As the financial sector crumbles, six-figure stars are increasingly among those getting the pink slips. When Citigroup, for example, announced recently that it was booting some 50,000 employees--many of them high-paid managers--the departing bankers joined more than 20,000 workers the company had already laid off this year. Many of the newly axed at Citi and elsewhere have left behind cushy paychecks that covered their jumbo mortgages and kids' tuition bills. That ominous sound you hear? It's all those $200 pairs of shoes pounding the pavement.
The hiring machine, however, hasn't shut down altogether. The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits may have hit a 26-year high, but there are still lots of jobs open, because no matter how grim the economic forecast, at least some workers will change jobs voluntarily or retire. "Companies may not be making expansionary or discretionary hires," says Marc Cenedella, founder of TheLadders.com a subscription service that lists only jobs that pay $100,000 and up. "But even in a downturn, there's still 20% to 25% natural turnover per year." In the six-figure category, he estimates that will mean 3.2 million hires a year instead of 4 million in a normal market. (See pictures of the Top 10 scared traders.)
TheLadders currently lists about 60,000 positions at companies that pay a hefty fee to put their openings in front of high-potential recruits. The site tries to weed out unqualified applicants by charging $30 a month or $180 a year to access listings for such positions as accountant, financial analyst or director of sales, as well as more unusual jobs like "senior-level food technologist" or "business-strategy ninja."
But before you whip out your credit card to sign up for the site, check the free portion to see if it covers the industries you're targeting. Here are a few other important things newly unemployed execs should keep in mind:
Brace yourself. Recently booted M.B.A.s are already out there flooding the market with applications. Heidrick & Struggles, a Chicago-based executive-recruiting firm, is receiving 50% more unsolicited contacts from those seeking high-end jobs than in previous years, says Jory Marino, who heads the firm's North American office. And in case it's not painfully obvious, says Mickey Matthews, who directs North American operations for Stanton Chase International, a global executive-search firm based in Dallas, "the supply-demand imbalance certainly favors employers."
Because of that imbalance, companies looking to fill white-collar positions now have the luxury of sifting through legions of qualified candidates. Mark T. Williams, a finance professor at the Boston University School of Management, says recruiters for finance and other high-skill jobs find themselves receiving 50 or 60 résumés for an opening that may once have attracted just 10 or 20.
Find the right words. Instead of reading all the résumés that are getting dumped on them, many recruiters scan and search the lot for keywords. Which means top-bracket-job seekers--some of whom may not have looked for a new gig in a decade or more--need to update their résumés with the jargon du jour that recruiters are looking for. For accountants, that means phrases like Sarbanes-Oxley, while marketers may need to add terms like search-engine optimization.