[Marxism] MIT grad for hire

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Dec 24 06:40:31 MST 2008


'MIT grad for hire' has advice -- and now, a job
'You can't give up,' says Joshua Persky, an ex-banker whose job search 
included blogging and making his pitch from a New York sidewalk.
By Erika Hayasaki

December 24, 2008

Reporting from New York — Six months after Joshua Persky lost his job as 
an investment banker, he hung his faith in finding a new one around his 
neck on a sandwich board.

Carrying a stack of resumes, Persky took to Manhattan streets wearing a 
white board scrawled with black marker: "EXPERIENCED MIT GRAD FOR HIRE."

The move garnered newspaper and blog headlines: "An ex-banker's unusual 
job pitch," "MIT graduate will work for food" and "Joshua Persky: 
desperate and alone."

His search would stretch on for a year, with no paycheck and no prospects.

Somewhere along the way, seeped in a post-layoff muck of sacrifice, 
humiliation and rejection, Persky found the resolve to keep hoping. That 
is the lesson he wants to share with the nearly 2 million people who 
have lost their jobs this year, and the millions more who will next 
year, when the U.S. unemployment rate is expected to climb to 7.8%, from 
an estimated 5.7% this year.

Keep hoping. Keep exercising. Keep savoring time with family.

"You can't give up," said Persky, 49. "You have to try to keep your 
sense of humor, if you have one, and be creative."

But those lessons would come only after time passed.

Persky had been working with Houlihan Lokey for two years when he was 
laid off last December.

At first, he turned to headhunters and job search engines. Nothing. He 
contacted associates he knew from other firms. But their businesses were 

By June, his savings had dwindled. He had applied for unemployment 
benefits, but those ran out too. Persky and his wife decided to let go 
of their upscale Upper East Side apartment and put their belongings in 
storage. All around them, neighbors who had also lost jobs were packing 
up and leaving New York.

One night, over a dispirited dinner, the Perskys hatched a plan for what 
to do next. It was their weekly date night, and although the couple had 
scaled down on spending money on cuisine, they decided to splurge on 
drinks and a shared entree at their favorite Argentine steakhouse. It 
would be the last of such dinners for a while.

Following their plan, Persky's wife, Cynthia, moved in with her parents 
in Omaha, enrolling their two children in school there. Persky moved in 
with his sister in Westchester, N.Y., while continuing to send out 
resumes and keeping his Manhattan contacts alive.

After six years of marriage, the family was splitting up. But their bond 
remained strong. Persky would visit his children, ages 4 and 5, when he 
could. He called every day. Nevertheless, said Cynthia, 44, "I felt like 
the world was going to end."

But before all that happened, Persky tried something he thought of that 
night at the Argentine steakhouse. In the restaurant, he asked his wife: 
"Why don't I go out on Park Avenue with a sign and pass out resumes?"

She looked at him and smiled. "That's brilliant."

The next day, Cynthia bought a sign board for $2, printed out resumes 
and wrote up a news release, which she e-mailed to media outlets across 
New York and the country. Persky put on a dark pinstriped suit and a 
silk tie and the sign bearing his phone number.

He stood in front of the Charles Schwab building near 50th Street and 
Park Avenue during the lunch hour for a week, waiting. Cynthia, a 
photojournalist, snapped shots and sent them out.

Newspaper reporters interviewed him. Television news crews filmed his stunt.

"We thought something would happen," Cynthia said. "He had a lot of 
calls and a lot of interest. They said they liked him.

"Then," she said, "we wouldn't hear back."

After a week, Persky put away the sandwich board and kept trying through 
search engines and headhunters. He started a blog, oracleofnewyork.com, 
to chronicle the experience and promote his hiring qualifications. Like 
the board, the blog got attention but no work.

"I was talking to investment banks, and by the beginning of the summer 
they were very excited," Persky said. "By the end of the summer, they 
were frozen and saying, 'We don't know what's going on. Things are 
getting very dark very fast.' "

One equity firm flew him to Texas. The interview went delightfully well. 
When it was over, Persky remembered recruiters told him: "We would love 
to hire you but we don't have any money."

"It got very frustrating," Persky said. "I kept getting my hopes up, and 
things didn't work out."

In September, Lehman Bros. Holdings Inc. collapsed and "things went from 
bad to worse," said Cynthia, who had not lived with her husband for 
three months.

But Persky kept trying. In October, a search firm contacted him. An 
accounting company, Weiser, came across his resume and recruiters were 
impressed. Would he consent to an interview? Persky agreed. The 
screening and interview process was rigorous. He submitted writing 
samples and met with company leaders.

His wife didn't want to get her hopes up.

"We had so many things come and go," she said. "As time went by, 
expectations became lower."

The recruiter called Persky again. He got the job.

"It was like a miracle," his wife said. "The threshold was finally broken."

This month, he began working as a senior manager doing valuation work 
for Weiser.

Cynthia said she planned to move back to New York with the children in 
the summer, after they completed the school year. The family is looking 
for a Manhattan apartment.

As they reflect on the year, a few lessons stand out. The stunt with the 
sandwich board turned out to be just that: a stunt.

His new boss, Elliot Ogulnick, said he was impressed by Persky's resume. 
"He got hired on his own merits," Ogulnick said. "I didn't even know 
about all the publicity until later."

And at times like these, the only thing to do was to move forward and 
stay united as a family, despite the difficulties and the distance.

"When you have responsibilities," Cynthia said, "you have to find a way 
to get through it."

erika.hayasaki at latimes.com

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