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Just got fired. Interested in suggestions for a career outside of finance.
November 18, 2012 10:42 AM   Subscribe

Just got fired. Interested in suggestions for a career outside of finance.

I got laid off on Friday as part of a restructuring. They told me it was not performance-related. I was a junior trader at a NYC investment bank. I have over 3 years work experience, all in finance, and my undergrad and master's are in technical subjects.

I wasn't very happy in that job, and I used to secretly fantasize about getting fired so I could do something else with my life. I liked the relatively high pay, and I found some parts of the job exciting, like working a live, high risk order, but I loathed other parts of it, especially the rigid dedovshchina-like hierarchy of juniors and seniors, and the long hours (55-60 hours a week). I was stuck with doing all the shitty tasks nobody else wanted to do but had to be done, which is fine as part of paying dues, but it felt like I was just being used indefinitely and there were no opportunities to progress. My instincts were proven correct when I got the call to the HR floor on Friday.

Now I am free from that job but facing the worrying prospect of having no income while paying high rent in Manhattan. I have enough savings to live for about two years assuming I spend sparingly (rarely eating out, buying inexpensive groceries, no purchases of non-essential items). I'd love to take a break for a while, do some reading, introspection, etc. but I feel like it will get more difficult to find a job the longer I'm out of one.

The most obvious course of action is to apply for other jobs in finance, but part of me doesn't want to continue down that route. Not having to go to that job anymore lifted a huge burden off of my shoulders. Oddly enough, being unemployed has restored my self-esteem. My low status at work was making me depressed and affecting my health. Unfortunately I got axed before gaining enough experience to qualify for a more senior role elsewhere, and I'm not willing to be a junior all over again - plus it's very rare for firms to hire people externally for that sort of role even if I wanted one.

I want to explore career paths outside of finance. Besides my finance knowledge (which is largely non-transferrable to other fields), I'm very skilled at building Excel spreadsheets and automating manual tasks through Excel, VBA, and scripting languages. I can program in a few languages (e.g. C++) but not at the level of a professional developer - more like somebody who went through a few textbooks at home and dabbled in a few personal projects. In general, I'm a technically-minded, analytical person who likes to solve problems. I tend to jury rig Excel/script-based solutions to things until IT can develop a more permanent solution. I've often been put into the role of impromptu project manager in the past for various new technology projects. I speak several "unusual" languages (i.e. not French or Spanish) and I love traveling. I like reading about language and history.

Ideally, I just want a "normal" work environment. I would work around 40-50 hours a week without any shame for not putting in more hours. There would be mutual respect between junior and senior people, e.g. it would be considered inappropriate for a senior person to throw a credit card onto a junior person's desk and order them to procure double cheeseburgers from Shake Shack. Senior people would give constructive criticism rather than snapping at juniors and scolding them like children. I don't mind working long hours when there is actual work to be done, but I'm against reporting in at some arbitrarily early hour, sitting around idly waiting for the seniors to leave, or putting in "face time." I've toyed with idea of being a freelance translator or opening my own restaurant, but I don't have any experience in either. Obviously the higher the pay the better, but for now I'm just looking to make a decent middle-class living (which can be quite tough in this city).

I'm looking for suggestions for new career paths that someone with my background in NYC could realistically pursue. Ironically, it was advice from Ask MeFi many years ago that led me to this career path to begin with, so here I am again. Thanks in advance.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (19 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
There is a large and growing community of ex-wallstreeters-turned-entrepreneurs in NYC.

If you know people in the startup community here in NYC, reach out to them. Lots of opportunities there.
posted by dfriedman at 11:06 AM on November 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Business analyst consulting sounds like it might be a good fit for you.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:15 AM on November 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sorry, meant to add to the above: I am an ex-Wall Streeter turned entrepreneur. Feel free to reach out to me if you have questions. My email is in my profile.
posted by dfriedman at 11:15 AM on November 18, 2012


I just popped in to say that you weren't fired, you were layed-off due to restructuring.
Fired (at least in my professional circles) means you were (forcibly) removed from your position, but the position remained.

To put it another way, firing is personal, layed-off is just business.

They both suck though.
posted by forforf at 11:20 AM on November 18, 2012 [13 favorites]


Besides my finance knowledge (which is largely non-transferable to other fields),

Rethink that. I work in healthcare (previously in the energy sector and in logistics). All of those fields have finance divisions, corporate Treasury, etc. Your skills are most certainly transferable.
posted by 26.2 at 11:21 AM on November 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wanted to elaborate on being fired vs laid off. If you were fired, the cause was most likely a performance based one and will most likely replace you with someone whereas getting laid off indicates that they have eliminated your position and won't be replacing you. The most important difference to you would be that if you were laid off you can collect unemployment whereas you wouldn't be able to if you were fired. Going forward, you need to distinguish between the two when you talk about your career/work situations.
posted by violetk at 11:28 AM on November 18, 2012


Followup from OP:
Just wanted to follow up. I know the difference between being fired and being laid off. I was laid off. Don't want it to derail the question. Thanks.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:59 AM on November 18, 2012


Great, although I should clarify for those reading that even if you're fired you can usually get unemployment.

