Burned out at dream job - time for a change?

Would love some honest feedback on my situation... 

I have worked as a post-MBA equity analyst at a top LO (Cap, Fido, Welly, TROW, D&C) for about a decade. I have always thought that I would stay at my current firm until retirement, but over the last few years I have become extremely burned out. My performance has struggled recently, which in this profession means more stress, more hours, and less pay. While my numbers aren’t poor enough to get pushed out (and I am very well regarded internally despite recent struggles), I am concerned that a couple years of bad performance 1) puts a ceiling on my comp for the next 3-5 years, and 2) decreases the probability of promotion to PM. While it’s not essential to me to become a PM, I find myself less engaged and less fulfilled by my work. I have also been feeling more of the negatives of the centralized research structure whereas earlier in my career it felt like more of a positive - I used to enjoy the autonomy and the multitude of smart investors to learn from, but now I just feel like I have to hold everyone’s hand and explain too many things to too many people. Really I just feel like I’ve become an internal sell side analyst and I’ve hit a wall in my development. I am not someone who can keep doing a job just for the money - I need to feel challenged and engaged. 

I have increasingly been thinking about taking on a new role at a different firm. One opportunity I am looking at is an associate PM role on a small team with a style that fits my strengths, but the comp is lower and the firm is less prestigious (though still well regarded). The idea of doing something new (even for less money) is exciting to me, but I don’t want to fall for a “grass is always greener” philosophy only to find out later that the problem is not with my job but with me. I am very interested to hear people’s honest thoughts on burnout, how you deal with it, how to know when it’s time to move on (especially if you’re in what you thought was your dream job), and whether you think I’m crazy to consider leaving – much appreciated. 

It's not an easy decision, you're in a forever job if you want it. I'm sure you've already meticulously evaluated the pros and cons of each scenario. There's likely still a lot of uncertainty so you'll only know in hindsight if it was the right decision to stay or leave. If you do leave, try not to second guess yourself and really try to make your decision the right choice. 

Turnover is low at LOs for good reason and that low turnover creates immense pressure to stay. Why leave if no one else does -- is something wrong with me? And because it's a coveted role with limited seats, it makes you want to stay even more. "Other people want what I have!" (I think this can be a trap). Where I am, most of the time traffic is one way and people typically don't leave except if they retire, find a seat at another LO, have consistently bad long-term results, or do something unethical that hurts the firm's reputation. It is basically against consensus to leave "early".


Comp is notoriously secretive in this industry which is why it's hard to find data points. From a high level, post-MBA equity analyst will go from about $400K to $1M over 5-7 years depending on performance, and then $1M+ with upside to $3M on a truly stellar year. The highest-paid analyst likely makes more than the lowest-paid PM at most if not all of the top shops.

Thanks for sharing this information! I hate to even ask any other details because you came to this forum with your own questions, but would this sort of comp path be true for high yield analysts as well at these top firms? Again, sorry to even ask, but data points are scarce. I do sincerely hope you’re able to resolve the burnout you’re experiencing!

If you don't like having a bad year as an analyst, imagine how that's going to feel as a PM. You even said it, you've got a decade of experience, and people still regard you highly despite a bad year or two, and it's still tough. But imagine what it's like when your fund isn't performing, and you need to turn it around. It's not an easy situation, but you need to do it, because you need to answer to the investors. And you'll have to work twice as hard, and do your job twice as well as you normally do when your confidence is at it's lowest. Everyone eventually has a bad year. But if your problem is that you're bored, and you think you'd do better in a risk taking role, then yeah do it. Some of us will never be happy doing analysis and making recommendations. But remember when you have trigger power, you also have no safety net. It's your call and it can blow up. So just make sure you're comfortable with that.

Thank you for the honest answer. I mention the recent performance struggles from the perspective that it makes the timing of a change incrementally more attractive for me to do now since there will be a ceiling on comp and internal mobility for the next few years. The core motivation for a change isn't performance adversity (I've had plenty of ups and downs over my career) but more being burned out on the centralized research model. I start to imagine the benefits of being on a small team where I can still utilize my strengths as an investor and not have to manage so many internal relationships and expectations, but then I worry that I'm falling for a "grass is greener" trap hence the dilemma. New role can still be as an analyst - I don't feel any need to be a PM but would embrace the new challenges and engagement that would come with it.

I get the desire for a small team.

There are a lot of recurring internal meetings, calls, and requests that you get looped into that reduce your independence and disrupt the research process. Maybe it's weekly meetings, monthly fund review or you're asked to contribute some work/analyses to an internal project, etc. Or it's 5 PMs pinging you for different things all the time.

The job is not purely investment research.


Do it.

