Joined New Firm; Complete Non-Cultural Fit > Let Go in 6 Months

Long-time lurker since back in the Analyst days (Analyst > Asso > Sr Asso > VP); I'm going to keep this as anonymous as possible but still hoping to get some opinions from the fine folks of WSO as I've seen a handful of these types of posts that had some absolutely phenomenal feedback.

Fairly typical background: Great undergrad, good IB program, a couple well-known MM PE platforms. I made a massive jump to a growing small PE firm in the hopes of a lifestyle change / path to never having to find another job again. Day 1, I knew I made a mistake.

Every aspect of the culture was a complete nightmare - I was always under the impression that money / prestige meant more than culture...but boy was I 100% wrong. The people, the attitude, the in-office culture, the deathly quiet workdays, no interactions amongst groups, clicky individual co-workers, stingy practices, hostile environments, clock-in / clock-out mentality paired with folks who would tell their supervisor even if a senior member of the team ducked out, "tattle-tales" for political points, and no managerial efforts to be seen for miles... made this the worst firm I've ever been a part of. Truly, truly terrible.

However, through it all, I figured I'd try and tough it out a few years and figure it out later. Well...turns out I wasn't the only one who noticed the non-cultural fit. I was just blindsided that the role wasn't working out, there were too many gaps in expectations, and that the easiest avenue was to call a mulligan and part ways. Cut losses early and move on.

I quit a great job previously, uprooted my life & family, expected the promised-land, and now in and under a year, have been let go for seemingly "cultural fit" issues that were just too apparent. I've been in this field for going on 9 years, and this has never happened....and I'm at a loss for words. Deeply diving into a pit of despair that I don't know how to curb. Girlfriend hasn't been able to get me off the couch in 48 hours and was the one who suggested I reach out to someone for advice. Y'all are hopefully that someone.

This feels like the end to everything I worked so hard for. I see no logical way to spin this story and not be red flagged. Is this it for me? Any suggestions on what to do? Firms don't hire in the holiday months - it's too hard to schedule interviews, and the most happens in the new year. I don't have that luxury.

Were there things I should have done differently? Absolutely. But end of the day, my mentors told me this - I knew it - in the long run this spot was not going to work out no matter how badly I wanted it to. The cultural gaps were just too large.

I feel sick to my stomach. Barely getting by the past week or so. Feels like a GD dreamlike state. How do I recover from this? Can I?

Any help is good help here.

Comments (33)

Most Helpful
29d
Ravena, what's your opinion? Comment below:

While this feels like the end of the world, it's not. 6-12 months being on the bench is a rounding error in the span of a career. I was let go from a great firm earlier in my career and spent 9 months looking for work and now I'm at a megafund. Assuming you can float yourself, take time for yourself then pick yourself up, dust off the resume, and put yourself out there. As far as narrative goes, just be your front about what happened. Some groups will view this as a non starter while others won't care. If you can get recommendation letters from earlier colleagues I would have those handy to demonstrate this was a one-off occurrence but other than that there isn't anything special for you to do.

It sucks. But it's only temporary ("this too shall pass").

28d
thegreatgame, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Appreciate the insight; recommendations from my prior firms won't be an issue...the current one is a bit more problematic but I may be able to finagle a way around it. I understand this is just business - I've learned how ruthless this industry is well in advance of this outcome - but I just never thought this would be the outcome from my recent departure. To not even get time to remedy the cultural fit to the best of my ability, just them basically cutting their losses... really fucking hurts man. Not to mention the "what if's" in terms of money left of the table. 

I know I have a strong skillset - I've made it to VP and passed the litmus test of investment acumen. To have it all crumble due to a not melding into a specific culture...just feels horrific. 

I know there's lots of "feels" in there, in a business that doesn't give 2 shits about feelings. But yea. I'm struggling. 

  • Associate 1 in PE - LBOs
28d

Why would it feel horrific because of the culture? imo that would be the best reason to exit a firm. Why stick around a place where the people and vibe sucks?

What if you found out you were a shitty VP and had to be let go because of shitty investment acumen? I bet you'd really be in the dumps and maybe even reconsider your place in the industry.

You just joined the wrong firm dude. It happens. You sound emotional right now but over time you should find the strength to pick yourself up and be thankful for leaving a place that was not a good fit for you. I'm sure you'll look back one day and be happy with where you are at.

