Post-Merger, HR VP’s Network Pays Off | Ladders

Post-Merger, HR VP’s Network Pays Off

Rick Joers knew his HR role at JP Morgan might disappear when he finished helping the company acquire Bear Stearns. When the ax fell, Joers had to find new networks in a shrinking industry.

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From the time Rick Joers got the news that his employer, JP Morgan, would be acquiring Bear Stearns, he sensed that he might be working toward eliminating his own job. At the same time, he was too busy helping to merge the two companies to do any serious work on his resume or start a job search.

Joers, a vice president of human resources at JP Morgan for the past eight years, started working toward a layoff on a Sunday afternoon last year. “My boss called me in on Sunday, March 16. I worked until 1 a.m. that day on the acquisition. It was the start of a six-month project. I knew even then that there was a chance I might not have a job when the merger was complete. But we were working long hours; there was a lot to do. I didn’t have time to do my work and search for another job.”

Indeed, he got word by June that he would be losing his job, and on Sept. 15, he left JP Morgan. Compounding his concern about looking for a job was the fact that, at the age of 58, he had not done a job search in a very long time. “I’d always had headhunters calling me or someone from my network calling me about jobs,” he said. “I hadn’t had to actively search before. So, I had to start from scratch.”

Joers said the outplacement firm he worked with put a lot of emphasis on networking, which, in a more sane economy, made sense, he said. “But I was worried, in this market, networking would take too long. The financial-services market was quickly consolidating. The people I was talking to were also losing their jobs. I knew I couldn’t just use my professional network.”
So, he said, he thought about different ways to attack the market and determine what he could offer employers. At the same time, he decided to open up his search to Northern California as well as New York.

“I did a lot of work in mergers and acquisitions and global organizations. I had some expertise in employee relations,” he said. “So I started looking at companies other than financial services that could use those strengths. And, last fall, my partner was working for a company based out of Sonoma. So my strategy was to target my search in Silicon Valley, because one of my major projects had been supporting global technology.”

New networking channels

He didn’t have any professional contacts in the San Francisco Bay area, but he did have a network on LinkedIn that he tapped: The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender group on LinkedIn had many members who were professionals in the technology field. He was surprised at how many people were willing to talk to him. “People were very responsive and helpful,” he said. “I met a lot of people through LinkedIn and talked to them about moving into technology.”

At the same time, Joers became an HRLadder member, hoping to find job listings in the Bay area. “I set alerts for Northern California and New York City, and targeted my search in those two locations,” he said. “You’ve got to have a lot of quivers and a lot of arrows to hand.”

He went to San Francisco in late October to meet with several people he had met on LinkedIn. And, while people were eager to talk to him, he realized the Northern California market (and the technology field specifically) was going to be a tough nut to crack. “I was trying to sell myself as someone with a unique skill set, but right now, if you didn’t have direct experience with a technology company, most companies didn’t want to talk.” The job market in California had slowed to a crawl in November, and his partner realized he wouldn’t be able to transfer there, so Joers decided to steer his focus back to New York.
And back to financial services.

“While on Sept. 15, I thought there was no way I could find another job at a financial institution, it was beginning to seem like that would be the best place for me,” Joers said. “Those were the people that were most receptive to my resume.”

Traditional networking channels

In the end, his network came through for him. A recruiter placed an ad on Ladders for a position at the Royal Bank of Scotland. “I contacted the recruiter, and they called me the next day,” he said. “I went on LinkedIn, and a woman who had done consulting for JP Morgan when I was there was now working at RBS. I emailed her that I was applying for a position at her company; she wrote to tell me that the position reports to her. Since she was the most influential decision maker, it was helpful to have someone who knew me.”

Several rounds of interviews beginning in November ended with a job offer in January. He is now technical partner at Royal Bank of Scotland, with oversight of employee relations. His new job, based in Stamford, Conn., requires him to commute over an hour each way, but he’s happy to be working and to have found a job as quickly as he did.

Looking back, he’s glad he gave some other options a try, but in this economy, he is better off staying in something he knows. “It would have been fun to take the plunge and go to San Francisco,” he said. “I had a six-month severance, but it was going to take more than six months for me to find something there. And I didn’t want to tap into savings.”

And while his two-pronged strategy made sense, he said he learned to not underestimate himself or his skills, even in this tough economic market. “I had the mistaken belief that there was no way to go back to a bank or financial-services firm because of what was happening in the market,” he said. “The power of your resume, especially if you have built a career in the market, should not be overlooked. My global experience was very helpful, and my employee-relations experience and M&A experience. In the end, it worked for me.”

Patty Orsini

Patty Orsini Patty Orsini is a general assignment reporter for Ladders.