For some in the careers industry, the current climate is proving fruitful. "Business has almost doubled this year," says Caroline Swain, managing director of Lee Hecht Harrison Ltd (LHH). She suspects that it may have increased even more for others, such as Meridian Consulting, one of the market leaders in the City of London. At Right Management Consultants (RMC), Anthony Payne, director, reports: "Events have accelerated and we are exceptionally busy. September 11 compounded the recessionary effects being imported from the US."
All three companies deal in outplacement, the business of managing career change and transition, generally following redundancy. "We are the other side of the coin to headhunters," says Swain.
LHH was founded in 1974 by two New York psychologists, both specialists in the process of change, and it has retained its core role. "We help people through change," explains Swain, adding that it can mean a complete change in direction. "People may use redundancy to do something totally different, because they are fed up with the corporate maelstrom."
She estimates that about 10% of candidates move out of their careers, and she has seen bankers move into property development, holiday letting and even sustainable investment.
Networking is one of the most important way of finding and creating a new job, and LHH hosts regular networking lunches on Tuesdays bringing together people from disparate backgrounds. The average time to become established in a new job is considered to be around3-4 months.
Reappraising CVs is a key part of the transition process. In a typical outplacement at RMC, a candidate will first undertake a psychometric test and attend a course called Internal Perspectives to identify both professional and personal achievements.
The average age of outsourced candidates is mid to late 30s. "A high proportion find their way back into the City," says Payne. "Networking and grapevining are the most important routes. We have one relationship banker who has already been asked how soon after January 1 he can start, and he has a whole laundry list of headhunters pursuing him."
Bruce Lagden, director at RMC, joined the firm following redundancy from a 30 year career in the financial markets.
Lagden says that his aim is to help candidates identify their next step: "If they are in their 50s, they may opt for early retirement or find opportunities locally such as for a charity, which is fulfilling and rewarding and not necessarily in finance. Organisations outside the City value City experience."
One example of a complete change is a man who took his pension early and established himself as a woodcarving craftsman for churches.
And as investment bankers are left wondering what kind of future faces their redundant colleagues, Swain adds: "People not selected for redundancy often feel guilty. Our business is about the change for them too, looking after the people staying and how committed they are." *