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Continued: He wears a sign of the times right on his back

  • Article by: LEE SCHAFER , Star Tribune
  • Last update: June 28, 2012 - 3:19 PM

One of the first things David Turetsky will tell you about himself is that he is an introvert. Even though he has been seeking work since September 2011 in his niche of the financial services industry, he finds it all but impossible to use the phone or approach someone to pitch himself.

That makes his decision to wear a "Seeking Full-Time Employment" sandwich sign in downtown Minneapolis all that more remarkable.

"Maybe I had unrealistic expectations about it," Turetsky said, explaining that he tried the sandwich board not as a sign of desperation, a publicity stunt or some form of protest, but because he was hopeful the approach might lead to a job. He has had a good experience so far, too, but more in terms of meeting interesting people than generating solid job leads.

His unorthodox job search strategy is both utterly unique and representative of the declines in the past decade of the Twin Cities investment management and research community. Formerly big investment research and management groups, like RBC Capital Markets and Ameriprise, are largely gone.

Turetsky said he adopted the idea of a sandwich board at the suggestion of a co-worker at the investment bank where he previously worked, ThinkEquity. In late May when he was mulling it over, he said, he was frustrated. And not just at the lack of traction in his job search, but also at his own introverted nature. He had taken what he called a "networking course" at the Hennepin South WorkForce Center in Bloomington, adding that "even there I felt like I was the introvert."

Turetsky made his sign out of about $20 worth of materials purchased from Office Depot and Target, with some printing at Kinko's. One morning in late May he started out at the south end of Nicollet Mall, near Brit's Pub and walked straight through from 11th Street to Washington Avenue, carrying his sign folded up under an arm and speaking to no one.

He paused at Washington, took a deep breath, then put the sign on and walked back up Nicollet Mall. "I think I spent more time being nervous that day than I did walking with the sign," he said.

The next time he was out for 2 1/2 hours, and on his longest day so far it was for more than 7 hours. He has a shortened form of his résumé with just his first name and an e-mail account, and he has handed out dozens of them.

The experience was, he said, a "revelation" into the world of the unemployed.

One woman approached him and shared a story of losing a job and then her house through foreclosure. He heard many stories of people's having been laid off and out of work for weeks or months.

The "Seeking Full-Time Employment" headline across his chest had no question mark, but strangers all day would approach him and ask what jobs he was looking to fill. Turetsky was then in the position of wishing those folks good luck.

"I came down off of my bus one morning and I saw this guy in a perfectly appropriate business suit with a sign," said Maren Amdal, the executive director of the CFA Society of Minnesota, a professional association of investment analysts and managers. "And he kind of looked like one of my members. So I went up to him."

Amdal later met with Turetsky, who as it turns out is not a CFA member, and she has passed along his résumé to others. She called him "the classic face of the employment crisis."

Turetsky, who is 44, came to Minneapolis from Grand Rapids, Mich., seeking a fresh start in a larger, more diverse city. In 1998 he joined Dain Rauscher, a diversified investment brokerage and investment bank. In 1999 the Dain Rauscher Wessels equity capital group participated in 113 financing transactions and was publishing research on hundreds of companies, as the market was booming.

But busts follow booms, and the early 2000s deep bear market whittled down employment in the sector. In Minneapolis, it kept contracting. The names of firms that have shrunk is actually quite a list, including RBC, which bought Dain Rauscher Wessels' parent in 2000 and then mostly consolidated its equity capital markets activities in New York or Toronto.

Piper Jaffray remains a significant locally based institutional investment bank, and Associate Director of Research Steph Wissink said Piper currently publishes research on about 550 U.S. companies and 650 total. But just 17 of the firm's 38 senior analysts are based in Minnesota.

Some veterans of the local financial community are intent upon leading a resurgence, primarily through the CFA Society. Its growth strategy is based largely on cultivating the same kind of information sharing, personal engagement, and a sense of common mission that pervades the venture capital community of Silicon Valley in California. The group has been busy with events including a recent investor conference.

Any CFA Society growth initiative will likely be too late for Turetsky. He has applied for jobs in San Jose, Calif., Florida and Tennessee.

He has made a new and more informative sign to wear in Minneapolis, but in the last couple of weeks he has not been back on the street, as online job sites are now getting most of his time.

lee.schafer@startribune.com • 612-673-4302

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