28d
user121, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Hey man I hope you get better soon. Sounds like just one bad career investment on your part that fortunately only led to less than a year of your time seemingly. Part of being an investor or a professional is sometimes making bad decisions. Part of life is just recovering from them and moving on. Hopefully you now have a better appreciation for the value of culture and hopefully that makes you a better employee and investor and the like. Hopefully you find a better role for you soon. One day at a time. It's always day 1 man….

good luck and best wishes :)

28d
OverlyAdjustedEBITDA, what's your opinion? Comment below:

We've hired people before who made a mistake in where they went if they had a strong background with no red flags leading up to that.  I say if you are a strong candidate, you'll be allowed one mulligan by most reasonable people.  Ultimately better to have had this happen sooner rather than later...it doesn't sound like the most recent firm was somewhere you wanted to be long term at all, so I don't see how you staying there would have been sustainable for your sanity longer-term anyway.

Just give yourself a bit of time to recover mentally and then hit up your network, HHs, etc.  Would there be any shot of you going back to your old firm?

28d
thegreatgame, what's your opinion? Comment below:

When I accepted the role, it was absolutely somewhere I wanted to be long-term hah - unfortunately as the days went by I started to see warning signs that despite the pay-day 7 years later...culture was going to be very difficult to meld into, and the back and forth just wasn't working (and was apparent to both parties). 

In terms of going back to prior role; unfortunately not a chance. Been a good chunk of time and all roles have been replaced. 

Sending you a DM with a bit more personal information if that's cool; rather not disclose on the wide webs. - (just kidding, got to wait 2 days apparently to send DMs) 

1d
The EBITA addback, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Are we related.. lol.. nice username..

Like the unadjusted- only with a little bit extra.
28d
Dimonfan, what's your opinion? Comment below:

My boss taught me this today. 

"Life is like riding a bicycle", People can keep their balance only as long as they keep moving. 

This too shall pass and better is yet to come

28d
GoingToBeAnMD, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I think it behooves you to do a complete and unbiased post-mortem on the entire situation. How did you let yourself end up in a bad cultural fit? Surely you did your own DD, you had a series of interviews, etc. None of this came out during that time? Did you do any extra work into this given that you had to uproot yourself to take the position? I think this is a valuable exercise for you to prevent this from happening again in the future. 

I recently moved across the country for a new position. And while it was with the same company, it was to a completely different arm of the bank. I interviewed half the team, interviewed my boss, interviewed people that had reported to this boss, interviewed the MD, etc etc. Even after they gave me the offer, I sat on a decision for nearly a month to see if the whole situation felt right. Uprooting yourself for a company - any company - is not a decision to be taken lightly. 

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27d
thegreatgame, what's your opinion? Comment below:

As I mentioned in a couple other comments, I knew - to a degree - that there were potential red flags but I chose to ignore them in favor of career trajectory. Didn't think something as intangible as culture would have such an impact on my effectiveness...but learned a valuable lesson. So anyone else reading this - culture ABSOLUTELY matters! 

27d
GoingToBeAnMD, what's your opinion? Comment below:

If you're going to uproot yourself for a job then EVERYTHING matters. I'm disappointed that I have to explain this. 

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27d
overandout, what's your opinion? Comment below:
thegreatgame

As I mentioned in a couple other comments, I knew - to a degree - that there were potential red flags but I chose to ignore them in favor of career trajectory. Didn't think something as intangible as culture would have such an impact on my effectiveness...but learned a valuable lesson. So anyone else reading this - culture ABSOLUTELY matters! 

What were the red flags? And what were the ultimate reasons you didn't fit the culture?

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  • Analyst 3+ in IB-M&A
28d

I was in a similar situation. Was at a top consulting firm and flipped to a so called "bank". The firm was an absolute joke and after my first day I knew I messed up. What I did was literately start applying day 1. I reached out to recruiters, HR at companies I was interested in, networking, companies I had turned down, the whole nine yards. What I found to be most important was my story. Thats one of the major reasons I reached out to people rather than resume black box drops. When you are sending an email or asking for a call its a lot easier to explain what is going on vs just reading a resume. I was wfh because it was in the heat of COVID which definitely made it easier to interview. 

