Boring personalities in PE. Is PE inherently soul crushing?

I recently had a final round at a MM PE firm (which I thought would be better than MF), and it felt like everybody was a carbon copy of each other. Same personality (or lack of), same NPC conversations "how's it going?" "living the dream", and same ugly company vest worn un-ironically. Not that diversity is very important to me, but the most diversity they had were the 3 woman EAs and 1 consultant on the deal team. 


Throughout the whole day, I could not help but shake off the fact that—working 5-days a week in-office with these people—I would likely turn into similar personalities.


I don't mind detaching work from personal life and have accepted that the purpose of work is not fulfillment. It's possible that the Associates and VPs I met have interesting, fulfilling lives outside of work (i.e., they turn into completely different people on weekends). But I don't know. 


Is losing personality / passion an inevitable consequence of working in PE? And am I wrong to consider this as a factor weighing against going into PE? 

 

I didn't mean the question in a disrespectful way. I'm just saying I noticed a lot of the people I interacted with seemed exceedingly boring, and I'm worried if I surround myself with such people, I too will become a shriveled version of myself. 

In fact, I am no different, and I already feel like a significantly more boring person than 2 years ago. 

I'm asking if this is a valid consideration.

 

Is $250k (MM PE firm) worth throwing my life away? Maybe I'm naive, but I wonder often if I dedicated 60-80 hours a week to just about anything, could I not make similar money? 

The flip side is once you get off "the path," it's hard to get back on, and I don't know if it would be a huge mistake (in terms of financial upside) to leave now. 

I'm very 50-50. I don't know what's the responsible course of action, and I don't know what I want to do with my life, but money certainly is important to me. 

 

You are absolutely not throwing your life away. Listen I know your 20s are full of uncertainty and doubt but just do me a favor and look before you jump. 60-80 hours as a junior in a good industry with many things to work on and people to learn from is about as good as it gets. Spend your spare time networking and see how the other half lives. Many people do way more for way less and they do it their whole lives not just their 20s. I’m not talking fry cooks I’m talking most corporate jobs. Staring out your window dreaming of spending those 80 hours on anything else sounds fine and dandy until you realize its not time commitment but rather the complete lack of structure that drives people mad.

 

Welcome to the real world. Not everything will be sunshine and rainbows. You’re there to build experience and make money. Nobody is going to treat you the same way during your interview as they will when you’re an employee. You’ll have no idea what it’s actually like until you work there 6 months.

 

Losing personality / passion is not really a PE thing, it’s a consequence of working in a white collar professional atmosphere and doing the same thing for many years. It’s also a consequence of getting older. I would venture a guess that they are different and sometimes more exciting people out of the office. I also don’t think it’s a given you could earn consistent, solid money working 60 - 80 hrs a week doing anything. Hard to advise without knowing more - what excites you and what is the passion you want to pursue? Working long hours in PE isn’t for everyone so that is something you will have to evaluate.

 

I'm going to respectfully disagree with some of the other responses above.

True, there's no guarantee that you can make good money, even if you work 60-80 hours a week, so perhaps that struck a nerve with some people. At the same time, realistically, I'm going to venture the fact that you're in IB means you went to a pretty solid college, you've got a work ethic better than the vast majority of people, and your 2 years in IB have given you far more experience than most people your age. Could you fail? You might. But you'll probably be just fine. 

As for your main question about boring personalities in PE, I think you might be asking the wrong group of people. It's like asking consultants "what do you actually do at work?" or lawyers "what excites you about your job?" You're not likely to get a straight answer. For a more genuine answer, why don't you ask your Hinge date you canceled on 3 times what they think about your "prestigious associate role at Bluepoint Capital" and how you're raising fund IV and how you really enjoy either 1) the global scale and impact of your MF, or 2) the amount of value creation you can achieve in the LMM

Are there genuinely exciting people in PE, who have meaningful relationships and do cool stuff outside work. 100%. At the same time, is working 14 hour days, 5-days in the office, + weekend work soul crushing? 100%. 

