Associate to Senior Associate (stay vs. potential lateral + timing)

Hey all — pretty niche question here but I’m sure others have thought this through. Curious about perspectives and/or experiences.

Basically, I’m a 2nd-year Associate at a MF thinking through next steps. Current firm is a grind, but I like the people and am learning a lot. I would seriously consider staying on if offered the Senior Associate position. That said, the firm is pretty “2 and out,” and only ~10% of Associates are offered the Senior Aso promo (some self select out for biz school/leave finance). I have gotten good reviews and signaled my interest in staying on after the 2 years. As expected, the feedback was positive but caveated with all the standard outs like uncertainty around budget, need for continued performance, etc. Certainly not guaranteed given historical promo rates.

The challenge is that the timeline for finding out whether I get the Senior Aso promo is December/early next year (standard every year). Meanwhile, some solid UMM funds/their HHs have reached out about Senior Associate roles. I have no interest in lateraling before the end of my 2 Associate years, but a couple of these firms/HHs have said they’d be open to next summer starts (i.e. after the end of my Associate program).

They want to chat in the near-term, and if I get an offer, I think I’d have to make a decision well before I expect to learn whether I am offered the promotion at my current firm.

It’s tricky because it would be a tough call between the options even if I had both the promotion and one of the hypothetical offers in hand (though would prob stay at current firm given the people and slightly better brand/more developed platform). Even trickier though because the Senior Associate promotion isn’t guaranteed whereas the Senior Associate role would be if I secure one of these offers.

Has anyone been in this position? How did you think about it? If I take these interviews and get an offer, could I leverage that with my current firm to get an answer re the promotion sooner (e.g. “I’d prefer to stay here but need to know if that’s an option”) or would telling them I’ve interviewed be a death sentence for promotion possibility?

Sorry for the essay and appreciate any thoughts!


Hey there! It sounds like you're in a bit of a pickle. It's great that you're considering all your options and thinking ahead.

From the experiences shared in the WSO threads, it seems like a common dilemma for many in your position. The decision to stay on as a Senior Associate or to explore lateral opportunities is indeed a double-edged sword. On one hand, getting the title at a reputable shop can add to your credentials and keep you competitive. On the other hand, the more senior you get, the harder it is to come by lateral opportunities.

If you're at a shop with less market awareness/reputation, it's understandable why a Senior Associate might look more aggressively for lateral opportunities at bigger shops. Once they get the title bump, it might just be harder for them to move around given their competition.

As for the timing, it's less structured for these roles. Things open up as per the requirement of firms. It's good to be in touch soon with the recruiters and tell them you’re not planning to go to business school and looking at senior associate roles. The process is going to be more drawn out over the course of weeks and not what you see for pre-MBA roles. Some lateral firms will make you do a 3rd year as an associate with them before officially promoting you.

In terms of leveraging an offer with your current firm, it's a delicate situation. It could potentially speed up their decision, but it could also backfire if they perceive it negatively. It's a risk you'll have to assess based on your understanding of the firm's culture and your relationship with the decision-makers.

Remember, we're still young! A couple more years anywhere isn't going to stop you from achieving what you're set out to do. Good luck with your decision!

Sources: Senior Associate Recruiting - Timeline for Recruiter Outreach, Confessions of a former second year IB Analyst, Associates who started as analysts: Why did you stay in IB?, A2A vs Buyside - Should I stay in banking?

I'm an AI bot trained on the most helpful WSO content across 17+ years.

Do you really think going out and getting a competing offer will make your partners think differently of you after working at the firm for 1.5 years? You’re talking about subverting an established process to try and force their hand. I’d tread carefully.

It’s usually clear who the top performers are. They get clear signs that the partners are grooming them and intend to keep them around. If you feel like you’re on the edge and it’s your top choice, I’d stick to my guns and see it through. You only have a few months left before you hear their decision and the other opportunities will always come and go.


No, I don’t think it’s going to change how they think about me. My sense is that they think positively. I do think there is a world where I could get greater/earlier clarity about whether I have 3rd year offer though. If they want me to stay, I think it’s a reasonable set up and not a crazy ask. Agree sensitive and maybe not advisable though, so appreciate your perspective.

Would say that it’s less clear/no strong signals for anyone on my team though. A few of us want to stay. Think it’s close call. Have gotten good signals but typically pretty measured/professional, and lots of hedging about external factors, the market, budget, fundraising, etc for all of us.


I agree with the above, they are not going to give you more clarity because you ask or come to them with an offer in hand, and I would recommend not asking. It sounds like you are on the edge, not a top or bottom performer where they would have given you a clear answer.

Personally I would start chatting with HHs but be very selective. 10% is not great odds and it's not going to be a huge budget year given the market. 


Voluptas consectetur cumque et est sit quibusdam impedit quas. Molestiae vel consectetur fuga est. Aliquam sunt sequi quam et beatae. Occaecati maxime eius corrupti ut voluptatem iure enim.

Vel velit harum hic adipisci. Dicta corrupti velit eaque ipsam et maiores perspiciatis. Et non cumque dicta in. Consequatur deleniti molestias et dolore voluptatem quae placeat.

Et et tenetur quo sed quia quam. Eos culpa ea mollitia praesentium in.

Career Advancement Opportunities

November 2023 Private Equity

  • The Riverside Company 99.5%
  • Warburg Pincus 99.0%
  • Blackstone Group 98.4%
  • KKR (Kohlberg Kravis Roberts) 97.9%
  • Bain Capital 97.4%

Overall Employee Satisfaction

November 2023 Private Equity

  • The Riverside Company 99.5%
  • Blackstone Group 98.9%
  • KKR (Kohlberg Kravis Roberts) 98.4%
  • Ardian 97.9%
  • Bain Capital 97.4%

Professional Growth Opportunities

November 2023 Private Equity

  • The Riverside Company 99.5%
  • Bain Capital 99.0%
  • Warburg Pincus 98.4%
  • Blackstone Group 97.9%
  • Starwood Capital Group 97.4%

Total Avg Compensation

November 2023 Private Equity

  • Principal (8) $676
  • Director/MD (22) $599
  • Vice President (88) $361
  • 3rd+ Year Associate (87) $277
  • 2nd Year Associate (198) $267
  • 1st Year Associate (378) $229
  • 3rd+ Year Analyst (28) $157
  • 2nd Year Analyst (81) $133
  • 1st Year Analyst (239) $123
  • Intern/Summer Associate (32) $82
  • Intern/Summer Analyst (307) $59
16 IB Interviews Notes

“... there’s no excuse to not take advantage of the resources out there available to you. Best value for your $ are the...”


From 10 rejections to 1 dream investment banking internship

“... I believe it was the single biggest reason why I ended up with an offer...”