Burnt out and stuck - from a low performing Asso 3

Associate 3 in BB, definitely know IB isn't for me and pretty sure I won't get promoted but way too burnt out + depressed + major health issues to dig myself out of this hole.  

I'll be transparent here - I totally suck. Let it be due to sub-par intelligence or stamina (actually, both) but for some reason I started out as a high performing junior then slowly settled into becoming probably one of the least impressive performer of my class. Had definitely not seen this coming when I was starting out. 

I seriously considered just quitting and taking a break like a thousand times over the last year or so just for the sake of my mental health but given I'll probably have weak references and being still pretty junior, I don't think I'll have it easy coming back to the job market. Yeah, I've had therapy for the last few years but still feel pretty hopeless. 

My self esteem is so low I can't even dare make plans on finding other jobs - I've searched far and wide but it seems the only options open to me are either PE, or on the flip side some random sub-200k jobs that won't even have terrific WLB either. Tbh I'm self aware enough to know I probably won't make it in PE let alone like it, but I try anyway given they're the only roles recruiters still call me for. Of course I've never landed any offers.

And no, I definitely don't have some forgotten passion in anything "more meaningful" that I've somehow miraculously hidden away over the last c.6 years in banking.

I know I'm being an utter loser here but I'm totally broken and posting here just to rant - anyone in/have been in the same rut? Completely stretched thin and feel any kind of casual advice would help 

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Comments (14)

May 9, 2022 - 8:57am
diverse_kanga, what's your opinion? Comment below:

This is all very negative talk. Happens to all of us but first step is identifying your perspective is negative and then trying to flip that. Would recommend finding an outlet outside work that gives you enjoyment. Your work performance is obviously being affected by your mood and state of mind, which becomes a feedback loop. Try not to dwell on it too much and remember at the end of the day, you're exchanging your time for money, which is still more than the vast majority will ever earn. 

May 9, 2022 - 9:55am
hobojoe626, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Not in IB and still in college so keeping this general (take a grain of salt) but hope it helps.

One of the above comments hits well by saying this is very negative talk. Common to go through this feedback loop when feeling depressed and stuck but take a second to recognize what you do have rather than what you don't. Very easy to get caught up in this wishful thinking headspace where we focus on all the things in life we wish had happened vs the things we do have. Take some time off if you're able and spend time just doing anything other than work (don't even think about exit opps or other jobs) just exist and be present. The right opportunity for you will come, you just have to be willing to make some change/sacrifice in order to get there. Look for the job that pays decent (sub 200k for good WLB is great if you can find one)

I'm not gonna try to give specific advice cause I have not been in this position before, but a good quote that gets me through some times is "if you can't beat fear, do it scared". I know you're a mix of emotions, but you also sound scared on what life is like w/o IB or the benefits that come from it. Take some time, you'll be alright. It works out in the end. Hell, you may be looking back at this 5 years from now and be glad that your life took you down this route because you couldn't imagine it any other way. Out of this may come gratitude and self love you never thought you had.

May 9, 2022 - 10:15am
Deo et Patriae, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Associate 3 in IB - Cov

Associate 3 in BB, definitely know IB isn't for me and pretty sure I won't get promoted but way too burnt out + depressed + major health issues to dig myself out of this hole.  

I'll be transparent here - I totally suck. Let it be due to sub-par intelligence or stamina (actually, both) but for some reason I started out as a high performing junior then slowly settled into becoming probably one of the least impressive performer of my class. Had definitely not seen this coming when I was starting out. 

I seriously considered just quitting and taking a break like a thousand times over the last year or so just for the sake of my mental health but given I'll probably have weak references and being still pretty junior, I don't think I'll have it easy coming back to the job market. Yeah, I've had therapy for the last few years but still feel pretty hopeless. 

My self esteem is so low I can't even dare make plans on finding other jobs - I've searched far and wide but it seems the only options open to me are either PE, or on the flip side some random sub-200k jobs that won't even have terrific WLB either. Tbh I'm self aware enough to know I probably won't make it in PE let alone like it, but I try anyway given they're the only roles recruiters still call me for. Of course I've never landed any offers.

And no, I definitely don't have some forgotten passion in anything "more meaningful" that I've somehow miraculously hidden away over the last c.6 years in banking.

I know I'm being an utter loser here but I'm totally broken and posting here just to rant - anyone in/have been in the same rut? Completely stretched thin and feel any kind of casual advice would help 

Have you considered corporate/commercial banking? I know a few former IB folks who traded the lower comp and prestige (sometimes involuntarily) of IB for significantly lower hours and less stress in corporate/commercial banking. Anecdotally, all of the former IB people I know who transitioned into corporate/commercial banking are crushing it and seem to be happier.

May 12, 2022 - 6:46pm
BoBandy, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I've wondered about commercial banking as a Plan Z if I get fatigued by M&A. It feels like IBers and PE folks would be able to jump in and take laps up the ladder but I'm also not sure how true that really is. The comp cut is brutal, too. Do you have a good idea of how much your friends are making and what their work days consist of? How fast or slow did they move up and where did they begin?

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May 9, 2022 - 1:56pm
Isaiah_53_5 💎🙌💎🙌💎, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Sounds like you need a vacation to reset. Good luck. Also, remember it will probably take a lot more effort to start anew versus staying put. 

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

Most Helpful
May 10, 2022 - 5:11pm
Zann, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Do not underestimate the impact of burnout.

I previously worked for a firm where the culture and WLB were so horrendous that I truly began to lose IQ points. Between the relentless lack of sleep, the crippling stress, the bureaucratic pageantry and the constant, unjustified condescension from those senior to me, the quality of my work became abysmal. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy. I started to triple-guess everything I did and would often end up mentally seizing in situations both simple and complex. I remember rereading sentences 2-4 times and realizing the fourth time that I still had no idea what I had just read. I lost all confidence in myself professionally and personally.

