Is work drying up in the professional service sector?

Covid-19 is impacting us all, with most sectors seeing a reduction in the volume of work that’s coming in. The City of London is a great example of a symbiotic relationship between different sectors coming together to form a value chain for the corporations and businesses they serve. But in simple terms, when work dries up everyone suffers from the bankers to lawyers as well as those involved in other professional services such as accounting and consulting.

The dislocation of economies and markets around the world has resulted in little appetite for fee earning work, especially in traditional high profile/big fee earning areas such as IPOs and M&A transactions.

In most cases this may result in one of two things.

1. Pay and bonus cuts (or no 2020 bonus at all)
2. Head count reduction.

Neither scenario is desirable but losing your job is no doubt the worst of the two. Either way, some forward thinking and planning may help reduce the sting if the worst happens and you find yourself in the receiving end.

Let’s play out a few scenarios and outline some proactive steps you can take right now.

Scenario A: Work is drying up, what should I do?

1. Try to speak to the top fee earners at your firm. Ask them if there’s anything you can help with. This is a great learning opportunity for you and a good way to stay involved with the scarce transactions that may be coming in. Other areas you might be able to get involved in include business development.

2. Just don’t think about yourself. Speak to your line manager because they too will be feeling the pressure. See if you can help lighten their load. Ask to take on more responsibility when and where possible to do so.

3. Keep abreast of all communications being shared with your firm about any changes that may need to be taken. Listen carefully and try to figure out how you can contribute to any strategic change of direction. Be ready to adjust, remain flexible and willing to take on any new work even if it’s not what you want to be doing.

Scenario B: The cost of living is skyrocketing and each year prices keep going up. I am therefore naturally worried about not getting an annual pay rise or bonus for 2020?

1. Get your calculator out and start budgeting by giving some serious thought to your outgoing expenses. Where can you cut costs? Can you negotiate a reduction in your rent, downsize or relocate? Are you putting the money saved by not commuting to work or indeed buying your daily latte away for a rainy day? What can you do without? Maybe hold off on large purchases. Start thinking about how you manage your money now.

2. Put some context around it, you might be one of the lucky ones who comes out of this still holding a job, so it is important not to lose sight of this.

Scenario 3: What if I lose my job?

Prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

1. If working from home leaves you with some spare capacity, try not to waste this time. If you can, aim to learn new skills as there are plenty of on-line courses available or failing that then get reading. The worldwide web is awash with plenty of free articles, blogs etc. Recession or not, it’s always a good idea to diversify your skill set and if you do end up losing your job you’ll be much better equipped to secure a new position, albeit a short-term one, more quickly.

2. Dig out your CV and give it a once over. There’s no harm in refreshing it or putting together a brand new version, especially if you haven’t looked at it for a while or if you’re thinking of changing direction. Having your ducks in a row means if you’re unfortunate enough to lose your job then you can get your hunt for a new role off the ground without delay.

3. Polish up on your interview skills as this is particularly important if you haven’t interviewed in a long time. Just remember in a challenging jobs market competition for work is likely to be intense so do not leave anything to chance.

Written by Sanu – Founder,