Currently in PE but having a crisis - did I choose the wrong industry?

Right now I am working for a US MM fund in Chicago. Comp is ok, WLB is occasionally bad but manageable. Did banking prior to PE
 

There is nothing really wrong about my job - I don’t hate it, but I also wonder did I just choose the wrong industry? I am having these thoughts for the following reasons: 

  1. I feel very different from other people on my team. Granted I am a girl and I just don’t really enjoy chatting about football / baseball and my male colleagues definitely give off the old boys club vibes, but I also struggle to find other things to talk about with them. Most of my friends outside of work actually aren’t in finance and I find myself vibe much better with them — we enjoy chatting about contentious issues like politics, philosophy, etc. and we all don’t really care about prestige / luxury goods / sports cars etc. I’ve never been able to bond with any colleague like that but most of my friends outside of finance could actually make friends at work and bond over shared interests / intellectual discussions. However I’ve never even heard any conversations like that at work, at happy hours or even in any discussions. People still talk about finance / the market / gossip about other deal teams but they shy away from any other intellectual topics. Personally I’m just not passionate about the things they usually talk about. Is it my problem that I can’t make friends at work?

  2. There is such a glass ceiling at the top. I’m still young but I absolutely want to have kids one day. No woman on my team had ever had kids and have no plans to do so in the near term. As a result, no one had set forth a playbook of being a working mom on my team, and I’m scared if I do decide to climb up the ladder, I’ll need to delay having kids till very late and I’ll be too old. Even right now when I have doc appointments I feel guilty telling people I need to step out for 2-3 hours on a Friday morning. How do I even manage the expectations of pregnancy related doctor visits / breastfeeding / maternity leave?

  3. Like what I mentioned above, I also don’t think I’m as passionate about the industry as my colleagues. I think investing is interesting, but deals sort of get old and you ask the similar DD questions over and over again. I found the work intellectually stimulating for a while, but after all the reps it was not anymore. Additionally there are quite a few folks in my class and I don’t know how promotions are gonna work out. I’m like an upper-mid performer right now and don’t know if I should bother try striving for the top top performer spot and put more work into pleasing all the seniors. 

  4. To be honest, I don’t know exactly what to do next. I want to take a bigger risk in my next move because I feel like I’ve always just followed the most straightforward / safe path by choosing finance / banking / PE. I’ve always been interested in operations, but absolutely don’t want to work for a Portfolio company. I want to work for someone who’s passionate about the work they do and want to have an impact in the world. Perhaps a startup? Social impact venture? 

 
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#2 is a valid concern tbh. I think this field is tough for mothers and even for fathers. Most people I know only have 1-2 kids and start quite late and IVF, complications are not uncommon. I had kids "young" by industry standard, find the balance very hard as a dad, and do think it may have slowed or altered my career trajectory.

Would be cautious with start ups, generally better WLB but not always, and once the kids come the "oh my god I really need money" feeling kicks in very hard, which also impacts decision making. Not saying don't do it, just do your homework on it first.

On #4, I think the feeling of "I don't know what I want to do with my life" is more common than you'd think. And I also think the feeling of "I want to take a risk after tiring of this cookie cutter crap" is also understandable and common at your age.

 

How do aso to vp promotions work in pe and is it different from ib? It sounds like in ib usually people who are competent enough, so people from mid to top bucket get promoted. But in pe do you have to be top or the best 1-2 in the class to move up in pe, and is there some aspect of politics or favoritism? Could an above avg performer who the senior partners like get promoted over a top performer or do people still have to be top notch regardless?

 

I can comment specifically on number 2 (as a dad): ahead of my first child, I proactively transferred internally to a team with better hours and lots of young families.

It’s made a whole world of difference to me. Going in for doctor appointments (eg baby vaccination) without feeling guilty, talking to my colleagues about challenges with teething, babies going through sleep regression (which means my wife and I don’t sleep much and I end up working from home and the team understands), giving tips to my Associate on the best baby gear she can buy, etc.

It’s an environment where everyone on the team can relate to one another and that collegiality has also made me multiple times more happy when I’m at work.

So long story short, consider transferring internally if that option is available to you. My wife had it easier since there were a lot of young moms at her work (albeit she’s not in finance) - based on my observation, you are certainly correct that being a lady in finance isn’t easy (back when I was in banking, all - literally all - the female MDs on my immediate term were divorced).

 

1. Even in social settings, the façade that people put at work doesn't disappear. There's no surprise that sometimes actions on happy hours can impact one's job. I always treated happy hours as an extension of work. Further, I think it's quite hard in a large company, so I wouldn't even try to jump into other funds looking for a team with whom I can share a deeper relationship --> discussing topics that expose more about oneself.

2. There should be some policies for this in your company. But off-topic, that's a trade-off that many women do when they decide to pursue a career. You're playing in a field where men don't have the same parental pressure, so it's more challenging. If you feel there's some guilt maybe look into other companies where you can find women on higher roles that have families?

3. If you don't hate the job, then I would stay. You romanticize on #4 working someone that is passionate about the job, but here you feel you're in the wrong industry because you work with people passionate about their job (incongruity?). The reality is that in no job, ever, you'll get pleasure from the day-to-day responsibilities, everything that matters is how you perceive your role in the job. For example, no doctors like the bureaucracy, the procedures that leave no autonomy in diagnosing patients, etc. but they stick to it and are contempt with they role because they tell themselves that "they're helping people survive, feel better, they're part of something that really brings a social impact". So your perception is malleable about you do, change your perception and you'll and you're general sense of satisfaction with work will also change.

4. Not sure how compatible is this point with #2. You may end up in a place where you may get a lower income which may make it harder to raise a family. Also, as I said on point 3, you're romanticizing some of those fields. You may end up getting disappointed about the work they do. 

The issue is that I think you're working so much that you aim to have fulfillment or to feel that you're moving forward in life you need to tie your life decision to work/career. Work is just a means to support your life outside work. As long as you have income, think harder about what life you're living outside work. 

No disrespect, but have you thought about being a stay at home mom/wife? I think this will entirely solve all 4 issues and you'll still satisfy your goal-oriented attitude, especially in social impact matters, by volunteering in your spare time? Generally, what's your view of how you should live because one's life philosophy can't be distanced when asking those questions. We don't know you to get to know your perspectives about what a good life should look like to really offer solutions to your 4 points... There can be 300 different solutions based of one's outlook about life.

 

Your group talks about more interesting stuff than most places, no one in my aso class talks about cars, sports, watches or any other similar stuff. 
Have convos about politics/ philosophy with your friends who aren’t from work, thats what I do. 
Most entry level roles won’t be fun or interesting. I spend all day cold emailing and cold calling. No job is that interesting, but what roles would be better than the seat you’re currently in? 

 

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