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City strife - reprogramming your skills

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The recession that we are facing, has been a long time in coming and it is likely that day upon day for the foreseeable future, we will continue to hear distressing financial news from the City. So how can you rescue your career?

Tremors through the employment market

Over three decades ago, with the introduction of a three day week in many manufacturing companies in the UK, jobs for life became a thing of the past and apprenticeship work became the exception rather than the norm. 

The UK started to see a significant shift in trade, from production to service industry. Two decades ago the City shook as financial bastions started to tumble down. 

Many working in the City today were too young to remember the pain and sense of hopelessness which thousands of people felt as the ‘Big Bang era’ affected not just the technology fields, but sent tremors throughout the employment market.

As the last quarter of 2008 is upon us, discussions around Christmas bonuses will be overshadowed for many with a genuine fear of job loss. The need to reduce household financial commitments will continue to add pressure to the economy.

Consider your options

Consider what you can do to rescue your employment situation. If you're in the City you should be pro-actively ‘re-programming’ your skillsets for other industry sectors. Arguably it's not a straightforward process, it involves uncoupling thinking from essentially a streamlined locomotive that everyone admired and wanted to join, to embracing the concept of pioneering a new career in a new environment, with very likely, a recalibration of finances being required.

Even if you're not presently facing a personal economic ‘downturn’; it's prudent to start considering your options. Being prepared is not just good Scouting (or Brownie) training – it's essential to enable you to remain calm and rational in the face of troubling news. If you haven't personally considered the reality of your own job being at risk, should this then become the case, your speed and appropriateness of response could be severely impaired.

Survival instincts

In having faced the worst case scenarios in our minds, often it's never quite as bleak again. Survival is a basic human nature so start planning and replanning ways in which you could manage a potential transition to a new role. Additionally, group together with others who are facing similar Challenges;  rather than using this new grouping as a forum for heightening fear, it could be a constructive group with specific Challenges which retain a sense of identity and shared purpose, for example:

• Creating and sharing an Ebay shop
• Planning and then climbing a mountain
• Organising a charity event to help less fortunate people


Some people, more than others, are able to adapt. There is a whole new language to learn, finances to reconsider, new sensitivities to adjust to and different priorities both in terms of business expectations and social interactions. Changing worlds can be a liberating experience – for those with stamina, focus, and the ability to stay engaged, there is real hope of life outside the square mile.

For the UK to fully utilise the intellectual capacity available from those leaving the City, there are going to have to be educational supports to help individuals interpret the dialect of industry and thrive anew in its environment.

Asked to describe life in the City, areas which immediately come to mind are:

• Speed of conversation and decision making
• Ongoing call to action
• An energy and intensity focused on business deliverables

Transferable skills

There are business areas which may be more transferrable than others; due to the established pattern of integration with the wider business being more easily replicated in a relatively standard format; for instance finance, human resources and IT.

In some situations, individuals have found that moving from the City to private equity has enabled a ‘bridge’ to industry. While engaging with industry in a very tangible way, the speed with which private equity applies its business plan to new business partners, can provide a sense of familiarity for those coming out of the City. Equally a move into consultancy for some provides a sensible ‘stepping ground’ into new business areas.

What help is available to those presently caught up in the changing economic situation? There are several ports of call which can assist with transition. Most importantly, take stock of your skills and talents and be honest with yourself.

Think of yourself as a blank canvass

What do you need to achieve in the short and long term – particularly with regard to finance? What would you like to achieve in the short and long term – particularly with regard to career satisfaction? If you had a blank canvass what career direction would you go in?

One of the toughest areas for adaptation in a new industry, is the realisation that you may have to start at the bottom again and to psychologically manage the perceived loss of status. However, once you understand the new parameters and language, you're quite likely to gain promotions quickly. 

Often the more senior you are, the more finance there may be available for coaching or mentoring through a significant period of change. At any level in an organisation, it's worth researching third party suppliers who can provide affordable coaching and requesting financial support from your present employer during a transitional process.

Creative thought

There is an abundance of packages available through business schools and small business start ups, government grants and employee assisted programmes. However you will also need to be more creative about how you can intentionally adjust. Consider:

• Joining the public sector; perhaps becoming a post person, joining the police force or retraining as a teacher

• Creating an apprenticeship programme

• Moving nationally or internationally

• Working as a volunteer to broaden your experience base

• Proposing a ‘career swap’ to an organisational partner to gain valuable new insights

Blueprints for transition

In the 1990’s as organisations across Europe shed jobs; there were some excellent blueprints created to assist individuals in the transition process. It would be a tragedy if we did not build on this knowledge, learning the Lessons, recognising the importance of the individual, maximising the use of information technology and the value it can add, while applying a touch of innovation to create new horizons.

To successfully survive in the City you need to be smart, cope well under pressure and interpret information accurately and quickly.  These traits bode well for those leaving. They will however require access to a guide to help them maintain momentum and focus through a challenging period of change.

Blueprints for transition


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