My four-year relationship came to a head, I put on some weight, and I decided I was stupid. I was terse with people that loved me, then I hated myself for being cold and abrasive. I spoke with an Army recruiter. Once per week I googled "I want to kill myself" just to reread whatever nondescript arguments the internet had against doing it.

I'm going to remind you of the things that I wish I had been reminded of two years ago:

Nothing is intellectually beyond your grasp with the proper motivation. You are good enough to do whatever you want to do. You made it into banking, you made associate and you are still there today. There are people in your life that love you and admire what you have been able to achieve thus far.

You need to take a break. After that, you probably need to go elsewhere (be it lateraling to another bank, exiting to the buyside, or even something like corp. dev.). I'm confident that you will kill it wherever you go. I do not think much will change if you continue running on this hamster wheel. Stop placing so much emphasis on pay and stop freezing yourself out of the hiring process. FWIW, I took a haircut when I first left the aforementioned role and I've never looked back. Everything will be alright, just remember that you are young and have already done great things.

May 10, 2022 - 5:38pm
arbjunkie, what's your opinion? Comment below:

do whatever you can to take a week, or ideally 2 weeks, off to recharge.

then get to work immediately on recruiting for a new role.

not clear whether you are an A2A 5-6 years in or a post-MBA 3 years in, but either way you should be in a good spot to get a corp dev job at ~manager/sr manager level, or corp strategy if you prefer but somewhat hard to achieve. should be very doable to get out of IB with a solid role in F500

May 10, 2022 - 6:30pm
eloquence, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Ask your firm for 2 weeks off, or even a month unpaid that way you get a real break without an employment gap. Don't do anything for the first week or two, just relax and stay off your work phone. Use the back half to figure out what you want to do next and start hitting the trail to get there.

I really think corp dev or corp strategy is the right place to recover from burnout - find a firm that's not super acquisitive where it's mostly 40-50 hour weeks. Pay is not everything when you're going to get so burned out you'll quit.

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May 10, 2022 - 7:32pm
CompBanker, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Yikes. Tough situation but the good news is that you're in a very appealing spot to end up some place that makes you happy. A few things to keep in mind:

1 - The associate role is not materially different from the analyst role in terms of success factors. If you started out as a high performing junior then you most definitely have the intelligence and capability to be successful. The most likely answer here is strictly burnout / fatigue. Totally fair, 6 years of analyst / associate is a GRIND.

2 - Associate is still a junior role where your primary responsibilities include both creating and overseeing document production. This is a vastly different skillset from what is needed to be a successful VP / Director / MD. Can you isolate your underperformance to a specific aspect of the job? Is it attention to detail? Is it the long hours that wear you out? Is it that you're just sick of iterating through 1000x versions of the same document? All of these things will change as you become more senior. I encourage you to take a look at your VP / D / MD and ask yourself - would you be successful and enjoy that role?

3 - If the answer to #1 above is no, you still have some soul searching to do before you start looking for other roles. I wouldn't recommend you do PE with your current attitude. If you go into a new job expecting to fail, it will almost definitely become a self-fulfilling prophecy. As diverse_kanga says above, you're stuck in a negative feedback loop and you need to find a way to break this. You need some 'wins' under your belt. Finding a hobby or project that you enjoy and are good at could be a good way to break the loop.

4 - If your state of mind and work situation hasn't improved after the above, it probably does make sense to start evaluating next steps. I recommend you do it on your own terms though - don't wait until your bank is walking you out the door to start looking for a new job. Right now you have flexibility and a significant paycheck - take advantage of that to be picky when evaluating your next role.

If you determine that you really need a break altogether, consider applying for an MBA. While I normally wouldn't recommend this for someone who just wants 'out,' your profile (based on work experience) would most likely put you in a decent position for a scholarship at a great school. The average age in my matriculating class at Booth was 28. I started my MBA with 6 years of experience, including 2 in IB and 4 in PE, 2 of which were in a post-MBA role. You would be only a year behind where I was if you apply this fall. Plus, once you get in, you could always quit your job right away (in December) and take 9 months to recharge before classes begin the following Fall. It is a bit extreme and probably wouldn't work for everyone, but you sound like you want out but still want to preserve your career.

I know you were just ranting, but give some thought to the ideas posted here in this thread. Lots of good advice that could help you get back on track.

Mentorship with CompBanker: https://www.RossettiAdvisors.com

  • 8
May 10, 2022 - 7:47pm
2rigged2fail, what's your opinion? Comment below:

there was no better time in my life when I took time off work. I've done It twice now. gardening leave (3 months) and another ~3 month stint off two years prior. seriously, getting 10 hours a sleep/exercising/pottering around/playing games all day was magnificent.

  • 1
May 10, 2022 - 8:28pm
Isaiah_53_5 💎🙌💎🙌💎, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Yeah I need a lot of sleep. I value work life balance more now in my 30s than I did in my 20s. 

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

May 12, 2022 - 7:52pm
chief_hoss, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Take a week off > drive to some quiet, inconceivably beautiful place > consume a couple grams of mushroooms > realize your ego has been beaten to a pulp, that perspective is entirely in your control, and the job at hand does not deserve your stress > Take newfound ability to experience life back to the desk and start turning the things that are in your control around (meditation, diet, exercise, recreational learning, weekend activities, etc).

or read self-help books until you find the one that clicks with you, but that's less fun

- 12 Rules for Life - Jordan Peterson

- The Way, the Enemy, and the Key - Ryan Holiday 

- Power of Now

May 15, 2022 - 5:48pm
Cheese Couch, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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