Don't beat yourself up, this happens all the time. I cannot stress enough that if you have a good explanation for the short term move most companies wouldn't even acknowledge how short it was. I think you have a pretty solid framework based on your post. Something along the lines of "I was always at big name shops with lots of resources, processes and a set culture, moving to a smaller firm I thought I would be able to make more of an impact but unfortunately they lacked any real process or culture etc etc"

28d
mrharveyspecter, what's your opinion? Comment below:

It's honestly not that big of a deal, to be honest, it sounds like you've never faced that many set backs given your path. You took a small calculated risk, learned from it, and now you can move on. It doesn't sound like this set back puts your or your family into danger or financial distress, which is oftentimes the case for folks that take job/entrepreneurial risks, so you're already much better off than most. Whenever you're ready, get back on the horse, reach out the recruiters, trust me, they see stuff like this all the time, reach out to your network, tell them you're looking and that the move didn't work out, and start hunting for the next role.

One big thing I'd takeaway is, at some point, do a retrospective and try to figure out where you went wrong in your evaluation. At the end of the day, it's not terribly dissimilar from you making a bad investment as a PE partner. If you misjudge a CEO hire at a key portco and you're a partner, that reflects on you. In this case, you judged this firm wrong, made a bad investment of your time and effort, and are suffering because of it. Although you don't necessarily have the ability to diligence this opportunity the way you do an investment, there are still things you can do. Did you do reference checks on the partners? What about talk to their LPs? Did you talk to juniors, how about in a more casual setting? There's a fair amount you can do to assess the culture of the place. It's also an exercise in vetting people, did you ask the right questions?

Again, not trying to beat on you, perhaps you did all of this and there were some things you 100% could not have known going in, it happens, same with PE investments, as long as you're learning from them is what really matters.

28d
thegreatgame, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Very much appreciate the reply - the big deal aspect of all this, is that I thought this was the end-all/be-all. And to have that come crashing down so soon...is debilitating. For what it's worth - and this should hopefully be helpful to any others reading this thread - I knew there were massive incompatibilities going in. I just also thought that I could deal with it for a few years and hopefully become senior enough to mold my ideals/management style around their troublesome model. I didn't get the chance to do that. 

Just blows my mind that it happened so soon; no chance to remedy, no chance to adapt, very limited guidance or discussions. Just poof - not a fit, adios. 

  • Analyst 3+ in HF - RelVal
28d

Are you able to provide some additional context / examples of some of the incompatibilities, particularly the ones you noted heading into this? I am in a similar position as you...9 months in and feel like its a cultural fit mismatch; extremely low chance of being let go, but I have already concluded on moving back to one of my former positions at a much more senior role in several months. Much like yourself I was extremely disappointed when I first started noticing somethings weren't clicking, although I do think there was some bait and switch in my case in terms of process, which is where I feel the majority of the problem is. 

  • Associate 3 in IB-M&A
28d

You're getting good advice on here, but I'd also add that you should consider taking a week or two and just going somewhere else... parents' house, weekend trip somewhere, just get out of where you are now and stay busy for a bit. Don't even think about your next step until you've have a bit of time to mourn (even if it wasn't where you wanted to be, you still can be upset and grieve). This is a blip and you will absolutely land somewhere else, but it's hard to see that 30,000 foot perspective right now.

28d
SnappleApple, what's your opinion? Comment below:

It sounds like you haven't dealt w/ setbacks in your life.

Things happen. You have a unique skillset that is an asset to a lot of firms - you'll find something better.

28d
kuf135, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Agree with what others have said on this thread - if this is the worst thing to ever happen to you (even just career wise), count yourself very lucky. You've had a pretty linear path so far, and though this may be a hitch in the road, if you get back out there I'm certain you will find a VP-level role in PE. I've seen people with crazier career detours end up back on the "path" at solid funds. Take a week to decompress and then start hitting up HH's and your network. Good luck. 

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
26d

I can't speak for you as I don't know you, but judging from your post it sounds like you have had a relatively sheltered life with little failure or adversity you have had to overcome. You only have two options here, and in life in general - it's sink or swim. I'm 3-6 months, you will have a new job. Maybe you will need to take a step backwards, but you have a phenomenal resume and will get a job in PE or at the very worst IBD. I went from being suicidal at 17 to gainfully employee at a private equity firm and living a generally happy life. You can overcome this.

