Volume 22, Number 02 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | May 22 - 28, 2009

Downsized young professionals look for new directions

By Chelsea-Lyn Rudder

Analysts, traders and asset managers under 35 who saw themselves as financial whiz kids are reevaluating their options and interests.

Several people who were interviewed for this article were unable to speak on the record due to employer confidentiality agreements. One former trader, who was laid off last year and is now pursuing a career in the arts, was afraid that giving an interview would compromise his severance package.

But two young professionals who lost jobs did agree to use their names.

Usha Persaud, 25, was recently laid off from her position as a client services representative at a firm on Exchange Place. Persuad, who lives on the Upper East Side, graduated from the Lubin School of Business at Pace University in 2005 and worked for the same firm for three years until March of this year. Knowing that the firing was a result of the economy and not a reflection upon performance, provides little comfort when the bills need to be paid.

“I saw myself eventually working my way up into management,” Persaud said. Like many others, she is looking for a new field. She is particularly excited about a training program which she interviewed for in Washington D.C. Persaud is considering going back to school for a masters degree, something that she would not have considered at this point in her career if she had not been laid off. “I’m thinking about getting a degree in accounting, someone will always need an accountant.”

Returning to school for a graduate degree, like an M.B.A., is a popular option for many who have been laid off. Others like Brian Van Nieuwenhoven, 29, a web designer, from the Lower East Side who was under contract with Lehman Brothers until last summer will continue to expand their technical knowledge.

“Its all about staying on the cutting edge of technology, making sure that you are marketable when the economy rebounds and budgets for outside contractors return,” he said.

Web design technology changes every two years, Van Nieuwenhoven said. Clients like Lehman Brothers utilized freelance labor for web design positions so they would not have to incur the costs of training employees when technologies become obsolete. Although he misses the stability of being under contract with a large corporation, Van Nieuwenhoven is thankful that his skills are easily transferable. He is currently working for Christie’s auction house. “It can be difficult to manage the cost of living in New York City, but I am still enthusiastic to be here and happy to have a job.”

Some young professionals have used their job loses as a catalyst to push themselves into something completely different. Many are hitting the road. One hedge fund manager said that many of his former colleagues were traveling, instead of interviewing, hoping that the economy turns around before their savings run out.

Private equity, a sector that was once considered to be insulated from the typical ebb and flow of the market, is now experiencing lay offs. With that in mind, many of the professionals are considering leaving finance for industries where job security is thought to be more reliable. One even joked that he may go to work for Michael Bloomberg, not at the mayor’s private firm, but at City Hall.







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