Where is 'Sign Board Guy' now?

joshua_persky.top.jpgHear the "Sign Board Guy's" story in his own words. By Jessica Dickler, staff writer


NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- "I do not want to be known as the 'Sign Board Guy,'" Joshua Persky, 51, says.

But after making headlines across the globe in 2008, it's hard to shed the image that became synonymous with a financial meltdown and ensuing recession.

Persky was an investment banker who found himself laid off in early 2008, though he expected he'd easily snag a new job with Bear Stearns. But then, in May, the investment house collapsed, taking most of Wall Street with it.

As layoffs mounted, Persky knew he needed to do something different to stand out in a sea of job seekers. "After being out of work for six months, I decided to do something a little more creative, so I put on a sign board and went out to Park Avenue to get some leads."

His sign, which read "Experienced MIT Grad For Hire" with his name and contact information, launched a media frenzy.

Despite only logging a few hours outside with his sign over the course of one week in June, the story spread around the globe.

But yet, no job offers.

It wasn't until after Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy in September that he finally got a job, with a New York City accounting firm. At the same time, Persky started writing a book on job hunting and sold the proposal to a major publisher.

"Everything was moving forward nicely," he says.

But the economy continued to sputter, and Persky was laid off after only five months.

"It's been a struggle of generational proportion," Persky says. "I had a nice run of 25-30 years of work until 2007."

Of course Persky was not alone; 8.7 million jobs were lost between 2008 and 2009, 543,000 of which were in financial services. The unemployment rate more than doubled from 4.7% the month before the start of the recession to a high of 10.1% in October of 2009 and has only recently nudged down to 8.8%.

Persky is one of the 13.5 million people still out of work in the U.S.

Aside from the short stint in an accounting firm, he also tried to start his own consulting business and even launched an iPhone app, but nothing has stuck.

Persky downsized substantially, even staying with his sister temporarily before moving to a smaller apartment in New York. He collects unemployment, picks up consulting projects when he can and keeps his expenses low, while working on his newest business idea.

Now, he is trying to get a digital displays business off the ground. His company, called Twisplays, makes LED signs that show real-time Twitter streams for use in stores, restaurants, offices or trade shows.

And even though economic conditions in the U.S. have improved since his days with a sign board, Persky is now struggling to find a retail customer or investor to support his new business.

Still, he his hopeful his latest venture will help him back on his feet. "I will get there," he says. To top of page

Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Overnight Avg Rate Latest Change Last Week
30 yr fixed4.07%4.28%
15 yr fixed3.18%3.26%
5/1 ARM3.36%3.43%
30 yr refi4.05%4.21%
15 yr refi3.17%3.18%
Rate data provided
by Bankrate.com
View rates in your area
 
Find personalized rates:
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 17,098.45 18.88 0.11%
Nasdaq 4,580.27 22.58 0.50%
S&P 500 2,003.37 6.63 0.33%
Treasuries 2.34 0.01 0.39%
Data as of 4:27pm ET
Company Price Change % Change
Bank of America Corp... 16.09 0.08 0.50%
Apple Inc 102.50 0.25 0.24%
Intel Corp 34.92 0.27 0.78%
Facebook Inc 74.82 0.96 1.31%
General Electric Co 25.98 -0.03 -0.12%
Data as of Aug 29

Sections

The deal would value Vice at $2.5 billion. The online media company would also create content for the cable network, delivering a wider audience. More

Gas prices are falling to nearly $3 a gallon in some parts of South Carolina, and that will soon be common in much of the country. More

Netflix told the FCC that its speed on the Comcast network became so slow that customers began dropping their service. More

The Coolest Cooler is the most successful Kickstarter campaign in the site's history, raising $13.3 million from over 62,000 backers. More

Five CNNMoney readers share stories about saving that you can learn from: What they would do differently if they had another chance. More

Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.