Not sure why people in this thread are trying to gaslight OP into thinking "oh it's just growing up." Maybe it's coping. 

 

I consistently work 80 hours a week and have 2 kids. I also get involved at the board level of a local charity. Any free time apart from family I devote to going to the gym or playing golf. Occasionally I go big on vacations and dinners with my wife / fam.

From any 20-something year-old's perspective, I am definitely boring. I totally get that. But wtf do you want from your older coworkers? Go clubbing until 3am? Organize a group trip with you to Ibiza?

 

The reality is as a senior, I could care less if an associate thinks I’m boring. I’m not going to spend a single second of my life trying to look interesting in the eyes of someone that has minimal significance in my life. We all have our priorities - they have theirs and I have mine (raising a family, a fund, bonuses, morale, just raising whatever), so to each their own. Lived long enough to realize the things I care about vs. noise, that’s all. In fact, I would purposefully portray a front to create some distance so that I retain the authority to take charge when I need to. OP is correct in that there is a professional/boring front we bring to work (regardless of seniorit), which is normal. It’s the basic social courtesy at work that you’re seeing at the surface level. You’ll see the variation of the same theme in most professions. Chances are the OP hasn’t got to know some of the people well enough, so perhaps too early to make a judgment? Just keep looking until you find your crew at work if it’s important to you.

 

I consistently work 80 hours a week and have 2 kids. I also get involved at the board level of a local charity. Any free time apart from family I devote to going to the gym or playing golf. Occasionally I go big on vacations and dinners with my wife / fam.

From any 20-something year-old's perspective, I am definitely boring. I totally get that. But wtf do you want from your older coworkers? Go clubbing until 3am? Organize a group trip with you to Ibiza?

I applaud you on this.  It is quite difficult of a thing to accomplish.  

 
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Dude people in PE suck. I don’t admire any single one of my bosses, and to be honest I kind of disrespect all of them. They have no life and I think the missed the point of being mortal in a short lifespan. You should optimize to make money insofar as it helps your freedom to pursue things you are excited and interested in. But creating multigenerational wealth so your d-bag grandson can pop champagne and work your way to the grave is the stupidest thing I have ever seen.

Some very senior partners with $50-150MM work so hard still. They love it. Its their personality. I get it. But what a waste of life from my perspective

Nicolas
 

Work at an institutional REPE shop and I feel the same way too. Only 2-3 honest people and the rest are always thinking how to fuck over tenants and get the most out of them. 

 

I would say the personality types you are exposed to heavily varies firm-to-firm. My current MDs are excellent to work with - thoughtful, self-aware, and always seeking out my feedback/ideas (FYI I am a 2nd year Associate). On the flip side, I have also worked with egoistical maniacs who were stubborn, arrogant, not receptive to feedback, etc.

If you are looking for variety, it makes sense why you wouldn’t expect to find it in PE. There are exceptions but the majority of people are coming from similar backgrounds with similar ambitions. You’ll find a much wider range of personalities working in an operational role, for example. I worked at a tech startup prior to PE and the difference in personalities was quite obvious looking across the departments of HR, Engineering, Finance, Sales, etc.

Overall I do empathize with your point about PE folks who neglect all other aspects of life in pursuit of their career. I certainly work hard in my role and there are periods of time where it can be very demanding. But you only have one spin on this earth and you never know when your time is going to come. I would never neglect what is most meaningful to me (family, close friends, etc.) for the sake of a job.

 

the vast majority of corporate america working 50hrs and making $100k are also extremely boring and dead. many of the cashiers at mcdonalds and supermarket checkout lines also look like walking zombies. With PE at least you can make a lot of money and call it quits when you want to/if you can bring yourself to shed the golden handcuffs. Other PE firms may also be different from the one you just interviewed with - I think it's too much of a generalization to say all PE people are boring and dead based on just one firm's interviewers.

