Laid Off From Toxic Job

Was laid off today after 8 months on the job at an UMM fund and am feeling defeated. I’ve worked my butt off the last 7 years to get to where I am today and would appreciate anyones advice as I’m at a bit of an impasse in my career.

The job itself was by far the best learning experience of my career due to all of the exposure I got however, the work environment was incredibly toxic. What I think ultimately went wrong was that I was asked to perform my job at a level that far exceeded my experience level and received no grace despite being an entry level hire. Ideally, I would like to stick it out in finance and continue to be in PE but am worried that I won’t be able to find a situation that will allow me to continue to build up my fundamental skills before throwing the kitchen sink at me. I’m leaps and bounds ahead of where I was 8 months ago but still need to make some inroads in terms of adjusting to the pace at which everything is done at.

Background:

Graduated in 2019 from a Big 12 School studying Economics (Cincinnati/Houston)

Graduated in 2022 from a MiM at a Semi Target (Cornell/Northwestern)

2 years in Technical Sales Role @ Tech Company

1 year @ Tech focused Boutique PE Firm

8 months @ Tech Focused UMM PE Firm

Firms Culture:

I chose to join an UMM PE firm out of my masters program over several other offers at other funds due to the firms strong training program and my interactions with the investment professionals throughout the interview process (7 rounds of interviews over 2-3 months + final round coffee chat with partners). Given how much I had gotten to know the members of the investment team throughout the process I felt as though culturally I’d found more or less the perfect fit.

Once, I started though things took a turn pretty quickly for the worse. The training program they had promised to put the analysts through was cancelled with no explanation and the culture shifted rapidly for the worst. That led me to being thrown into the fire on my second day before I could even complete all of my onboarding tasks. To make matters worse I was the only other person on the deal with the partner and had no support internally.

While I was comfortable performing the more qualitative aspects of the job I struggled with the technical parts of the deal given I never did banking. So when I went to ask my partner a few questions related to the deal after I had sat with the problem for a while (made sure I couldn’t find answers using internal resources or the internet) and walked him through my thought process his response surprised me. He told me “get the fuck out of his office and to never ask him any questions again.” After that encounter I shook it off thinking he was just in a bad mood and was ultimately able to figure the problem out but it took some time. That really irked him so he then proceeded to berate and shame me in front of the entire office while threatening to cut my bonus. This experience was pretty consistent with the rest of my time at the firm and after a while I just got used to it. Throughout this all I managed to maintain a good attitude, said yes to whatever was asked of me, and offered to do additional work when I had capacity to do so.

In an effort to move past those early issues, accelerate my learning curve, and show the firm how committed I was I made an effort to go overboard with everything I did. I was always the first person in and last one out of the office (even worked weekends when not required) . I also invested in Wall Street Prep, read textbooks on LBO’s, would do an internal memo of key events impacting our portfolio and overall market commentary for our weekly discussions, and would build out full models from scratch in my free time to improve my speed. After a few months of doing this I really started to see drastic and measurable improvements. Unfortunately, these improvements were never good enough for my partner who chose to fixate on my early struggles rather than acknowledge any progress I made. So when I found out today I was being laid off it didn’t come as a complete surprise but it didn’t make it any less frustrating.

Specific Ex’s About Boss (there are about a 12-18 more of these):

Found out at an offsite that his last analyst who came from banking quit 3 months in because he couldn’t handle him

Performance reviews (whenever he’d flip out at me he was clearly trying to get a reaction out of me and when I wouldn’t give it to him and politely answer back he used it as a chance to say that I’m not passionate about the job in my review)

Got into a serious accident that left me in bad shape physically and covered for him on a deal  (skipped going to the doctor right away to cover for him in the office while concussed, bleeding, and with broken bones). Never asked me if I was okay afterward or said thank you.

Bad mouthed me internally (got good feedback on several projects I did for another partner and once he found out about it passed it off as his own work and told that partner that I’m a headache he doesn’t want a part of)

Emotionally abusive towards wife in front of me (on multiple occasions would tell his wife he had no problem leaving her and their kids and without him they’d be nothing)

 

To be honest, if you have 20 months of PE experience and you aren’t able to complete work quickly, I would start figuring out what your skill set better fits.

