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Laid Off Wall Streeters Hoping To Drive Themselves Into A Job

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As you may have heard, around 100,000 financial services employees are set to be laid off by the end of the year (with the cuts already beginningfor some). How will those made redundant attempt to get back in the game? Some will hire headhunters. Others will reach out to friends in the industry. Yet others will post their resumes on employment websites, hoping to catch a nibble. And a small but apparently growing group of people will take the less traditional path of driving a New York City cab, which offers the dual-function of an income and a captive audience for your pitch.

Tough times have prompted more New Yorkers to seek financial relief and upward mobility in the taxi trade. The number of licensed city cabbies has risen by 10 percent since the stock market began its decline in late 2007, according to the Taxi and Limousine Commission. License renewals are up, too, officials said, suggesting that drivers who used to move on to higher-paying jobs are sticking with the hack trade for now. At Master Cabbie Taxi Academy in Long Island City, Queens, instructors have noticed an increase in former financial workers since the recession began. “As they lay off, people come through,” the owner, Terry Gelber, said.

Scott Curtis, for instance, worked on Wall Street for 25 years until he was made a casualty of the recession. When he first lost his job, he got in touch with a few recruiters and signed up with Monster, though neither helped him land a position with a hedge fund, where he's hoping to end up.

“There are 20 million other people on,” said Mr. Curtis, who chats up his fares in case a chief executive or headhunter has stumbled in. “I thought people would see this, and think, ‘He’ll go the extra yard to go and get a job.’ ” Passengers who climb into Mr. Curtis’s cab are greeted by a laminated sheet of paper reading: “Ask to see my résumé. You won’t be sorry!” It has led to three interviews, one with a major British bank, though none has yet resulted in a job offer. Mr. Curtis, who is hoping to land a hedge-fund position, said he decided to become a cabby after having little luck with traditional headhunters and job Web sites. “I just figured the best way to market myself was to be driving around town with a sign that said: ‘Hey, help me! I need a job!’ ” he said.

While cab-driving offers the laid-off a unique opportunity to get their names out there, "exploit the inefficiencies of the market" ("Herb Reyes heads to the usually deserted Avenue of the Americas in Midtown rather than the Meatpacking District, where he knows bankers who work the Asian markets will be looking for rides"), and earn "all-cash wages" as opposed to 90% stock/10% cash deferred over 12 years, it does come with some downsides, like ferrying around idiot first-years who you're pretty sure don't know dick about finance.

Janet, a JPMorgan veteran [who declined to use her last name] was finishing an afternoon shift the other day in her work uniform: a navy blazer, floral scarf and Ralph Lauren sunglasses...The regulars at the garage in the Bronx did not think she would last a week; two years later, she is still driving. She keeps a stack of 20 résumés by the driver’s seat, handing them out to passengers. One man submitted her name for three jobs at UBS, but it came to nothing. “I wanted a job while my son was in Europe,” she said. ”I set myself a benchmark that by the time he’s back, I’d have a real job. And when he came back, and I didn’t — ” Her voice trailed off. “I was depressed for a week,” she said. “I picked up some young kids from JPMorgan, who I knew didn’t know what they were talking about in the cab, but they had the job. I didn’t.”

According to the Times, those considering the cab route might want to proceed with caution, while those currently driving might want to consider giving up.

The new crop of cabbies might do well to consider the example of a predecessor: James Williamson III, an M.B.A. graduate who gained some renown in 2008 for his own résumé-in-the-backseat routine. Although his efforts earned a segment on CNN, Mr. Williamson, who studied business at La Salle University, never found a job after 18 months behind the wheel...Last year, Mr. Williamson gave up his hack license after an aunt found him work as a nursing assistant. Today, he drives a van for disabled travelers. He is still looking for a professional position.

Gray Lady killjoys aside, there is some good news to be gleaned here, which is that UBS is apparently one of the few firms actively hiring! Get in touch today.

Eyes Once On The Ticker, Now On The Meter [NYT]


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