Everyone worries about the risk of losing what you have. But did you consider the risk of not doing anything, and still doing what you're doing in 10 years? Or worse yet, doing it until you're 50, and getting cut because the firm has a bad year? If you think you're capable of more, and you can afford to take the risk, you gotta go for it. That's my 2 cents, but free advice is worth what you paid. Good luck.

I would not take a less prestigious firm for a perceived “promotion” to an associate PM. There could be a scenario where not only are you making less initially, you will make less consistently and then you will be frustrated by all the other issues at a lesser shop and there are probably many - especially over promising on pay then coming up short year after year. Next thing you know you are a journeyman bouncing from tier 2 shops.  Is there something else you may want to do at your current firm? Some kind of different assignment? Maybe you should take a grad school courses in an area that may interest you, do it online or locally if possible at a top uni? Do you have an interest in teaching? One of my friends who was a PM at DB arranged an adjunct role at his b-school alma mater and seemed to really energize him. Just some thoughts. Good luck. 

I honestly wouldn't be shocked if we worked at the same shop considering your mention of the phrase "centralized research platform" as many times as you do.

I work at one of the places you list and morale admittedly is pretty fucking poor, at least among junior staff. (The number of times I've been stopped and asked "Hey hon, how's morale?" is absolutely staggering and shows how much the company culture is deteriorating in equity, at least among some people.)

I think a lot of us are feeling more or less exactly what you are feeling. This space pushes you to believe things like "Think how good you have it" or "So many people would give their arm to have your job" etc., and so forth. Additionally, the pressure to stay is real as you mention. I grew up in the city where I work and I knew a lot of the people who work at my current company, and probably the number 1 thing that was mentioned again and again is the fact that so few people left or had to move from one company to another. 

Now, I'm a lot younger than you, so I don't have the same kind of experience you have, but I have had my own ups in downs in my career (and I've been lucky that much of it has been good so far), but the last year for me has been challenging too. I think many of my colleagues are similar to you in the sense that they want to get promoted to Analyst but can't and seeing the writing on the wall have chosen to leave. I read "Quit" by Annie Duke and it made me think deeply about why I should stay in my current role rather than leave, and really challenged me to think about the things that would make me leave and where I would go from there. 

I'd encourage you to put together some "quit criteria": things that would make you quit the company for sure, and map out your career if you stayed or left. I did this for myself about 3 months ago and decided that staying was the way to go for me. But if you quit, make sure you're quitting to get ahead, not meet what your comp ceiling for the next 3-5 years. 

Happy to talk more if interested. Again, you have bounties more experience than I do, so I don't know how much info I can send to you, but hopefully this helps!

Really appreciate your thoughts. Curious to hear more on why morale is so low at your firm. It may be hard to answer and keep anonymity so feel free to pass, but I wonder whether it's more market/industry related (volatile markets making clients jittery and myopic which adds pressure to PMs and filters down from there) or more firm specific?

Your reply reminds me of how easy it is in this job to lose track of the fact that everyone around us is likely going through similar issues, but no one speaks up because of the pressure to stay and perform well, creating a circularity of isolation. Great perspective. 

I think I can answer this but I think a certain (i.e., specific) byproduct of poor market conditions and firm outflows has kept seniors and mid-level people unhappy whose net worth is largely tied up in their partial ownership of the company. Additionally, juniors have been working really hard and don't see a pathway to the analyst level from the  associate level, largely due to over-hiring aa part of firm expansion during the pandemic. This is unlikely to be remedied anytime soon. This is a company that is extremely reticent to fire even its worst talent due to recruiting expenses and recruiting challenges. For reference it costs >>$30k (possibly closer to $50k now) to recruit a single post-MBA analyst where I work and many are reluctant to move some of the company's largest offices. 

I think this combination, where people are simply unable to progress in their careers due to a series of decisions by management to change the structure of the company in the short-term for ultimate long-term gains and who are weighed down by the poor quality of company outflows, that has made people across the firm uneasy about the future. Many think they work now far too hard for far too little gain going forward.

I felt the same way a couple of years ago. I started getting back into exercising more, trying new activities on the weekends, etc. which all increased my energy and revitalized my desire to go to work and try to lead others. 100% understand that your question is more career-change related but thought I would add my perspective since I was in a similar boat. Taking measures to re-energize myself made a huge difference in my overall mood and experience at work.

If the main reason you no longer enjoy your job is the centralized research model at your firm, that frankly isn't going to go away so I'd encourage you to leave for another seat. The boutique LOs that don't utilize a centralized research model will certainly have less AUM versus the top LOs but can still be very solid seats. My guess is that any shop with >US$1 billion in assets per investment professional should not be a meaningful step down in comp from the top LOs. You should be patient and wait for these opportunities to pop up. 

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