Also, as a side note, it sounds like you are complaining. Instead of asking for next steps, you spent a lot of time on a diatribe that no one really cares about. I would just focus on how to move on and landing on your feet.

 

Appreciate your feedback and should have been clearer.

What I was trying to communicate was that compared to my peers I struggle with the execution part of the job (building models and data entry) but am much better at critical thinking (analysis of those models, reading the tea leaves in the market, subsequent investment strategy, and crafting ideas). I’ve done a fair amount of research but am still unsure which areas of finance values that skillset. At the senior levels that skill set seems more prevalent but at the entry and mid levels the opposite is most prevalent. Does anyone know of any career paths within the industry that values that kind of skill set?

I should have clarified that I did strategy work for the boutique PE firm so I had no modeling or transaction experience prior to entering the industry. I was open with firms about this during the interview process and knowing that asked for pre work from employees who said that it wasn’t necessary due to the training program they had in place (subsequently cancelled). So when I got thrown on a live deal with no support right off the bat and no training I was surprised by the partners attitude given the firm knew all of this about me before they hired me.

In my 8 months on the job I cut my time down building models from scratch from 4 hours to 2 (5 years of annuals and quarters with segment data, KPI’s, 3 statements, etc. and trends with analysis). At first I could see how 4 hours for that task is a little long but doing all that in 2 seems reasonable. I don’t have any frame of reference point here other than my own. Would you agree? Disagree? 

 

As an AN / ASO, you are always going be valued on the work that no one else wants to do - data entry, slides, model building.

You will never be considered good until you prove you are reliable, because in everyone's eyes, that IS your job.

I've seen people get away with being shit at those things, but they just lucked out into having a strong, overprotective senior which is super rare. Or they managed to kiss ass higher up and get enough resources to cover their ass. ie. a shit ASO using a strong AN as cover.

What exactly are you struggling with? If you can do the job but just tend to make errors, figure out some quick checks to prevent that. Also, a lot of errors are easily caught when you have enough experience - one look and you know something is off - so it's telling that you haven't developed that ability yet.

I know of someone who had that issue but was inherently very smart and very good with people. He just went to a lower tier of firms instead, and they were so happy to have him that they promoted him to VP - where he started being judged on those critical thinking and management skills and didn't have to worry as much about attention to detail.

 

First off, you have a great deal of patience and dedication to be going through that without lashing out and continuously wanting to learn and improve. It seems like you're in a much better spot now technically - given that your skillset is critical thinking, qualitative analysis, research, etc. I would suggest you ditch PE and look into VC or even early-stage growth equity. Modeling and technical is helpful but not as intensive in those two verticals. You can also sell the strategy work you did to a VC / GE firm as they would value that. Good luck and keep learning!

 

To be honest, if you have 20 months of PE experience and you aren’t able to complete work quickly, I would start figuring out what your skill set better fits.

Also, as a side note, it sounds like you are complaining. Instead of asking for next steps, you spent a lot of time on a diatribe that no one really cares about. I would just focus on how to move on and landing on your feet.

It's hilarious when some analyst that has ostensibly never worked in PE and has no idea what the environment is like has the gall to act like such a condescending little shit.

"The obedient always think of themselves as virtuous rather than cowardly" - Robert A. Wilson | "If you don't have any enemies in life you have never stood up for anything" - Winston Churchill | "It's a testament to the sheer belligerence of the profession that people would rather argue about the 'risk-adjusted returns' of using inferior tooth cleaning methods." - kellycriterion
 

Sorry to hear that. Some of the examples you mentioned about him seem egregious. It sounds like you got stuck reporting to someone really hard to work for who was not understanding while also starting from behind (your lack of banking experience). Where do you stand with the firm? Are there others that would give you a good reference? If you have good brand name experience on your resume, you should be able to get interviews. You should just be prepared to respond to why you left early. You can point to the toxic work culture but have clear examples of work that you did like deals you worked on and your contribution. And seek out to a reference or two whether from this or another job that can advocate for you. It’s an uphill battle but I do know someone who was in a similar spot, was able to get another role and is doing really well in it now.

