My Firm's A Laughing Stock - Will That Make It Harder For Me To Get A New Job ?

Sad Clown

There's a lot of noise in the media this week that suggests that those good folks over at UBS Investment Bank might struggle to secure employment with a rival firm just because they are in some way tarred by the association with a firm that is currently in difficulty.

But is that true ? Can where you currently work affect your future employability ? Well, the answer is an interesting one.

Working at a Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley or JPMorgan will still hold you in good stead if you are thinking of moving to a rival firm. There's still a certain amount of cachet associated with these firms, and candidates will find the path to interview a little more easy by virtue of their work experience at these firms. But once the interview process commences, of course, you're on your own and will be judged on your merits. 

Conversely, working for a second-tier French firm, or a third-tier Japanese bank, will probably not result in a mad rush by rivals to pull you in and give you the interview once over - but neither will it stop a good candidate, with the right skills and technical expertise, from being seen either.

And interestingly, working for a firm involved in a scandal, or failure, rarely has any impact on candidates wishing to secure new employment with a rival. Look at Barings, for example. The firm crashed in 1995 over the Nick Leeson trading affair, but that didn't stop many of its excellent staff going on to secure lucrative new jobs with other firms. OK, so if you were charged with supervising old Nick himself, or worked in Risk Management at Barings, that may have been another story, but the general body of staff were not individually blacklisted because of the fact that they happened to be working at the firm when it imploded (the UK M&A employees, for example, had a sterling reputation, and the staff who wanted to go were most easily able to secure new positions).

And the same goes for Enron after its bankruptcy in 2001 (the company, after all, had the reputation of hiring 'the best of the best', and many former Enron employees ended up working for the likes of Barclays Capital, UBS and a raft of other financial firms). So, too, was the case with Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers following their mishaps in 2008.

The only modern-day exception appears to be Bank of Credit and Commerce International, which failed in 1991 after it was accused of massive money laundering and various other financial crimes. Many employees, totally innocent of any wrongdoing, are said to have found it difficult to secure new positions merely because of their association with this bank.

But to suggest that staff who work at UBS will find it difficult to move on, just because their firm is currently going through a hard time, is a nonsense (it might be difficult to make a move because of general market conditions, but that's a whole other matter).

The truth is, talent will generally out - it's not usually about the firm you work for (unless you work in a specific area a would-be new employer is trying to take market share from). It's usually about how you as an individual shape up - remember, even the likes of Goldman Sachs can't get it right all the time (despite its rigorous interview process).

There will be clowns on the payroll over at Goldman, and all sorts of gems working at less fashionable firms. And, anyway, why would you want to go work for a firm that judges you on who you currently work for, rather than what you can potentially bring to the party ?

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