17d
DaveRamseyBurner, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Fwiw, I had left a firm after only 8 months. When I interviewed for a role, I just had a very polished version of two similes that I used depending on whom I was speaking to:

Option 1 was essentially "You know how {professional athlete} was not meshing on {former team} but absolutely shined once he got on {new team}? I feel like that's the situation I was in. It's not that the "coach" and "team" were bad, I just knew that I could really take it to the next level in a different ecosystem."

Option 2 was like "You know, it was a lot like dating someone in college.. sometimes you're so sure that this is right person based on the little information you have. But as time goes on, you might learn new things / share experiences, and realize it's not what you envisioned. And when you know it's time to move on, the best, healthiest thing you can do, is to just stop the train. I think the same thing applies to your professional passion.." blah blahThis can come off very corny if they don't fit your personality, but the big sports fans I interviewed with seemed to get it and had no further questions..

  • Investment Analyst in HF - Event
15d

Hey dude, I know this feels like the end of the world right now to you, but I assure you it isn't. 

I went from IB to MF PE to HF. If this had happened to me after my coddled years in IB/PE, I would absolutely be in the same place you are. But being in the HF industry for a while now has helped me toughen up to reality. People get let go all the time, for reasons personal to you or not. While you do need some sense of passion to go the distance in this industry, it is a job at the end of the day. It sounds like you had way too much invested in your job and "career path" as substitute for true self-worth. Good opportunity to take a reset and turn the negative into positive. Fill up the free time by doing things you love (could be as simple as spending more time with friends/partner). Your career will be fine. 

I made a similar jump when I moved to a small, up-and-coming HF in the hopes of getting on the ground floor and getting rich. It didn't work. But you know what? The whole exercise allowed me to do a clinical, dispassionate assessment of what real risk looks like in my life. I concluded that there is actually no risk, for the floor I have set for myself by being successful in early career is that I will at least make low 6 figures no matter what I do (worst case: corporate finance or startup finance job). This is I am sure true for you as well. You actually don't wear any real risk in the sense that you will go hungry or shelterless for the rest of your life, for the benefit of having done some IB and PE early in your career. How capricious, right? Millions who are hungrier and smarter than us don't enjoy this luxury. So loosen up a little, enjoy your free time, and go get after it when you're ready.

13d
SeekingAlpha180, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I have had my fair share of set-backs along my path.  What I learned is that there are always elements outside of our control, a bit like playing cards and getting screwed on the flop even though you took the correct measured risk.

Cream always rises and the hard work and effort that got you to this point will allow you to overcome this challenge.  Keep you chin up - take a few days to look back and learn from this and then keep moving forward without a second thought. May 2 cents.     

8d
bbjhva, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Sounds tough and the hurt is very real. Uprooting your family makes this sting all the more so you really have my sympathies man.

I second what a few posts have said - use this time as a re-set, go see your folks/ family, get away from this current environment, and reach out to the 2-3 people you're close enough with to share the real story (as someone who's been let go, the hardest part I know is often telling people this has happened to you - esp in your case, a very high achiever). As you're doing here on WSO, do so in 'real life' by collecting data points of neutral inputs, advise, anecdotes, musings, and start to put it all together. I suspect you'll find advice that is useful for your life first and then career --> how healthy lives truly should be led, with life > career, not the other way round.

Being let go fucking sucks but you WILL recover, and in fact be the better for it as in future roles you will settle for nothing other than complete and utter out-performance (and initially it'll stem from paranoia, but soon just stem from the fire in your belly to kick ass).

6d
takenotes08, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Sounds like you have had a successful career so far, which leads me to believe you have a few bucks saved up so being on the bench for a few months wont hurt you too much also it sounds like you have a supportive girlfriend. You're in better shape than most. I'd just chill for a month or two and then restart recruiting in the new year.

5d
anonymous_IV, what's your opinion? Comment below:

A lot of great responses already. On a practical matter, while you're preparing and waiting for the next opportunity, you can start a consulting gig on a project by project basis (consultant for hire similar to Uber). There are several platforms that offer this type of opportunities.

2d
2rigged2fail, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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