All that said, it’s important to self reflect as well. You could have been model prepping before you started to get yourself up the curve for when you hit the desk. From reading your post, there are several grammatical errors. Do you have enough attention to detail when turning in work products and check your work? How often were you repeating the same mistakes? When you sense such a dramatic shift in senior people’s attitudes, it could be because they feel they have given you a lot of feedback but you’re making the same mistakes. Anyways, I wouldn’t dwell on these items but are things to consider before you start up in another spot.

 

I don’t think I’m going to be able to get references from the firm. HR said they discouraged employees from giving them and the only person I worked for was my partner so nobody else could really speak about me in a way that moves the needle.

I sent a standard email thanking him for the opportunity, telling him I learned a lot from him, and want to continue in the business so I would appreciate it if he could speak positively to my work ethic if another firm asked for a reference. I haven’t gotten a response which isn’t a surprise but am happy I at least made the ask and don’t think it was unreasonable/unethical.

I can get good references from the guys I worked for at the boutique PE firm and may be able to do some work for them during my downtime in an effort to continue to improve. While I work on that I’m planning to reach out to the two other funds that I got offers from to see if they’d be receptive to my coming on board. I’m not optimistic in those prospects but in a market like this I know I need to be putting as many shots on goal as I reasonably can.

There’s a delicate line that needs to be walked between coming across as logical vs. bitter and I’m not exactly sure how exactly to walk that line at the moment. How would you navigate commenting on leaving and the firms toxic environment without it reflecting back poorly on me?

On the self reflection piece I’m not making the same mistakes twice but my attention to detail does still need to continue to improve. I never made egregious errors (balance sheet not balancing) but I’m prone to making 1-2 small mistakes on tasks (not making a title bold in column 7,000 on the 5th tab in our file) especially when working under a time crunch which is when those small mistakes start to compound. 

 

I don't think I'm going to be able to get references from the firm. HR said they discouraged employees from giving them and the only person I worked for was my partner so nobody else could really speak about me in a way that moves the needle.

I sent a standard email thanking him for the opportunity, telling him I learned a lot from him, and want to continue in the business so I would appreciate it if he could speak positively to my work ethic if another firm asked for a reference. I haven't gotten a response which isn't a surprise but am happy I at least made the ask and don't think it was unreasonable/unethical.

I can get good references from the guys I worked for at the boutique PE firm and may be able to do some work for them during my downtime in an effort to continue to improve. While I work on that I'm planning to reach out to the two other funds that I got offers from to see if they'd be receptive to my coming on board. I'm not optimistic in those prospects but in a market like this I know I need to be putting as many shots on goal as I reasonably can.

There's a delicate line that needs to be walked between coming across as logical vs. bitter and I'm not exactly sure how exactly to walk that line at the moment. How would you navigate commenting on leaving and the firms toxic environment without it reflecting back poorly on me?

On the self reflection piece I'm not making the same mistakes twice but my attention to detail does still need to continue to improve. I never made egregious errors (balance sheet not balancing) but I'm prone to making 1-2 small mistakes on tasks (not making a title bold in column 7,000 on the 5th tab in our file) especially when working under a time crunch which is when those small mistakes start to compound. 

Not if this stuff computes for me the "mistake" you're describing is literally nothing. If what you're saying is all 100% true then you're a top decile associate (sending research first in last out barely any errors etc super proactive about expectations ). And he's the worst manager in pe history. 
 

but is that all really true ?

 

You have a lot more patience and are willing to put up with a lot worse than I could, and I think you would do fine at another firm that moves a bit slower and frankly is a little nicer to its junior investment professionals. I would keep networking with LMM and MM firms (a lot of tech funds out there these days) and like other posters mentioned, try to connect with the people at your old firm that gave you good feedback and see if they could be a reference in the future.

