I got laid off, what shall I do next? We present you with a practical action plan

Unless you are working for yourself, being laid-off is a scenario that you might be confronted with at some point in your career. In periods of uncertainty and turmoil, lay-offs tend to be widespread and your probabilities of getting through that sour moment are higher. Today’s article is not going to make you forget about that painful conversation or any uncomfortable feelings that the situation generates, but rather try to give you an actionable “turnaround” plan to make the most out of this unwanted situation.

Unless you did something illegal or unethical, nothing to be ashamed of

Unless you have done something illegal or unethical, this is a normal thing that can happen to anyone working for a third party. And nothing to be ashamed of, or however you might call that feeling. Especially at times like this, many companies need to adjust the size of the teams.

First things first: deal with grief and get things off your chest (with those in your corner, not with your former boss)

Make it short, don’t pity yourself too much but also, don’t expect to be at full productivity one hour after having been let go by your now former boss. The important message here is go through a few, pre-determined steps to get back on your feet and have a clear mind as soon as possible (ie. Don’t go on a “Leaving las Vegas” type of alcohol journey).

A good suggestion we have for you: get things off the chest and not just talking to friends, family or partners: write your thoughts on the last job, what you liked and didn’t liked, what you did right and wrong, the next things you want to do and any other brainstorming ideas that come to your mind. Putting things on paper clears the mind for me; and it is useful to come back and pick for your formal action plan.

Find the right habits to get you back into a job quickly

  • Exercise and be healthy: in line with not drinking yourself to death, and even though it is not the main topic of this page or blog, exercising and keeping your body healthy can be central to be centered and a strong candidate for when the time to shine comes. A few suggestions (mostly free) that don’t require spending money or getting into crazy new sports: 1) do cardio outside early in the mornings (ride your bike, go for a run or any other cardio option, with uplifting or inspiring music) 2) get into yoga (a great free yoga-for-beginners library here) 3) Work-out at your gym or, if you don’t like going to the gym do these body-weight workouts at home (you will only need a chair and little more), doing 2-3 cycles at a time.
  • Routine: create your routing for work-days, in order to follow a pattern that a) does not lead you to go 24/7 on an job-search spree and b) gives you discipline to avoid binge-watching series on the streaming menu.
    • Allow yourself to rest: schedule your routine such that you have proper night sleep and don’t do it over in the weekends
  • Meditation: add a peaceful mind to a healthy body and a good routine and you will be fully centered and a candidate that more and more employers will be willing to hire. I have no interest in this company but just recommend a place for beginners at the Meditation game (click here for Headspace website). Although it may not be the best time to start meditating, the essence of mindfulness is really handy in this situations, as you need to be able to see the broader picture, contemplate your mind without getting into “fighting” each and every thought that comes with regards to your last job (if only I did this different or “why me” or “I am so unlucky”). Just try and get into the mood of letting the thoughts pass, acknowledge them and, with a calmer mind after meditating, start your day (or get back to your search process in case you are not doing it at the beginning of the day)

Do not wait until August is over

  • Yes, you may take some days off, or even go on that holiday that was already planned and paid for but be back as soon as possible and try to be productive ahead of September 1st
  • Be aware that as in any crisis, some firms over-did the reduction of teams, while other firms start getting the rush because they did not hire enough analysts/associates out of masters programs and even more, some other firms in “hot” sectors (like restructuring/turnaround shops) need to get work done and need to hire people (in industry parlance: “they need bodies” at the bottom of the pyramid).

This line of argumentation tries to get that edge for doing a bit of sacrifice: if you wait until it is September, you will be on the same level with everyone that decided to wait to look for a job until coming back to your home-town. If you get into your state of flow while everyone else is sunbathing, you will have an edge!

Time to “BIF-up” your candidacy

At this critical time for your career, the Breaking into Finance program can guide your effort through its 4 pillars:

  1. Review and reinforce your story: use this involuntary break to review and redefine your story as needed. Also, not the time to be especially picky on your next job but this can be an awakening to change to a different sub-sector
    1. Re-vamp your marketing materials: polish your CV, your elevator pitch and especially, be ready discuss openly and firmly your being laid off.
    1. Networking: get your action plan ready and start approaching people that maybe closer to you and that you know are working and not on holidays. For those you are not close enough and/or are positive they are on holidays, have everything ready to shoot those networking messages in September.
    1. Practice interviews: become that “very focused professional” (aka. Weirdo) rehearsing the interview skills at the beach or by the pool, as much as needed. Forget about what they may call you; better to be ready for when the next interview comes.

Closing thoughts

In many cases being fired or being denied that fair promotion leads people to thrive in the job that was actually right for them. I am not saying that you will become the cliché or movie story saying “this is the best thing that happened to me”; but sometimes a slap in the face helps us re-channel our energies.

