Thursday, October 22, 2009

Continuous Learning

I just returned from Orlando, FL where I attended the Career Empowerment Summit hosted by Career Directors International of which I am a proud member. The conference was like a "immersion” course for professional coaches and resume writers. Smart people talking about the most important issues of the day in the career business. Topics like: where the jobs are, new trends in social networking, managing your on-line identity, writing outstanding LinkedIn profiles, and new trends in employment compensation.

I listened, took copious notes, networked, made new friends, and added to my own professional growth as a writer and coach. I don’t think there’s a topic related to jobs, careers, or resumes that I couldn’t have an answer for or expert I couldn’t reach out to or refer a client to in 15 minutes!

Today’s take-away: Research the professional associations for your industry, join them, and most importantly, attend the meetings and conferences. Talk about ROI – this will be one of the best investments you could make in your career and professional development!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Why The Giants of Wall Street Stumbled

With the financial meltdown about a year behind us now, what exactly have we learned from the tsunami that took down Lehman and brought other major banks to their knees? As an avid news-hound, I read all I can about the industries and trends that affect my clients; banking is one of them. I follow what businesses are doing and how they maintain a competitive edge. I stay on top of where the jobs are and the industries and companies that are hiring — that’s my job. I have clients, colleagues, friends, and family who work (or worked) in the financial services industry and am myself a veteran of Wall Street.
People ask me “when it will be safe to work in a bank again?” Folks rely on me for straight-up, no-spin answers, so my reply is: “If you like risk, now is the time to be working in a bank. If you are someone who values job security — look elsewhere.” Why? Because the accountability factor is still missing in the banking industry.

It’s a bank’s job to be profitable which in turn keeps the economy healthy and people employed. Banks should not take risks that will cause the government to step in, pick them up when they stumble or worse yet, put them on life support when they sustain a life threatening blow. I’m not seeing that though. What I see are banks that are beginning to walk the same paths that caused them to fall down in the first place. Now, instead of trading mortgage backed securities, banks are trading on life insurance policies. So who exactly is watching the store these days? Seems to me that Jane and John Q. Public (us) are pretty much pre-occupied with holding on to our jobs and paying down debt. Yes, the banking giants are paying back the stimulus money, not because they no longer need the dollars, they don’t like the accountability that comes attached to the stimulus money. And they certainly don’t like the government telling them how much they can pay in bonuses. So banks are paying the money back as quickly as possible to get out from under the compensation accountability that came with accepting the tax-payer funded bailout. This worries me.

I’m not a financial expert — I’m a career expert. But I have common sense. I’d feel a lot more comfortable if I saw some responsibility placed upon banks accompanied by some big, fat fines if they take dangerous risks with other people’s hard earned money. Let’s face it — Wall Street loves risk — it’s like dangling red meat in front of a predator. The very symbols of Wall Street, the bull and the bear are both ferocious animals. Would you like to come face to face with either of these animals without being protected?

I have to applaud Andrew Cuomo, New York State’s Attorney General. He’s holding some feet to the fire on recent bank debacles. He wants to know who knew what and when exactly they knew it. It was after all, someone’s job to know what was going on. Accountability is the great equalizer. Thank goodness someone is asking the right questions and acting as a lifeguard in the pool of life.

For those of you who are still employed at a bank, please post a comment. I’d love to hear what your employers are doing to safeguard the little guy – you know him, he’s the one at the shallow end of the pool, holding on to the edge, the one who never learned to swim with the sharks.