If You Leave a Hedge Fund Job

Nobody wants to consider the worst-case scenario, but losing a hedge fund job could be part of life, especially given the turmoil the industry has gone through in the past two years.

Susan Adams offers some advice on severance from a number of recruiters and career coaches in her recent blog for Forbes. Rule number one: don’t sign anything until you’ve taken the time to discuss it with either a lawyer or career professional. Even better, if you get a sense in your gut that things are not working out perfectly at the firm, prepare in advance on how you might handle a termination discussion. Even if you suspect the axe is about to fall, when the event actually happens, the emotional shock can cloud your judgment.

Take some time to digest whatever severance package your firm presents. Under federal age discrimination laws, for instance, workers over age 40 have the right to take 21 days to review any severance agreement. This 21-day period is becoming accepted practice in companies for workers of all ages. Many companies ask departing workers to sign something that waives their rights to sue under federal discrimination laws or state and local laws. Don’t sign it. Take the time let your nerves settle down and consult professionals. Both actions give you a better chance at negotiating a better package.

Career coaches also say you should ask for as much as you can get, starting with a larger severance payout. The longer you’ve been at a firm, the more guilty they may feel, and you can play off that guilt. You can also bring in outside events such as health issues or the recent purchase of a house or a new baby to ramp up the emotional scale on your side.

Negotiate for benefits and perks beyond cash, such as keeping your computer or Blackberry, continued use of company-sponsored job coaching, and extended health benefits.

Filing a lawsuit against your firm is a last-ditch effort. While it carries a big stick in your negotiations with your current employer, career coaches advise against that route unless all other options fail. That’s because future employers might be leery of hiring someone who has proven to be litigious.

One last thing to negotiate: your exit message. Adams offers the example of a worker laid off from a hedge fund research job. Together they worked out a public message that complemented the worker on the quality of his research, while saying there wasn’t room for advancement at this particular firm. This enabled the partners at the firm to provide good references and help for landing another job.

What about you? Any tips or horror stories related to leaving a hedge fund job? Add your comments below.

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