In terms of business analysts, the ones I know who are in those positions travel all the time, but not necessarily to anywhere cool. Your knowledge of niche languages might make you a good catch for an international consulting firm.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:53 PM on November 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why not think about becoming a Data Scientist? It's a combination of stats, code, and problem-solving that sounds like it might suit you well -- it's also a very in-demand job at the moment, both in and out of finance.
posted by ukdanae at 1:20 PM on November 18, 2012


Definitely business analyst - and if you do this at a real company rather than a consulting firm, the hours and travel will usually be much better. If you'd consider the SF Bay Area, my team at PayPal is hiring. We also have a similar position in Boston. We're mostly consulting or finance "escapees" and pretty serious about having a normal life while doing cool work with smart, nice people. For someone coming from Finance with strong Excel skills and some programming experience, could be a great fit.
posted by CruiseSavvy at 1:32 PM on November 18, 2012


Sounds like you might be a good fit for a consulting/audit-support/"value-add" role at an accounting firm.
posted by moammargaret at 1:37 PM on November 18, 2012


I think you kind of need to start by considering industries that appeal to you. People that make products or produce services that you feel are valuable. It sounds like you have a quality skill set that could translate well to many industries.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 5:40 PM on November 18, 2012


Perhaps not helpful, but are you sure you didn't just hate that particular workplace and that particular position with that company? I only say that, because my happiness in my jobs was usually defined by how well I liked my co-workers and how valued I felt rather than the actual work itself.

And, well, your earning potential in finance is very high. I don't know a lot about finance, but I have a friend who started at a NYC investment firm doing trading, and now he is a portfolio manager and makes like a million dollars a year. That said, he works very long hours, he is always on call and his bonuses are attached to him staying there for a certain amount of time, so he feels trapped. But the kind of money you make in finance you can't easily make in any other sector, so just keep that in mind. Money doesn't motivate everyone - if it did, everyone would probably go into finance, haha.
posted by AppleTurnover at 6:12 PM on November 18, 2012


Ideally, I just want a "normal" work environment. I would work around 40-50 hours a week without any shame for not putting in more hours. There would be mutual respect between junior and senior people, e.g. it would be considered inappropriate for a senior person to throw a credit card onto a junior person's desk and order them to procure double cheeseburgers from Shake Shack. Senior people would give constructive criticism rather than snapping at juniors and scolding them like children.

Be an actuary
posted by cupcake1337 at 7:56 PM on November 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Business school would be a logical next step. Your work experience probably qualifies you for a top tier school. Just don't pick a finance-focused program (Wharton, Chicago).
posted by mullacc at 8:20 PM on November 18, 2012


Besides my finance knowledge (which is largely non-transferable to other fields),

Rethink that. I work in healthcare (previously in the energy sector and in logistics). All of those fields have finance divisions, corporate Treasury, etc. Your skills are most certainly transferable.


Seconded - your finance knowledge is incredibly transferable. Did you like the work? (analysis, excel, etc?) It sounds like you hated the environment at a large investment bank, which is normal. If you like the work in finance you can build a career in almost any industry in either a finance or strategy team. Look for corporate level functions like strategic planning, strategic management, corporate finance at companies within industries you are interested in. You're looking for an Analyst or Senior Analyst level position.

The work/life balance at an investment bank is vastly worse than a similar job in industry. And you'll get a lot more respect because people will think you are smart and you'll be working with senior level people in most cases. If you decide you want to do something else within the company there will be opportunity to move amongst functions either at the same company or a different company - that's why the industry is relevant to identify.

In the interview process make sure you are learning as much as possible about the working culture and how much they respect employees. You want a boss who appreciates your work and treats you like a human being with interests outside of work. You can absolutely find something that is a much, much better experience than what you have been doing!
posted by rainydayfilms at 5:34 AM on November 19, 2012


I too was laid off, now I'm a Data Analyst with a software company and I sit in my cube and shift between doing Excel Spreadsheets and surfing Metafilter.

I'm making about 1/2 of what I used to make as a Data Engineer, but I'm perfectly okay with it.

Low stress, decently interesting work, and a 10 minute commute. Also, casual environment, so jeans if I want to.

File for unemployment.

Start looking for jobs on LinkedIn/Simply Hired

Enjoy the break between jobs.

I do recommend setting up a daily schedule.

7-8 Gym

8-830 Breakfast

830-9 Shower

9-12 Review all jobs on line and submit resumes.

12-1 Lunch, with friends, or at home.

1- 4, learn new skills (Salesforce.com is an excellent, marketable skill)

4-7 Network, meet friends for drinks, pet the cat.

Good luck!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:39 AM on November 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


My brother is a financial planner with AXA (not an endorsement, just is). Anyway, he had a strong business/sales background but had to get a lot of training in the finance side. You already have the finance stuff (although you would need to get the part about selling securities to consumers). The thing that seems to appeal to him is that he truly is his own boss. If he fails to meet certain very basic minimums, it raise eyebrows, or if he pisses someone off, they might go over his head to corporate, but really, he manages his own business and takes care of his customers. It's all up to him (with help from an admin that he shares with another AXA advisor).
posted by Doohickie at 7:43 AM on November 19, 2012


If you contact me I can send you an analyst position in a good work environment.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:25 AM on November 21, 2012


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