As it is always the case from Breaking into Finance, we invite you to focus your energy in solving the problem (getting a job) while keeping a positive attitude that without doubt will show in your interview. In this, it is essential the piece on meditation.

Chin up! And remember one of our launching mottos: this too shall pass. Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any comments on this or any other article; visit our Services to see how we can be of help; or just reach out at info@breakingintofinance.info.

How to shine in the job interview (remote or in person) – Breaking into Finance practical advice for success in that last step of the journey

Today we talk about the last part of the journey towards your first or your next job in Finance: the interview process. By this time you will have passed, in one way or another, through the soul-searching for what you want to do, you will have prepared killer marketing materials and you will have networked to get into the process or to learn more about the industry. You will have also be successful enough to get into the situation of being interviewed.

Now, it is your time to shine and get that job offer.

Foreword about “naturals” to interviewing: some people seem to be born to be interviewed, successfully securing offers from every recruiting process that they participate in.

In case you are not one of those people (as was the case of this article’s author), this article summarizes 7 points of our suggested strategy and training for a successful interview.

  1. Confidence: if you are going to be interviewed, it means that someone at the firm (or more than one person) thinks you are worth the time to meet you. Use that as a confidence booster and as the starting point of the preparation.
  2. Your story: rehearse the short and long version of your story and be ready to answer easy and tough questions on any aspects or point of your career, in a sharp (and short) manner. When it comes down to previous experiences: always talk on a positive note about previous employers; know by heart any numerical details of your experience; make a trip down memory lane in advance of the interview, as it won’t be appropriate or advisable to try and remember details when you are in the interview, under pressure.
  3. Technical preparation: rehearse answering the typical finance questions on transactions, financial statements, economics, etc. Spend time on preparing for brainteasers and other logic questions.
  4. Research the company and your interviewer/s: in 2020 there is no excuse for not knowing what your potential employer is up to, and what is the background of the person/s interviewing you.
  5. Hard questions: writedown those tough questions (the ones that make you sweat when thinking about them), and the answers you would give. Review, rehearse, re-write. Record yourself (audio and/or video) and be ready to fire back those bulleted answers whenever you get the curve balls during the interview.
  6. Practice makes perfect: do as many mock-interviews as possible. It will then be very natural to be letting your pitch out live.
  7. Get psyched-up and show up on time: usewhichever ritual you have to get psyched-up on the big day and, as trivial as it may sound, plan very well your commute to the interview venue, and be there 10 to 15 minutes ahead of start time. As many things in life, a lot of good things happen to people just for showing up, and for showing up on time.

As you can see, our advice goes mostly to preparation and getting psyched-up for the interview. We cannot tell you “do this in minute 5” or “do that whenever they say X”, as the interviews will always be different, and you will have to improvise; but improvise on solid ground and rehearsed responses.

In our Individual Program we work with mock interviews, which is a great way to prepare, and without going through our program, it is available to you: get your partner, your parents, your siblings, your friends or whomever can lend you 30-45 minutes of their time, to go through the interview. It shouldn’t be a surprise that probably in the past, you find yourself being more confident, convincing and sharp after going through many processes and rounds of interviews. Then that’s why point 6 (practice makes perfect) is a well-known secret, that many people choose to ignore. If you have to keep only one idea from this article, then this is it: GO PRACTICE.

A few words on remote interviews

One of the things that changed due to COVID is that interviews, and even internships or full-time jobs, are happening remotely. A few words then on remote interviews:

  1. It is the real thing: Take the interview as seriously as if they were in person.
  2. Connectivity: Make sure your gadget and the agreed platform for the interview works (and that you have a back-up plan).
  3. Dress-code: Dress fully (ie. No shorts+flip flops+jacket). Imagine there is an unexpected visit or emergency at home and you have to stand up and they see the “costume”; but even if that doesn’t happen, you will feel more confident wearing the whole attire.
  4. Be on time: can’t stress this enough. With remote interviews there are no excuses for traffic jams or other delays. Connect a few minutes ahead of time!
  5. Set-up/background: Ensure a professional set up (ie. No pets, or interruptions or noises)
  6. Eye contact: make sure to make eye contact with your interviewer; non-trivial tip: check where on your gadget you need to look at to direct your eyesight to your interviewer. Also, remember to smile at your counterpart!
  7. Listen: check periodically that you are being heard and, as if you were having the interview in person, use the silences and allow the other side to speak as well.
  8. Body language: don’t stay frozen. Move your hands and your body as if you were sitting on one of your interviewers’ chair. Move a bit, adjust your posture, use your hands if that’s your natural way of speaking. Try to connect!
  9. Support materials: take advantage of the remote set up to keep your CV and one or two other clear documents in your eye sight (but not visible to your interviewer).

As we have been discussing for the past few weeks, practice makes perfect, and it is always a great use of your time to be 100% ready for your next interview. I have been hearing lately that the amount and frequency of interviews is going up after the draught in April and May, so polish your star-interviewee skills and get ready to shine to get that offer.

