Losing Steam - Get out or switch course?

I come from an underdog background (non-target, middle class family) and clawed every inch through my career in BB Lev Fin and MF Credit arm. Never took any of my decent success for granted. I easily transitioned to VP/Principal at the MF, making good money and living a solid lifestyle. But I felt like learning curve flattened quite a bit and increasingly massive asset gathering + indiscriminate deployment model made the investing work less interesting. I was basically on auto-pilot in my last year there. So, wanted to try on different speeds and be scrappy so joined a <$1B HF with a distressed/special sits strategy. I do feel like this move reset the learning curve a bit higher, but I still don't feel the hunger and day 1 mentality I felt when I first broke in to the industry and then climbed massive learning curves. 

I am constantly interested in business and investing - I crave learning about new ideas in business whether it's through reading books and company reports, plugging into blogs/podcasts, talking business with friends, and listening to smart investors pitch. I am intellectually curious and will gladly read Buffett one minute and switch to bitcoin the next. I would do this all in my own time for joy. However, I really dread opening up the model to update valuation thoughts for my PM on some middle market industrial distributor and hopping on yet another fruitless expert call. Reading a bunch of credit agreements and indentures, the same feeling. It all just feels like life is too short for this. 

By no means do I feel like I've already mastered the trade and there is no more to learn. But each day I become less motivated and feel guilty for feeling this way. Unclear to me and not sure what questions I need to ask myself to understand (1) if this is a burnout and I need a break/go do an MBA; (2) if I'm just tired of looking at junky middle market credits, when I should be in a upside-oriented asset class like equities or VC; (3) if institutional investing is not for me and I need to pivot, but I keep telling myself that this is a really nice life track that a "20 y/o me" would have been very impressed to see and I should be careful about walking away from it all. On (3), I really don't see what other corporate job comes close to the intellectual diversity and renumeration that HFs provide - most of these "strategy" or "corp dev" type jobs look even more monotonous and repetitive than mine. If (3) is the right diagnosis, I'm thinking I need to go acquire a small business and try my hands on being on my own.

Anyone in their late 20s/early 30s feeling this way? What have you considered doing to combat this type of motivation loss? 

Sorry this is sort of a directionless post… but that's kind of how I feel right now.

Region

Comments (10)

May 2, 2022 - 9:12pm
dickthesellsider, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I only read the 3rd paragraph. Definitely don't do (1) yet. 

Solve it backwards: figure out what your long-term goal by understanding all your options and the pros and cons (spoiler alert: nothing is perfect) and then figure out the simplest route (not the easier, just least number of steps) to get there. 

  • Associate 2 in PE - LBOs
May 2, 2022 - 9:15pm

I keep telling myself that this is a really nice life track that a "20 y/o me" would have been very impressed to see and I should be careful about walking away from it all.

The one thing I can offer you after reading your post is to tell you, it's ok to change. You don't need to accept a comfortable but unfulfilling future just because in your previous life you would have imagined where you currently are as the be-all-end-all and/or good enough that you should not look a gift horse in the mouth. The fact that you're thinking about this, posting about it, etc., means that you what you are feeling is real, so I do think you should do something about it. Best of luck in fact finding to figure out what would be best for you to pivot to next. Be ok with trying new things and maybe even those don't keep you happy forever. C'est la vie baby. Go live life. That's okay. Doesn't always need to be about optimizing for anything other than what you think will keep you entertained and/or make you happy. You have enough skills to just try things all you want and keep making $X00k until you die which, if that's your floor - not bad.

May 2, 2022 - 11:31pm
FinancelsWacc, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I keep telling myself that this is a really nice life track that a "20 y/o me" would have been very impressed to see and I should be careful about walking away from it all.

You don't need to accept a comfortable but unfulfilling future just because in your previous life you would have imagined where you currently are as the be-all-end-all and/or good enough that you should not look a gift horse in the mouth.

Look at it this way... if right now you're at the pinnacle of what 20 year old you thought life could be... by the very definition you can't even IMAGINE what the next 5, 10, 20, 30 years are going to look like. Don't get me wrong you'll 100% be down in life at some point, but if 20 year old you couldn't even imagine much past 28 year old you... why not trust that leap of faith and see if you can run it back a few times?

