand through the entire process and was constantly reassuring me.”

With the recruiter’s support, Reed said, she went through round after round of phone and in-person interviews, and was so confident of her ability to land the job that she suspended her job search when she was in the final rounds for one employer.

“I wasn’t actually searching anymore; I put all my eggs in one basket, really, because I was so confident I was going to get the job,” she said. But after six months, her intense focus on one opportunity started to look like a mistake.

No guts, no glory

“I kept interviewing and re-interviewing, and the firm kept saying, ‘You have to come back again and meet this person, and these regional managers, etc., and at one point I thought to myself, ‘Come on! What is the problem? Am I going to have to meet the Pope next?’ ” Reed laughed.

Reed said that though she strongly disliked her full-time mortgage-broker position, she’d tried to hang on as long as possible just to have some job and financial security.

“I hated that job, but I was holding on to it because I didn’t want to let go of a salary in this economy,” she said. When her discontent finally became too much to bear, she decided on a risky course of action — she quit with the intention of striking out on her own as a consultant or starting her own business.

It proved to be the best move she could have made, she said, when yet another interviewer congratulated her on her resignation and almost instantly offered her the position for which she’d been interviewing.

“The last woman I interviewed with said to me, ‘You quit a salaried position, in this economy, to strike out on your own? That is a gutsy move, and that’s exactly the kind of attitude and spirit we’re looking for,’ ” Reed said.

“I really floored her; she said it took a whole lot of nerve, confidence and self-motivation, and that’s what cemented it for her that I was the right person for the job,” Reed said.

Reed started at the finance firm in late May 2009 and is thrilled with the position. She said it draws on all her accumulated skills, and also allows her the freedom of working for herself with the security of a constant salary.

“I am in the perfect place right now,” she said. “I couldn’t be happier.”

Sharon Linsenbach

Sharon Linsenbach Sharon Linsenbach covers executive recruiters for Ladders.

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