The dreaded word “layoff”. Before becoming a career coach, I spent 15 years as a Wall Street banker. Then it all came to an end in October, 2007.

The three things I quickly learned were:

  1. Thinking you are too important to be laid off is a fallacy
  2. Close friends and colleagues will disappoint you in your job search after a layoff
  3. Almost strangers will go above and beyond to help you get your next job

Watch this video to learn some of the lessons I took from my layoff in ’07 and get the advice I wish I’d had then.

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Transcript

Hi, this is Mike Mittleman, your personal career coach. I help people get top jobs in financial services.
Today’s top is “3 things I learned from my layoff in 2007 from Credit Suisse”

Summary of my Layoff Pain

The three things I learned when I was laid off as an investment banker in 2007 from Credit Suisse were:
1. Thinking you are too important to be laid off is a fallacy
2. Close friends and colleagues will disappoint you in your job search
3. Almost strangers will go above and beyond to help you get your next job

My investment banking background

The year was 2007 when the financial meltdown started. For those of us in debt capital markets, we knew in February 2007 that something was very wrong. Investors were slowly abandoning the capital markets, not just buying but committing less capital. Very slowly from the most risky single-B rated bond to AAA rating ones, capital flows stopped.

I was working on the dreaded C’s. CDO and CLOs. I was a hotshot banker, making over $1 million and living a good life. $6,000 for two tickets to the Yankees for me and my son, no problem. Fancy trips anywhere, no problem. Thinking I was better than my friends who were not making as much as I was, no problem.

I was laid off in October 2007. However, like death, until it happens you don’t really appreciate the pain. I fell into a depression and spent the next 2 years looking for a job.

#1 Thinking you are too important to be laid off is a fallacy

When a friend of mine, Robert, was laid off, he was shocked. He was a top producer, and everyone loved the guy. However, he failed to realize much of his success was due to the name “Credit Suisse” and not his individual contribution. He accumulated top accounts because he was in the right place and the right time. Don’t confuse luck and skill. The market won’t when it comes to your layoff and rehiring.

As I look back at the professionals who were laid off, one common thread was they did not know it was coming. Each had convinced themselves that it couldn’t happen to them. They tied themselves up in a nice bow of illusion with arguments like:

• I’m the most senior person on my account and the next one below me is 20 something
• I brought in $20 million last year, so I am protected
• Nobody else has the subject matter expertise that I do

These arguments all sound logical at the individual level. However, don’t fool yourself. Another senior person in your department can take over your account, regardless of their familiarity with the account. Revenue generation in hindsight is worthless for the future. Even if no one has the subject matter expertise that you do, someone else can learn it.

You are expendable.

#2 Close friends and colleagues will disappoint you in your job search

I had a good friend John from Credit Suisse that kept his job. I approached him for help, and he happily took my call. The world was blowing up around him, he was stressed out, and his kids were getting old enough to get into real trouble. I asked for help, only to be disappointed. He did make a couple of calls for me.

However, I thought our friendship was worth more than 2 lousy calls. This experience ruined our friendship.
Even some of your closest friends will not help you. Maybe they didn’t feel the same way about you that you did about them. Furthermore, at the same time as you are calling them, 5 other good friends are doing the same. Since all industries are laying off professionals, the supply of talent looking for a new home is increasing and demand is decreasing.

Your good friends also have a job to keep. They are probably nervous about their own head, how they will pay the bills, and keep their children in private schools. They have more important professional challenges than you. A layoff breeds anxiety and anxiety breeds seclusion.

#3 Almost complete strangers will go above and beyond to help you get your next job

Amy was someone I knew in the business at a vendor. We worked on a couple of deals together, but that was it. We never socialized. When I reached out to Amy for help, I was shocked. She set me up on 5 phone calls with valuable contacts. She took a few hours on the phone to really understand what I was looking for. I was shocked.

What you don’t know about almost strangers is their capacity for empathy. Some people are strongly rooted in religious values which generally hold you must help people, even people they barely know. You never really know what is under a person’s hood until you need help. Religion and Wall Street are not always inconsistent.

On the other side of the coin, some people who are emotionally intelligent know that helping a person when they are down will reap rewards in the future. If someone you barely know really goes to bat for you, you really owe them. Some like gathering IOUs for when they need to collect them. Wrong or right, the strategy works with most people.

Summary of my layoff Experience 

I hope you found Part I of this video “The top is 3 things I learned from my layoff in 2007 from Credit Suisse.