Laid off as ASO1 - What Next?

Hi all,

Started at a growing fund in NYC a few months ago. Was told a couple days ago I would be laid off due to lack of fit. Honestly came as a pretty big shock, but things happen and life moves on. 

Currently taking care of a homeless / mentally ill family member which is sucking up $2k / month in therapy + rent + living expenses. Not sure what to do next - would like to stay in PE but not sure how to frame my experience and the layoff. 

Old team are willing to provide reference and help me find a new role but not sure what that actually means. 

If anyone has any advice or has been in a similar situation anything would be helpful. 

Comments (15)

Most Helpful
Sep 15, 2022 - 10:37am
Green_Bananas, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Really sorry to hear this. Same exact thing happened to me too during the height of COVID. I was a ASO1 and after a stellar mid-year review I got laid off a few months later because I had to dedicate a lot of time to sick family members and the firm didn't like that I wasn't glued to my computer 24/7. It's a cold hard world, but we adapt and overcome. 

I would advise that you be very real with yourself on why you got let go, and I would guess that whatever the answer is, the end conclusion is that you should likely choose a different industry. Since your story is so similar to mine, I can guess that direct PE is just not for you. These funds and PE MDs/Partners are not special (i.e., they almost all behave/think the same) so if it didn't work out at your old firm you will likely have a tough time at the next direct PE shop for the same reasons. I'm guessing but it seems like the pace and high demand for productivity interfered with your personal/family responsibilities. Nothing wrong w/ that, just know that direct PE is not a career that you can have if you have heavy commitments elsewhere (e.g., family). 

I would therefore suggest that you take some time off (1-3 months), and then look into careers that are PE-adjacent. They pay more or less the same, tend to be 9-6, and allow for you to actually commit time outside of work to family and other things. I'm talking about IR/co-investments/private credit/secondary/corp dev./growth equity. Hours are still firm dependent so still do your DD on the group to confirm you would be able to make it work with your family commitments. 

If you disagree and you want to work in direct PE and be the next Steve Schwarzman, I can only suggest that you take a hard look in the mirror and see where you went wrong so you can improve it during your 1-3 months off. As long as you're above average intelligence you can do literally anything on the job with mindful practice and commitment. PE is starved for talent so you can likely find a new role as long as you have a good story. 

To give you a case study on myself, after I got laid off I recruited for another direct PE firm. In my heart I thought it was a mistake to stay in the industry, but I didn't want to feel as if I "quit" b/c that's very against who I am. Got the job after ~3 weeks since firms were thirsty for associates. Ran into the same issues of a toxic culture, and left a few months in b/c I had enough of the same toxic BS at a second firm. Was finally honest with myself once I quit the second firm and realized that I'm just not cut out to work 90+ hours for the rest of my life (even VPs and above at both my firms worked those hours). Family and WLB are too important to me. I am Latino so there was zero chance I was going to turn my back on my people over a job (which is admittedly a huge cultural difference between the demographics that mainly make up PE associates). I then took ~9 months off to pursue an entrepreneurial venture and was the happiest I could be due to the freedom to spend time with family and do what I wanted. My business got to a point where I could manage it while also working a 9-5 so I got a job in one of the aforementioned PE-adjacent industries and it's been great ever since. Now I can actually provide for my family monetarily while also having time to take care of them.

Idk your full story but it sounds similar to mine and hopefully the above helps.

"I'm going to make him an offer he can't refuse."

  • 30
  • Associate 1 in PE - LBOs
Sep 15, 2022 - 10:45am

Thanks man, appreciate the lengthy and detailed response. 

Honestly, I don't know about the industry. I really did enjoy the work in PE and didn't mind the hours. Will have to take that deep look you mentioned and really evaluate. 

How did you frame your story to interviewers? I feel cultural fit is such a nebulous phrase that people will just assume the worst and toss out my resume. Curious to hear your thoughts here.

Sep 15, 2022 - 11:57am
Green_Bananas, what's your opinion? Comment below:

My recruiting process was unique b/c I only interviewed at one firm that I got through a referral, which was the place I'm now at. I was honest and blunt and said that I left because of too many sharp elbows and not wanting to work until 2AM every night. They were all on the same page and said they understood, they didn't dwell on that part. Now after being here I can see why - good normal people from top-down with reasonable expectations for WLB.

From my conversations with headhunters, leaving for cultural reasons is pretty common so I don't think you will get much push back from people (unless it's a toxic sweat shop). I would just keep it short and sweet, if you talk too much about it it might put off some interviewers (advice I got from headhunters). 

Since it seems as if you want to stay in the industry, I would reach out to someone trusted at the firm and ask them for the "real" feedback. You'd be surprised at how candid people can be post-departure. If you frame it as, "I know I fucked up but I want to improve on my weaknesses and kill at my new firm" then people will be responsive. I guarantee there's more to the story than just "not a good fit". That's code for you might not have been up to par technically or you were too slow w/ deliverables or you didn't get it - in which case you can internalize the feedback and improve or just switch industries. But that decision is up to you. 

"I'm going to make him an offer he can't refuse."

  • 6
Sep 15, 2022 - 1:56pm
mrharveyspecter, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I think this is a very good take.

