The summer vacation is inevitably a time to consider one’s future. But as many senior deal makers do just that, they may be disappointed by the limited options open to them at the moment.

The thing about going on vacation is it’s rarely a true time to switch off. If anything, while the body is relaxing around the swimming pool, the mind is whirling faster than usual over present and future career options.

For many senior deal professionals at real estate opportunity funds, there is currently more reason than usual to do just that. The stark economic reality is that many of the groups they work for are out of carry. Rather than concentrating so much on buying new assets, their funds are still in workout mode trying to stabilise and improve values of what they already have.  

The choice hungry deals people have isn’t easy. It is to either stick around knowing the promote has vanished and isn’t coming back, take a risk by joining another firm, or even try to set up on their own.

Getting this kind of decision right is tough at the best of times, and right now, according to one headhunter PERE spoke to recently, the opportunities for dealmakers are fewer than they might have hoped for.

This is partly because at the moment, nervousness about the macro economic outlook globally is preventing firms from pursuing recruitment drives. “We are not working on opportunistic hires,” says the headhunter.

Instead, the headhunter reports that firms are recruiting “hole-fillers”, or to those that service “real needs”. These include roles such as investor relations professionals and chief financial officers – roles that have close relationships with capital sources. Asset management skills are also in demand. “But opportunistic hiring isn’t going to happen for a while,” the recruiter predicts.

Second, for those considering branching out on their own, there is clearly still difficulty in the fundraising arena. Trying to raise equity at this time as a first-time fund manager is practically a non-starter given LPs requirements for stability, a demonstrable track record, and so on.

In the short term the best a deal-craving real estate person without an active fund already in place can hope for is to source deals and try to find a financial backer on an asset-by-asset basis, or even become an advisor to an investor instead.

In addition to these challenges, some dealmakers might also worry about being perceived to be a rat for deserting a sinking ship instead of fighting on when the going gets tough.

Most people through 2009, according to our headhunter source, just kept their heads down and stayed at their respective firms. This summer, as we move through 2010, it might well be the same.

In the current climate, pondering career moves by the pool may well be a futile exercise. With that in mind, it’s probably wise to lose yourself in a good book for your vacation – you may well be in need of a distraction. 

Happy holidays.