 

I’m 35 with a wife, a kid, a dog, a garden, a mother/grandmother who wants me to call more, a sister/brother I should spend more time with, and a dozen decade+ long friendships I need to do a better job of nurturing. My free time is about 50% oversubscribed for the next decade

My goal at work is to get the job done well and therefore get my bills paid. I have very little interest in making personality connections with random analyst / associates. Especially now that I’ve seen dozens of them come and go. To the extent I have work relationships it’s going to be with peers and those slightly more senior than me because we have close shared experiences and built in context. 

Yes, pretty much everyone is different outside of work.

 

Believe it or not, my goal as a MF PE associate is also to get the job done well and therefore get my bills paid. As I'm sure is the case with 100% of other investment professionals in PE. Comment above is the exact "typical" PE VP robot response; acting like a normal person in day to day interactions with associates does not impede your ability to get the job done well whatsoever, most of the time people just use that as a crutch to justify their lack of personality, energy, and quite honestly, just being a good-hearted person towards people who work underneath you. Completely understand that if VPs+ have families and kids, they're often in a much different place in life with different priorities, and going clubbing with associates isn't anywhere near the top of that list. But that's a very dramatic example - trust me, the associates don't want to go clubbing with our VPs as well. But if we're going to be in your office to walk through a deck / talk through a business for 30 mins, can you at least act like a normal person for just maybe 30 seconds? Or at least crack a joke once every 6 months or so? 

To all you prospects or to you OP, this is like being a second or third year IB analyst and saying you have zero reason to justify ever giving a shit or being a "chill" person to interns or the entire first year analyst class below you for 2 years straight because they (and you) won't be around forever. If you're a normal person, having occasionally fun/interesting interactions with your first year class was not "difficult" at all and didn't require any kind of explicit effort. It was just a natural part of being a human. Now, I completely and absolutely get that things are different as people age (VPs with families aren't as collegial / fratty as the IB bullpen/environment, and it would be weird if they were), but that's sort of the best indirect comparison of how I would describe things.

So to answer your question OP - those "eccentric" characters you meet in other industries - that is never a thing in PE at least in reputable MM/UMM/MF funds in NYC. At least for me and essentially the ~25 other people I know in the industry.

 

Ehh if your bar for “personality” is telling a few jokes then sounds you like you need a new fund / team. I’m at MF and we routinely tell jokes, give updates on kids/pets, talk about hobbies (cycling, gardening, diving, etc) and all that 

Have worked at MBB and two Fortune 500s as well as things were largely the same just with more downtime. 

 

This is the type of personality I often associate with some of the high finance people I've met in recent years.

 

Cool - you sound like the typical analyst that still hasn’t accepted that working life ain’t a continuation of college. Good luck 

 

I’m 35 with a wife, a kid, a dog, a garden, a mother/grandmother who wants me to call more, a sister/brother I should spend more time with, and a dozen decade+ long friendships I need to do a better job of nurturing. My free time is about 50% oversubscribed for the next decade

My goal at work is to get the job done well and therefore get my bills paid. I have very little interest in making personality connections with random analyst / associates. Especially now that I’ve seen dozens of them come and go. To the extent I have work relationships it’s going to be with peers and those slightly more senior than me because we have close shared experiences and built in context. 

Yes, pretty much everyone is different outside of work.

This is probably the most accurate post there is.  One of the things as you venture onto the workforce (and become more senior) is that personal life and business (employment) are separated for that very reason.  

 

Comments are calling this guy an insufferable douche but I disagree. Everyone should always aim to work for guys like this that have a family and shit to do outside of work. There’s nothing worse than working under someone who has zero life, lives at the office and pretends to be one of the bros in the bull pen, expecting you to be like them. I’ve grown to love the show up, get shit done then leave culture. Makes life much easier than pretending to be buddies with everyone. 
 

 

OP you should see how a random corporate job's personalities are

you really think the audit department as an insurance company as exciting personalities?

or the risk department at a random bank?

is the grocery store floor staff full of exciting people?

perhaps a government job at city hall - you think those folk are exciting people?

adults are super boring and id argue people in PE/IB are somewhat more engaged and active in life than normal americans. ever seen DMV employees?

