How to survive banking layoffs in 2023
As banking layoffs continue into 2023, there's a non-negligible chance that your own job will be put at risk. However, you're not entirely passive in the process. There are actions you can take, and you should be taking them now.
Job cuts are unquestionably coming. Credit Suisse and Goldman Sachs alone are planning to cut over 6,000 people. Roy Cohen, a former coach at Goldman Sachs and author of the Wall Street Professional's Survival Guide, says that “just about everyone” believes “there will be cuts in 2023 and they will be broad and deep.”
It's not too late to take evasive action.
Consider your options
When job security is weak, it helps to be flexible.
Losing your job need not be a bad thing. If you're cut, Cohen says it, "may be the right time to shift lanes, especially if you’re getting a severance package plus unemployment insurance.” The short term financial security will give you a buffer to brush up on your transferable skills and approach the industry from a new perspective.
Realism needs to underpin your actions though. Nuno Reis, another finance career coach who formerly worked for Morgan Stanley and Barclays, asks, “How much can you afford yourself to be out of a job?”
Be popular, without the swagger
If you want to survive, it's important to stand out, but you want to make sure that you do so for the right reasons.
Both Reis and Cohen underscore the importance of having a cohort of people who believe in you. An “army of advocates” is key to survival, says Reis.
Your network can be synonymous with your popularity, particularly if you've spent a long time in the industry and Cohen suggests you "dust it off." He warns against using contacts for transparently self-centered reasons though: don't just try to elicit help or information, but give something back, even if it's just information of your own.
However big your network is, though, acting like a big shot won’t help. Cohen says: “Lose the swagger. That doesn’t work in this market.”
Don’t let the pendulum swing fully the other way, though. Reis cautions against being perceived as desperate.
To change the game, you need a game plan
If you’re one of the lucky ones that keeps their job, you’re presented with a unique opportunity. There is a vacuum in the power hierarchy, and Reis says there’s “a huge opportunity to climb.”
Cohen tells you to “get comfortable with your narrative”. This goes for those who’ve been laid off too: “Having the right story to support your game plan will jump start re-entry and ease some of the stress felt when explaining a situation others might perceive as a failure.”
Both Reis and Cohen stress the need to be clear on the value you bring to either your existing restructured company or the company you want to join. “Precision and clarity are essential, or you risk being ignored,” says Cohen.
Get straight to the point and make that point a good one.
Make use of proximity bias
The world might be more accepting of remote work in recent years but banking still has a foot firmly planted in office culture. WFH advocates be warned, showing up in the office can make more of an impact than you think.
Reis warns of proximity bias in finance, saying “people physically closer to you are more likely to remember you.” Even if you’re a top performer from home, this can impact you. “You may do good work, but they’ll remember the person sitting next to them before you.”
If you can't be first in and last out Monday to Friday, think tactfully. If your presence can’t be felt in office, make it felt in meetings. Being in a meeting with key decision makers will prove beneficial, even if not a ‘productive’ use of your time.
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