Author: Sarah Dudney
Our careers consultant, Sarah Dudney, provides advice on what to do when the path ahead looks unclear.
I am writing this at the end of the 2nd week of UK lockdown. This article is about how to keep an eye on your career during quarantine. It is focused on those who might have received difficult news about their jobs, or those who are concerned that there might be this regretful news tunnelling towards them in Q2 or Q 3. If you have received this news, we understand that this is a very trying period. But there is a way through it, and ways to position yourself now for the future. It is a cliché, and not entirely accurate to say that every crisis brings opportunity, but being in quarantine does present an opportunity to really focus on what you want to do.
My comments below are based on at least two financial downturns working in the world of recruitment and investment management. Some comments may be generalised as space here may not allow me to be specific on debt versus equity, or passive versus active. Also I cannot be drawn into the specifics of the recovery which might be within our reach. We all sense that the coming weeks and months will be challenging and the way out of this current economic situation will be non- linear. Even the timing of end of the lockdown is not clear.
What do you do when no one wants to talk to you about your next job? Usually this happens during a period of intense financial crisis. Many of us may have already experienced this during the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) of 2008.
I am strongly suggesting that, at time of crisis, it is counterproductive to be planning to email and calling head-hunters unless they have a confirmed role that is alive and kicking. Job boards can be useful, and a source of information. You can plan for (virtual) networking with head-hunters, colleagues and peers, but there may be a need to be realistic and sensible.
That being said, my first strategy is to suggest you use this period for some unobstructed thinking time, as we may never have this period of enforced reflection time again. So we have to reframe the situation. A concerning time has to be reformatted into a positive moment of reflection. I mean here reflection, not destructive brooding, nor do I mean finger pointing at those one might wish to blame for this moment of job loss.
So use the opportunity to reflect. Some people think well early in the morning, others late at night. I do quite understand that in this period of lockdown, we have family, and for many, home schooling obligations. So what should your reflection entail? You may wish to do some initial financial planning and plan out the necessary outgoings.This is not the moment for panic, but a time to think strategically.
Next, you do need to actually take yourself of out of the equation and allow for some practical realism. You need to distance yourself from the immediate uncertain situation, and remember that quote on career progress from Sheryl Sandberg. ‘It is a jungle gym, not a career ladder'. Given the unprecedented amount of industry change we are experiencing, we cannot all expect and plan for a directly vertical career trajectory. A possible sideways move may be seen initially purposeless, but may bring unexpected benefits of professional development.
Use your well-honed analytical skills. Use the networks and resources of CFA UK and CFA Institute, of other specialist sources, financial news providers, and the wider social media platform.
You might want to think in terms of two or three scenarios, as that might help support wider thinking.
Think about your investment sector:
- What shape and size will it have in the next six to 12 months?
- What trends of discontinuity can we expect? What might go?
- Which asset allocation and investment trends might emerge?
- What distribution and marketing trends might emerge/continue or discontinue?
- And which market trends, which geographic blocs will remain attractive?
- Which financial and investment issues will the following companies have in the next six to 12 months:
Pension funds and sovereign wealth funds
Wealth managers and family offices
- What will the impact of ESG investment be, given what we have witnessed in the last 3 months?
- What will happen to support services, ie broader consultancy, legal, technology firms and so on, what will this sub sector look like?
- What degree and pace of industry consolidation can we now reasonably anticipate?
- What degree and pace of technological advancement can we anticipate across the sectors above?
Try and think about what type and level of talent this industry will require and what are the commercial implications. Which companies may benefit from the above?
Once you’ve done all that, think about the following
- How can I manoeuvre myself into these above scenarios I anticipate?
- And where are the specific career opportunities of this?
This is a very crude list of questions, and it may hard to develop scenarios by way of answer in one session. This will be an evolving process.
Take your answers forward with a trusted mind. You might want to stress test this with someone you know and trust. No doubt pessimists and optimists may differ widely. I discourage cynicism and I encourage healthy scepticism.
Once you’ve done that, narrow it down.
- Which specific technical skills do you have? Here I mean CFA Program, and also your original degree discipline and other qualifications. You can also include tech, financial, and commercial skills here, including analytical ability and any client base you may have.
- Which languages do you speak? Here I mean both programming languages and foreign languages!
Follow this up with yet another layer of questions… but be patient with me, as remember possibly no one still wants to talk to you right now.
- Which activities do you love doing?
- Which activities do you like doing?
- What are you trained to do?
- Which activities do you hate doing?
These are some of my favourite questions for candidates as it really allows you to focus on what you love and like and really refine your search. Reader health warning: this will require some intellectual honesty, as well as some courageous thought. You will perhaps now appreciate the benefit of unobstructed thinking time.
And you now have to allow for the unthinkable, what could you do if you did not do the job you have enjoyed doing to date? You may need to consider a plan B on your investment career plan and plan out steps to get there.
Space constraints force me to summarize here but take the answers to this section and really think about what that sort of role this presents, and how fits into the scenarios you have sketched out. Where will the role exist and how can you get to it? Sketch out the time line of Plan A, B, C.
I also do appreciate that many of us have partners and families, and that this presents a financial responsibility. It may be impossible to just do an abrupt about U turn in the middle of the career motorway. You will need to be open about plans, and discuss them with those who are closest to you.
I list above a layer of questioning which will allow you to really focus on what you want to do in the new landscape you will have sketched out. Working through these layers of questions will be very cathartic, I promise, and it is the perfect exercise to do when no one wants to talk to you.
Career queries can be emailed confidentially to firstname.lastname@example.org. It may not be possible for our consultant to answer every query. Sometimes, we will amalgamate queries we receive from a variety of different channels.
Sarah Dudney is an independent HR and recruitment consultant.