 

Agree with a lot of the responses above. I’ve worked at MF PE and UMM PE firms in my prior life and generally found people were pleasant to be around. Sure there are one-off crazies in any corporate setting, but most people that were there understood the ridiculousness of the job and had generally normal lives outside of work. I think people are overly critical on WSO b/c they’ve never worked in any other industry and assume life is greener elsewhere.

 

At a LMMPE / GE firm and people seem to like theyre lives a lot. Often going skiing/doing other activities on the weekends and hanging out with their kids. I think it just depends on the shop

 

This is why most Gen Z want to be popular personality youtubers

Make insane amounts of money, own your own production company, rub shoulders with celebrities, do whatever your want whenever you want, launch a consumer brand that does well purely based off association 

 

Risk aversion, needing to keep up with the Jones’, and having your entire sense of identity and personal worth be tied to your employer doesn’t make for an appealing personality. 
Finance is dominated by 1) risk adverse cowards too afraid to decide their own values and live their own lives and 2) insecure hyper competitive losers who are trying to overcompensate for their small dicks.

At the margin there are people who genuinely intellectually enjoy the job, but those folks are usually run out of the industry unless they’re willing to appease the egos of the aforementioned two personality types.

Even the most seemingly normal people in this industry inevitably end up in one of those two buckets once you look below the surface.

IMO - the name of the game is damage control. Stay in the industry and reap its legitimately immense financial rewards until the damage to your personal life and relationships becomes too immense and then immediately get the hell out. 

 

when would you say is the right time to get out? Know this is pretty subjective, but I tend to agree with your thinking. Yes I do enjoy a lot of the aspects/challenges of the job but I'm in this for the cash. Think I'm willing to deal with the bullshit for a few more years, thinking once I'm around 30 with hopefully at least a mill in the bank is where that re-evaluation comes. 

 

I think it really depends on a few things:

  • Obligations to others - are you showing up for your parents, friends, significant others in a way that you would be proud of once they’re gone? Saw my grandparents (who live overseas) for the first time in years recently because I finally prioritized it and realized this may also be one of the last times I ever see them again. If I was still in PE, I don’t think I would have made this trip and they would be dead the next time I could find time to see them. I was so all consumed in surviving work on the day to day and week to week that I also personally deeply neglected my relationship with my sibling and my significant other while I was in finance and that created immensely damage to those relationships and nearly caused them to permenantly disintegrate. I also pushed so much stress out onto my aging parents because I was constantly stressed out which made them worry for me and made me lose valuable time getting to know them as an adult.
  • Health - It becomes harder to get back into shape every year you delay prioritizing it. As the child of someone with lifestyle born heart disease - I am personally terrified of getting a heart attack or high blood pressure. It’s such a common thing but you don’t realize how absolutely devastating it is to your quality of life (significantly and permenantly reduced energy levels, inability to ever have sex again, blood pressure medication with gnarly mental and physical side effects). There is absolutely nothing desirable about being 40 or 50 with heart disease or another chronic illness no matter how much money you have. I had a junior partner (35 YO rising star) at my UMM firm recently get hyper invasive back surgery due to shitty posture and sedentary lifestyle and now he can’t do many of the things he used to love. A lot of lifestyle borne disease begins 10 years before the acute event (heart attack, surgery) that seals the deal and results in permenate damage. You have to get ahead of it years before it is a problem. 
  • Opportunity Cost - When do you want to have a family? Once you have kids the cost and practical reality of being able to travel and do anything more than just eating out and visiting generic tourist attractions while traveling is significantly diminished. Therefore, if you’re in your late 20s or 30s the window of opportunity to actually go  experience new things and have crazy stories to tell is closing. You have to weigh if the incremental cash is worth spending 60-80 hours  a week in a flourescent light office wearing business casual with people who view you as disposable vs having more time for new experiences or spending it with friends and family who will soon be gone or too busy with Kids in their 30s to keep up with 
  • Stress - Overlaps with all of the above, but when I was in PE I couldn’t ever let go of the office when I was outside of it. Even when I was outside of work, there was a persistent feeling of neurotic anxious energy, insecurity, and emotional unavailability that permeated and poisoned everything else in my life. I was never present and moments of joy in life (weddings, holidays, time with friends) were turned into nothing more than emotional numbness. When I got out, I realized how nice it is to have boundaries with work where I can leave my work and my emotional investment in that work behind at the end of the day. Because of that, I can finally savor more of those moments in life and actually have fun and be fun again. 
     