May 3, 2022 - 11:09am
starnorthbs, what's your opinion? Comment below:

So much of this resonates, especially how you describe your interests and the crossroads you're at. OP, please PM if you want to connect outside the site - I could use an extra perspective to think this through.

May 3, 2022 - 11:16am
Scurvecap, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Ha this resonated, felt this exact burn out a few years ago. Highly recommend b-school as the perfect reset 

Most Helpful
May 5, 2022 - 12:10am
yahoo, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I think this is good advice so far and I think its worth pointing out that you're in a great seat and still learning a ton so just take a deep breath. Your situation sounds very similar to what I experienced at that age so hopefully I can empathize and provide some a perspective (unfortunately late 30s at this point) that is helpful.

At a high level, it is worthwhile to reflect on how much of your life fulfillment / satisfaction you expect to get from your job vs. other sources in your life. If you work 80hrs a week, it becomes pretty necessary to get fulfillment from your job to sustain you because you have so little time in the rest of your life. If you are only working 50hrs a week, you have a lot more flexibility to pursue hobbies / passions / relationships / friendships / et al...In the latter case, you just have a lot more flexibility. On top of that, it is worth asking yourself how much of your time in your job needs to be time spent doing stuff that makes you happy vs. neutral vs. unhappy. This is a different equation for everyone. For perspective, I have found that if I get as little as 25pct of my work in stuff I truly love, but I work <50hrs a week, then I can be super happy. In that world, I get enough satisfaction from work to be content and a ton of freedom to feel fulfilled from other time. Also - if you work with people you like and are personally connect with, it is an absolute game changer (toxic co-workers can nuke everything). Currently, I'd say I work around 50hrs per week, love about 50pct of my work, personally connected with co-workers and its great.

On the specifics of your situation, I would stay where you are and try to reorient yourself towards the parts of the job you truly love and focus on absorbing / building new skills in the meantime. It would also be helpful to try to increasingly put yourself in a situation where you feel like you own the outcomes and connect your work to the investment results / performance. Ideally you can eventually more tangibly tie your responsibilities to a junior PM / seat tied to risk where you are which will help scratch some of the entrepreneurial itch. I cannot tell the nature of your relationship to your PM and maybe that just means you two haven't gotten there yet, but I think it is super important and might require more introspection on how you expect that to develop going forward (is this a mentor who cares about you and your career vs. is this someone who views you as talented commodity).

I would highly advise against pursuing an MBA. I think it is a complete cop out for you. An MBA makes sense for career tracks where it is required to advance (Consulting / PE) or for those who need a complete career switch (Teachers / Non-Profits / et al...). I say this as someone who got an MBA (if it wasn't obvious from my touchy / feely takes on life fulfillment) because I similarly felt frustrated and tired at work in a similar situation. For me, it was a great break personally, but it did zilch for a career in this space and  just confirmed that I actually loved what I was doing pre-MBA and I couldn't wait to get back to it.

In terms of switching away from an easy track, the grass is always greener. I have done both (high stability / pay with low upside and low stability / pay with good upside) and my preference between the two is highly correlated to performance. Everyone with stability frets about upside and optionality until they experience the pain of a few years with mediocre pay due to performance issues.

Hopefully this helps and is not too drawn out. Feel free to PM if you'd like to provide more specifics and I can provide more perspective as well.

Edit: stop worrying about what 20yr old you would think of your situation. 20yr olds have zero perspective and are clueless.

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
May 6, 2022 - 12:11am

(2) if I'm just tired of looking at junky middle market credits, when I should be in a upside-oriented asset class like equities or VC; 

- have to echo this. looks like im not alone in this. i'm not buying the strategy of buying it cheap and creating value through active management in those dead end business. what am i missing? at the end of the day, ask yourself, do you believe in the strategy, what are you learning (or if you are learning at all) at your current seat, is your future compensation aligned with the fund performance (if so you have to believe in the strategy and have to be good at it)

I'm doing something similar to you and i hate my life every day wondering if i should move to L/S even just leave finance, and know that it will be a tough transition that prob in the long run won't get paid more in total... i view our business is very relationship heavy and less so about industry knowledge, opportunities come from sponsors make some mistakes or one time shock the businesses experience (is it really a management mistake or did they overpay for a dead end business, why do you think you can run it better)

May 6, 2022 - 1:40am
attentionisallyouneed, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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