The thing that comes to my mind immediately is, to the OP, getting laid off after a couple of months means you likely did something wrong. You might not know what it is or might not want to admit to it, but at a glance, it seems like there's more to the story here. Yes, people in PE can suck and be tough to work with, but it's unlikely you got a little preoccupied with family and they fire you immediately. You're either not good at your job in general, did something that offended one of the partners, or didn't communicate time off in a major way, e.g., you were taking care of family during a closing process and were unresponsive, or something of that nature.

With that said, not trying to bash you, and I could be wrong. Perhaps the firm is just downsizing and wanted to use culture fit as reason, or is just a terrible place to work, it happens. But again, such a quick layoff is odd if its unprompted. If you have any friends at the firm or even just a VP or someone you're closer with, I'd ask to get coffee and try to figure out what the poor culture fit comments actually meant. Again, if you were kind of weird but a good worker, most places would keep you around for at least a year or two and then 2 and out you. Firing after 4 months means it was likely something more significant, you're perhaps much more challenging to work with than you think, or the firm is going under or going through some significant changes.

With that said, it happens, things don't work out. I would re-evaluate what you want to be doing and don't take it too hard. I think it would be pretty easy to spin it as, you needed to take time off of work for family issues and couldn't take an extended leave of absence given your short tenure at the firm, so you quit on good terms, took a few months, and now are re-recruiting. It sounds like the firm will at least give you a neutral reference as needed, so you're honestly fine.

  • Analyst 2 in IB - Cov
Sep 15, 2022 - 10:03pm

Not necessarily true. My previous company shut down their whole New York office in early 2020 and everyone was let go. I was on the job for like 5 months and had been doing well.

  • Associate 3 in IB-M&A
Sep 15, 2022 - 10:45pm

This is excellent advice. OP, I suggest you at least consider these "PE-adjacent" paths. If you came from a strong banking program they will be happy to have you, and you can say you realized quickly that PE was not right for you but X career is a better long term fit for Y reasons. If you want to get back into direct PE, it will be an uphill battle. As other people are saying, if this wasn't a large reduction in force type layoff you did something very wrong to get fired this quickly. Life goes on, you will do just fine, but I would take a month off to reflect and view this as "lessons learned" headed into your next role.

Sep 16, 2022 - 2:12pm
Username_TBU, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I'm going to disagree with this. If you join a firm and you're laid off in the first few months, that's not just a you issue, that's also a firm issue.

Sep 16, 2022 - 7:50pm
WallStreetOasis.com, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Happened to me at my first PE stint at a firm called Heritage Partners in Boston back in late 2004.  Was a bit shocked and "cultural fit" was what was thrown around, but it didn't make any sense.  I was one of the top analysts in IB and could keep up technically but for whatever reason they wanted me out (was about ~4-5 months in as well).  Admittedly I was still green and was learning as I went (really needed a mentor back then).  

Not going to lie, it was a very tough road.  It took me until May 2005 to get back into PE (at Tailwind Capital in NYC) and that was only because my former fellow analyst from Rothschild vouched for me. 

The scary part is I got to several final rounds for associate roles in Boston, but whenever it got to final rounds, the reference checks would kill it because I wouldn't sign the release (imo not even close to worth it for $10k) ...even if I signed the release, they probably would have just said "yes he worked here" which is still a red flag.

It got so ridiculous (ie 3+ verbal offers pulled) that one of the headhunters I was working with in Boston said to me "I don't know man, it looks like you are black-balled from the industry."  At this point my only choice was to move back to NYC to get my career back on track once I got the offer from Tailwind...

Turns out a year later they had gone from ~18 investment professionals down to 4-5? and there was a falling out with the partners blaming each other for some of the larger investments in the fund going south...in other words, the LPs were not happy.

Now, it's the New Heritage Capital...  to be fair, the people that are still there are nice but it was pretty cutthroat how they handled my case.  I understand not wanting to share that the fund was imploding, but it seriously derailed my career for a short period.  

I guess we should kind of thank them for WSO?  That experience shook me to realize that hard work doesn't always matter -- and pushed me to start my own business only a few short years later (never felt secure after that as an employee).  Silver lining, silver lining :-)

Good luck,

Patrick

Sep 16, 2022 - 11:30pm
CompBanker, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I know a handful of people who are currently in the same situation or have recently been in the same situation. The initial reaction is almost always to 'give up' and feel like you aren't cut out for the industry. This is not the case. Everyone I know that attempted to stay in the industry got another PE job and is currently happier at their new firms. A lot of it really does come down to fit and alignment of your personality/skills with those sought after by the firm. Just because one firm felt that you weren't a fit doesn't mean there isn't a really good shop elsewhere that will value you. If you do want to stay in the industry, I very much encourage you to put in some real effort on securing a job. Refining your story is a big part of this, but so is grinding out the emails / networking just as you probably did to land the job in the first place.

CompBanker’s Career Guidance Services: https://www.rossettiadvisors.com/

  • 4
Sep 17, 2022 - 10:56am
Smoke Frog, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Reach out to someone that worked with you in the trenches, like your favorite VP, and go out for a coffee. And say that even though you're shocked, you really want to know what mistakes you made - not to try and argue but to ensure you do not repeat these mistakes in the future.

If it was truly a bad fit, I just wonder why there was no heads up or no giving you a chance to rectify whatever shortfalls they saw. I mean you're an associate just grinding, so unless you made an off color joke or did something to make HR cringe, I can't understand such a quick fire.

Sep 20, 2022 - 9:22am
takenotes08, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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