Escaping Canary Wharf can lead to a new life, but luck and attitude will help if you want to get back in, says Philip Beddows.
They say the City runs on hope and fear. Almost a year ago I was writing about a large investment bank that was running an offsite session on preparing for the downturn, and shared some thoughts about how individuals could begin to bolster themselves for the coming storm.
Now the clouds are not just on the horizon, they've already begun to drop some rain on us all, and darker and more worrying cloud formations are to be seen on the horizon. Whilst bears and bulls meander around the markets trying to guess what may follow, the word redundancy is unfortunately being heard again as we head towards Christmas.
Losing a job is not good news and anyone who tries to tell a friend as they exit their bank that 'it could be the best thing that ever happened to them' should make sure they have donned appropriate armour before they receive a well deserved riposte.
But friends may be right, and in my experience of many people who have faced redundancy they are more often right than wrong.
There is life outside the City, and careers have bounced back after much bleaker times than we may be about to experience.
What makes the difference?
Attitude, luck, skills, hard work, and decent support and advice.
· Attitude - if you believe it's all over for you then it certainly will be. You have to be positive and truly believe that there's a niche out there waiting for you to fill. Positive thinking and upbeat presentation is infectious - people will buy good attitude that is unencumbered with baggage.
· Luck - this has always been a vital ingredient in life and business success. Some have it, some don't. Those with it too often attract the jealousy of others who think that success should only come with hard graft. But luck can be created by making sure you are in the right place at the right time with the right attitude.
· Skills - all of us have skills and gifts that are valuable. Skills that have only been used in one context may not seem flexible enough to transfer into another place...but they can be. It is a matter of breaking your experience into its core elements - like using the same materials from one house to build another to a different design.
· Hard work - this is best focused in the context of a well thought through plan. If you have no mission you cannot have a plan, and without a plan you are likely to find yourself sailing in all directions before you find land.
· Support and advice - hopefully, if you are being 'let go' by your bank, it will be one that understands the value of providing decent external support (outplacement, to use the well known label). There is little point in creating a negative alumni group in the City - not good for all the mates of the leavers who stay, and not good for the huge networks that people have outside the organisation, not to mention the employer brand so carefully nurtured during the good years. Good advice can help keep the attitude right, the plan moving ahead and the work pace at the desired level.
And if you don't want to stay in the City?
For some, perhaps many, a life back in the City just isn't the thing, but too many City folk let the City become their life and have too little time to nurture other interests.
I have seen many people find great fulfilment creating a life far removed from the financial markets - yes, some have the financial wherewithal to do this, but just as many do not, yet they have made a significant shift.
A journey around the streets of London, and the towns and villages around it, will find many businesses built by former City workers. Even the Western Isles of Scotland will reveal happy folk who used to pound away the hours in Canary Wharf.
The City, in particular Canary Wharf, is intoxicating. The buzz of power, money and energy can take a lot of time to get out of the system, but like a drug it can be beaten and after rehab one can wonder what all the excitement was about.
So be concerned, but not unnecessarily so, as the clouds that are hovering and threaten a deluge on the City can have a silver lining.