How you weigh the above costs of this career are a personal choice and your willingness to absorb them and the relative costs of them will change dramatically as you age. I don’t think the thing to be benchmarking for is how much money you have before you leave, but rather how much damage have you taken and how much more can your relationships take? In video game terms - how many lifepoints do you and your relationships honesty have left NOT how many coins you want to collect first. 

Leaving finance won’t immediately correct the above items, but it will allow you to set boundaries again and give you more time which can help to resolve some of these issues. For me it took about 2 years to undo all the damage, physical, emotional, relational, mental, that I accumulated over years in finance. The come down isn’t easy and isn’t immediate and it isn’t guaranteed unless you put a lot of work in, but I can’t even begin to explain how good it feels to be present again. Like waking up from a coma and realizing a lot has changed around you and people have moved on while you were gone but at least now you can finally see the world again. 

 

I sometimes have trouble with judging people and seeing them as very plain and boring. I've actively tried to stop myself and ask, "what's special about this person?". Sure, they may look and act like any other Chad out there, but then you realize that this guy is actually a really nice dude. Goes out of his way to help team members. Or maybe, another guy always makes a good joke when the team is slammed. Or maybe someone is really good at telling stories. 

Perhaps, their interests and hobbies are pretty boring but if you look hard enough nearly everyone has something good and special about them. This is a little silly but sometimes I imagine the person as a 6-year old on the playground just wanting to make friends. You make think it's silly but many of us are still that kid deep down inside. Look hard enough and you can see the humanity and brotherhood in anyone. Remember that we are all God's children and stop yourself when labeling someone as plain - in my opinion, there is not a plain person on this planet. Deep down they are complex and meaningful even if that's not what their outward appearance suggests.

 

Well when I tell people the truth that I had a 60 hour bender and can't remember the chick's name from last night I'm told I'm not being "inclusive" or "professional"

can't win these days 

 

Honestly, OP it sounds like you seek a comfortable life, intellectual conversations and building relationships….with your experience you should look at getting a phd and becoming a professor, got some professors who took that route and they seem pretty happy

 

Man, your reflection hit me like a truck. That final round scenario you described? It's a scene I know all too well. The whole "carbon copy" vibe isn't just your imagination. It's a systemic thing, and honestly, it's as soul-sucking as you're guessing it might be.

The uniformity, it’s all part of the package. And those vests... tragic indeed. It's almost like a uniform that slowly erases any hint of individuality or original thought.

You're hitting on something real about the potential loss of personality and passion. It’s not just a risk; it’s almost an inevitability if you don’t actively fight against it. The environment, the long hours, and the homogeneous culture—it all works to mold you into another PE clone. And questioning whether that’s a dealbreaker? That's not just valid; it's vital. Trust me, wondering if there's life beyond the spreadsheets is the first step to saving a bit of your soul

But here’s the kicker: realizing this now, before you’re in too deep, gives you a choice. You can choose paths less traveled within finance

So, no, you’re not wrong for considering personality and passion in your career decisions. In fact, I’d argue it’s the most right thing you can do. Don’t let the golden handcuffs chain you to a life of monotony. There’s more out there, and the fact that you’re questioning this means you’re already on the right path.


Here’s to finding a place where you don’t have to check your personality at the door.

A Fellow Soul Searching New Yorker

 

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