Is Wall Street a never-ending cycle of hiring sprees and massive layoffs?
Not quite. But with the stock market always in a state of flux and investors always looking for the next big thing, the financial sector never stops moving.
“Today’s job market, whether it’s Wall Street or even Main Street, requires a different level of preparation and understanding than what has gone before,” R. William Holland, PhD, a career counselor and former Wall Street exec, told StreetID.
“The best way to do that is to understand what’s important to employers, because then you can do two things if you’re a student. You can more adequately prepare yourself for that, on the one hand. Secondly, you can become more competitive among your peer group. That’s something you never used to have to do. Companies would hire on speculation. ‘Oh this guy seems like a great guy. He’s smart.’ And all of the BS of hiring in the past. Now companies are under the gun, and they are desperate because the competition has stepped up a notch.”
Dr. Holland was the Chief Human Resources Officer at Meridian Bank and held senior HR positions at Chase Manhattan Bank and Charles Schwab, among other firms. He was also the Exec VP of Right Management (a global human resources consulting and career transition company).
He now manages a new counseling service to help students and recent college graduates prepare for their career.
“Average is over,” said Dr. Holland. “You can no longer be an average worker doing an average job, or even an average Ivy League student or an average whatever. You’ve gotta bring it. And bringing it means a different level of preparation.”
Dr. Holland has two important words of advice for anyone who is searching for a job: “Get ready.”
“If you think job insecurity was endemic to Wall Street 20 years ago, it has gotten worse,” he said. “And that’s true of Wall Street and it’s true across all industries across the globe.
Dr. Holland said that companies used to have a different attitude toward its employees. If they could retain a talented person, they would do so. Now they are more concerned about carrying excess cost.
“It’s a change in both mindset and standard operating procedure,” he said.
Find Out What They Want
“For a person who wants to get into that industry, I say to them very simply: ‘Do you first understand what they’re looking for?’” Dr. Holland questioned. “Most people, I ask them that question and I get a blank stare. I say, ‘Well, the first thing you can do, I don’t care what job [you want], you need to find out what they’re looking for. Then ask yourself the question, ‘Can I describe my credentials in terms of what they’re looking for?’ If you can’t, you’d best start looking somewhere else, because they’re not going to hire you. They don’t make speculative [hires] anymore, by and large.”
From there, job seekers need to ask themselves, “What do I need to do over the course of the next several months, years or decades to deliver what the employer wants?”
“People, when they look for jobs, the first thing they think is, get their resume together and go apply,” said Dr. Holland. “What they don’t understand is that their resume is not about them — it’s about what people want from them. They need to go find out and then massage their backgrounds to make sure they can give it to them.”
An Additional Challenge
“Wall Street has an additional problem,” Dr. Holland added. “When they need manpower, they need to gear up. It’s almost like an assembly line-type thing. They are quicker to hire. If the market starts to turn around or someone predicts through an algorithm that it’s gonna turn around, they start beating the bushes for hiring activity to take place.”
Unfortunately, “They also react very strongly the other way,” Dr. Holland warned.
“That is, they get rid of people just as fast.”
Another thing job seekers need to ask themselves is this: “Do I really want to be part of it all?”
“As one financial advisor told me, ‘It’s not how much you make, it’s how much you spend,” said Dr. Holland. “Are you the kind of person that can get used to making more than a little bit of money, and hold back on consuming that and plus some? Most people can’t seem to do that.”
Dr. Holland has authored two books, Are There Any Good Jobs Left?: Career Management in the Age of the Disposable Worker and Cracking the New Job Market: The 7 Rules for Getting Hired in Any Economy. His third book, From Backpack to Briefcase: A Parent’s Guide to Landing Right Side Up in the New Job Market, is due later this year.
Get Hired Now
These days, job seekers have a million options, but we know where they should turn: StreetID. We built StreetID (a financial career matchmaking website) from the ground up to accommodate Wall Street’s growing community of financial professionals. In good times and in bad, current job seekers and those looking to move on in the future can turn to StreetID and sign up for a free account and make a direct connection with relevant candidates and employers.