Remember that the last module of our Breaking into Finance program is all about the interview process. Get in touch if you want to get more information, or if you want to discuss anything on this article or the blog. Send us an e-mail to info@breakingintofinance.info. Until the next time!

Improve your networking skills with this Breaking-into-Finance decalogue

Decálogo de networking de Breaking into Finance

Networking lies at the center of every effort to get into Finance for the first time or to take the next step in your career. Because even when you are taking the formal route of applying to a job through your university or a job-page, networking will provide you with an edge by being connected with people in the industry, having practiced your pitching and other interpersonal skills, and becoming more of an insider before, during and after the formal interview process.

I have spent most of my life as a Finance professional networking to be a better professional, calibrate my next move or, as I became more senior, to generate new business, revenues and profits.

The recipe, however, is always the same for us at Breaking into Finance, and we summarize it today as a decalogue.

  1. THE LIST: the starting point and the element that will concentrate your efforts is growing the list of target companies and contact people at those companies. If you are starting from scratch start dreaming big and putting only there your ideal employers, and then continue to grow it with smaller firms, related companies, headhunters, etc. The key to your list is to always come back to it, keep notes and always make clear markings for the next steps, setting reminders for next contacts, etc. It might not be obvious but a relationship that starts today with a coffee with a stranger and evolves with periodic meetings and e-mail, might result in getting your desired job in 6 years: I can attest to that! (E-mail me if you want the details).
  2. Spend time and be creative to make your list grow: if you want to do successful networking, you should take networking as a part-time job or full-time job, if you are at full speed trying to originate new opportunities. Also, think beyond LinkedIn and Google to get ideas and “leads” to make your list grow bigger. Who was your high-school classmate that entered into banking? Didn’t your sister in law know someone at that fund? I found that when you are spending significant time in growing your network, you start “seeing the Matrix” and make more and more associations that lead to productive coffees or conversations.
  3. That what you measure you can improve: use whichever analogue or digital tool you prefer, but create an interactive tracker that allows you to add notes and follow up steps to each row in your list (step 1).
  4. Reach-out / say bye to shyness: as a kid I was shy, and I am still not a big fan of picking up the phone and go on a telephone call spree. However, I forced myself to progressively do those calls I initially dreaded, by always following the same steps: having a script in front of me, putting myself into a good state before the call by smiling or playing a song I like and then go on and making that call. It will become natural! And the same goes to getting out there and having face-to-face meetings.
  5. Make it face to face, when possible: make your network grow, one coffee at a time. It is always better to make it in person, as you will interact, see each other’s body language and it will be good to put a face to the name. In COVID19 times it maybe tougher to meet in person, but you should still try. If not possible, go for a video-conference, to at least see how the person looks like.
  6. Find a mentor: with the purpose of getting advice, keep your efforts in check and provide extra discipline, as you will have to prepare every time you are bound to see your mentor. An important note: mentorship is a bilateral thing, so make sure that if you want someone to mentor, that person is willing and able to do it. Doesn’t have to be many years your senior though, when possible, these mentor/mentee relationships are the most productive.
  7. Realize you are not bragging, you are just selling yourself. In my experience, we Latins/Southern Europeans tend to be talkative, but when it comes down to sell our strengths, we become shy or “let the employers discover it with time”. Which is the wrong approach for a short, targeted period of recruiting, and one in which you are putting yourself at an unnecessary disadvantage. Rehearse talking about your achievements as well as practicing how to rebate the most apparent weaknesses you may have, and you will suddenly be a more valuable candidate, even when at the core, your experience, education or skills, hasn’t changed at all!

And three things to be aware of

  1. The enemy within: many times you are your own worst enemy, sabotaging your own efforts, procrastinating, or thinking you can’t do it, that they won’t hire, you, etc.
  2. Social agenda: whether you are in your MBA, your masters or your undergrad, or just working and feeling “the next beer with your colleagues is way more fan than researching for your next job”, you will sometimes have to skip some of the fun to increase your chances of success
  3. A marginal effort (in terms of time) rarely produces big changes. Looking for a job or your next career step needs to be taken seriously. So as implied in the previous point 9, make the conscious effort to block out some time each day

Keep the chin up and don’t get discouraged! I usually compare networking to fighting “guerrilla” style; it is constant, it is spread-out, and you rarely see a linear progression. And especially in these convoluted times, it can be even more discouraging. But paradoxically, these are the times when spending most of your extra time or extra energy on networking, will produce the extra results that allow you to be that respected professional that managed to make a great transition or career move in the midst of the worst uncertainty crisis in many years.

At Breaking into Finance we are ready to help you. Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have comments or question on this articles, or if you want to learn more about our Services: the Individual Program or the Institutional Program.

Until the next time.