 

I literally don’t know how to process some of this stuff. I took the typical IB>PE>HF route and worked a respected MM/UMM in PE and there’s a lot there that’s just luck of the draw (staffed with shitty partners) and other that’s just absurd (having an analyst training program and then just scrapping it out of the blue?). But my biggest question - why were you staffed directly with a partner from the jump? Did you interview with them specifically? As an associate you should have at least 1 and prob 2 layers between you and the partner, is that not typical for your shop? And you silo juniors with partners?

 

There was never a clear reason I was given as to why the training program got cancelled (found out on first day) and why I was staffed directly with a partner from the jump. I felt blindsided in a lot of ways when this happened given I asked targeted questions when evaluating offers. Had I known any of this I never would have taken the job in the first place.

What I gleaned during my time there was that my staffing was attributed to a sizable exodus in the firm. Prior to my joining about a third of the investment professionals left the firm to start their own shop after losing a power struggle. The source of the power struggle was essentially two competing ideologies that weren’t willing to work together and created a ton of friction internally.

It is not the norm for them to silo juniors with partners so my situation was atypical. Our other office had a much better system in place with a bullpen type environment and a support layer in place for juniors. I unfortunately never got that support layer because my partner ran the associate out after 3 months (came over from a top group at GS/EVR) prior to me staring and the firm wasn’t willing to replace him (making me the only junior employee in our office).

The frustrating part of this is I’m feeling paralyzed as to where I go from here. On the one hand, I can see how in some respects I got dealt a bad hand and on the other I’m not so sure that if I went elsewhere my experience would be radically different given the abrasive personalities of many within the industry. Therefore, I’m at somewhat of a loss as to whether I should continue to go down this path given the sacrifices I made to get here. 

 

"What I was trying to communicate was that compared to my peers I struggle with the execution part of the job (building models and data entry) but am much better at critical thinking (analysis of those models, reading the tea leaves in the market, subsequent investment strategy, and crafting ideas)..."

lol.

you have the wrong expectation of the job. your title is what, associate? if you can't execute, you were fired for being incompetent.

 

You sound like a loser just trying to let it out when you can be anonymous 

 

I can resonate with you as I'm in a similar spot.

To be honest, despite there are a lot of reasons that things may not work out, I'd strong encourage you think about what you could have done better. Put yourself in the other person's shoes - if you were him, what would you want to see / receive?

Finance is a hierarchy; and you have to have the service attitude to seniors to succeed. I was less so and hence struggling as well. There are things that I could have done better for sure, but I strongly suggest you to understand what is the expectation of the role, and just do what they want you to do extremely well.

 

Sorry, but what is comical is you still believe there is a permutation this would have ended well. You seem to think if training was never scrapped this partner would act differently. Instead of seeing right away what it was, leveraging the big name and partners success path, you tried to remedy the situation. For someone who has strong “critical thinking” skills that is pretty bad drinking of the koolaid. So let’s be real here, you had a chip on your shoulder and wanted the “big name” glitz got into your eyes. Guess what the partner knows that as others mentioned your job is to execute and gets his deals done you get paid. Showing up first to the office? You think someone like this has any inclination in the morning that you exist, no its their world and you are apart of. You were let go on their timeline not yours, as soon as deals/work-flow slowed he sent you packing.

I suggest in the future in any professional setting, you lead with “I am someone with experience in PE, mainly focused around critical thinking and strategy work etc..” vs “I clawed my way for 7 years and went to a big12 school”. 

 

Appreciate your feedback and will take note of how I market myself in the future.

I believe that the training I received would have given me a better foundation and therefore more tools that I could use when dealing with that partner on my first deal. I agree with your assessment that regardless of what happened he was still likely to be an asshole, but I also believe I wouldn’t be out of a job after 8 months had I received training. In a worst case scenario I think I would have bought myself another 3-4 months of tenure, at which point it would have been easier to attempt to lateral (still wouldn’t have been easy).

I did see the situation for what it was immediately, I just decided that the most optimal path forward was trying to make the situation work and to save as much money as possible by living below my means (saved 45% of my income). I wasn’t going to blow everything up after having moved across the country, been on the hook after signing a yearlong lease in a T1 city, and using my signing bonus to pay off my students loans (arguably the only dumb decision I made because of the moratorium). As a result of this decision I now have a 6-8 month runway to find my next gig instead of having 6-8 weeks to find one.

The big name glitz didn’t factor into my decision when evaluating offers as having 1-2 YOE before leaving or getting laid off at a UMM or MF is considerably worse than having 2+ YOE downmarket at a MM or LMM fund with stability. I was looking for a place that would offer longevity, support, and where I fit into the culture. This firm checked all three of those boxes but happened to be the biggest name and after three months of interviews which included social outings I felt like I knew them very well. So when I joined full time and everyone became standoffish nobody was more surprised than I was. My other offers checked 2/3 (longevity + culture but no support) and 1/3 (support but I wouldn’t have fit culture + high turnover) boxes respectively (both were MM funds).

Contrary to popular belief the partner did care that I was the first person in the office. He’d check badge swipes and call me at all hours of the night to test me in order to see if I was available and engaged with my work. One time he thought I was dosing off in bed when I was in the office and immediately FaceTimed me to validate I was where I said I was.

 

It's really started to become apparent that you just worked with an abusive partner and I'm sorry to say this but it's kind of crazy you stayed for tht long and allowed this to happen. I mean he would "test to see if you were available" at all hours of the night? I feel like you playing into his abuse probably led to him being even more abusive

 

I would ignore a lot of the negative comments on here and sympathize with your experience. The job is a grind even if you have training from a banking program, so not even having training is a tough place to start. Moreover, it should be a mentorship program where your boss wants you to get better so the better you get, the easier you make his life, particularly on the back end. 
 

Take the feedback from him here to improve your technical skills on your own, whether that’s building your own models in your free time, etc. but I would honestly leave after you get traction in recruiting. Speaking from experience, as I’ve had a terrible luck with culture, the last thing you want is to recruit and find another job with a similar boss which unfortunately permeates most of PE (and hence why most juniors quit after Associate program…). 

 

Lol what’s bizarre are some of these comments defending this stuff. This guy recording how long it takes you to do tasks by the second, berating you verbally? Do people like this actually exist? Partner sounds like a loser who happens to have a “good” job. 
 

do not look back and blame yourself. First off, it’s the company’s fault for hiring you if you didn’t have the “skills” in the first place. You probably would’ve been fine if you didn’t have a mentally unstable partner. The fact they threw you straight in the fire to work with a partner is laughable. I’d say keep your head up, take what you learned and keep applying. Maybe check out private credit? Finance strategy at a corporation? Despite the outcome, you can still take the experience with you. 

 

Sounds like the plot of Whiplash (2014). There’s a scene in the movie where the main character shows up to play drums despite severe accident / injury. This is clearly satire. I mean OP is literally claiming his partner tracked how long he took to produce work output by the *second* often enough to have an average, and that OPs worst mistakes were not bolding the title of “Column 7,000” in “tab 5”. Can’t believe anybody is taking this troll seriously lol 

 

This story seems kind of fake, but here's assume everything here is the truth. The bottom line is you got unlucky - it happens in life. Sometimes, an investment you know is a 100% sure-shot ends up being a flop. This isn't a reflection of you or your ability to succeed to the industry. You seem to be humble and hard working, which isn't always the case for a lot of people. I'm sure you'll have no issues finding a role that's a better fit. 

 

The more time I spend on here and in the real world the more I believe some jobs can be DOA based on your superior. Seems that this is the case here (assuming true). I had some pretty bad bosses in my IB and PE days and it's so draining having to put up with them. Literally makes it impossible to get out of bed.

Not exclusive to finance either. Have friends in marketing and in tech that feel this way too. Sometimes you just get unlucky and either have to power through or start looking elsewhere. This could end up being a good thing for your career!

 

I also had bad performance with my team early on. Seems like it can be varying degrees of hard to come back from depending on the situation…sounds like this boss really didn’t like u. My learning was I should’ve been more ready to do what they needed from the jump but also that there was very little if any willingness to help upskill the people who still hadn’t gone “exponential” in their grasp of the concepts yet.

 

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