Losing the drive

Hi all --

I've seen some similar posts on this topic over the past few months, but figured I'd throw my own hat into the ring. Lately I've been really losing interest in my work and having a difficult time motivating myself to do anything more than just focusing on the bare minimum I can do (i.e., completing tasks at a relatively decent rate and relatively good quality, but not really striving to go above and beyond) and not looking forward to work at all. Frankly I show up to work late every day because I can't bring myself to get out of bed and go into the office.

After doing an analyst stint at a BB and now at a sweaty UMM, I'm really starting to feel like I'm not longer the hard worker I used to be. I can't tell what is causing this (bad culture, burnout from COVID, not taking a longer break before PE, decreased interest in the career path, lifestyle / values change), but it has been causing a lot of doubt about my future and my overall career (i.e., should I leave finance all together). Has anyone else felt this way? I've started going to therapy as I had some low points during the past year starting my PE gig, and am having a difficult time motivating myself to stay for the first year bonus (another 3 months or so). While I recognize the culture of my firm is below average, I'm worried just lateraling to another PE firm will just lead to the same feelings once I hit the 6 month mark. My reviews so far (formal and informal) have been solid so I know I can do the job, just losing the drive to want to keep at it. I've had some significant life events come up this year (loss of a friend, serious health issues, family weddings) that may have accelerated or changed my outlook on what I want out of my life as well.

I was always a hard worker and interested in finance and data analysis in college, but now the idea of building a model or scanning a data room seems daunting and a ton of work. While I always valued earning high compensation, it no longer is enough for me and I've lost my 'why'. I'm thinking I may need to take some extended time off before figuring out my next step, but would be interested in hearing if anyone else has come to this point and how they handled it.

Comments (33)

  • VP in PE - Other
Apr 14, 2022 - 5:18pm

I feel the same. The drive is gone - my WLB is pretty good so it's more down to realizing I don't really like this job. The carrot of VP promotion masked this, now that I've got it and next promotion is 3-4 years away, the motivation to work hard / put up with a job I don't enjoy is gone.

Unfortunately I can't offer much in the way of advice as I'm only going through this now too. I think I'll work 1-2 more years to build up my savings and then think I'll take 12-18 months off to figure out what I actually want to do. I would definitely stay for the 3 months to bonus, you can hand in notice once it hits your account. This will give you a lot more options if you want to take time off / put it towards bschool etc.

Have you considered PortCo roles? Is there's a management team you like working with and think there's a gap to plug in it (corp dev, strategy, FP&A etc) you can ask internally if you can move to it. Worst case scenario they no and you leave. 

Apr 14, 2022 - 8:05pm
KingKongHardo, what's your opinion? Comment below:

My worry is that taking this much time off will make it nearly impossible to get back into IB/PE if you decide to, especially coming from a very non-traditional background like myself. Would absolutely love to do it though, have the savings and am still young.

Also, doesn't this mean you get no carry or do they pay out your carry pro rata for vesting?

  • VP in PE - Other
Apr 15, 2022 - 6:48am

Carry is 5+ years away for payout. I'm in my early 30s and I'm watching them fly by from my computer screen, or I'm choosing holiday locations with being reachable a consideration. Fuck that, life's too short for that. I don't want to get back into IB/PE so it's less of a consideration for me, and I'm not concerned about what'll happen as I know I'll still end up in a job which pays well as I've good resume and good references. 

The way I view taking 12-18 months off is I get 4 weeks of holidays per year (Europe - good PTO), so if I take 12-18 months off, I'm basically cramming 12-18 years of annual leave in and doing it while I'm young, single and have plenty of money. I won't get this opportunity again. I'll still be able to live a very comfortable life after even if it's not on IB/PE payscales.

  • VP in PE - Other
Apr 15, 2022 - 6:51am

I'm confident career will turn out okay after I'm back as I have a good resume and good references. It wont be on the same pay as IB/PE, but I don't need that either. I'm confident I'll still get a good paying job with 40-50 hours work a week which will pay enough for me to pursue my hobbies and support a family if I decide to go down that route.

May 26, 2022 - 7:35pm
2rigged2fail, what's your opinion? Comment below:

How much you planning to save before puling the trigger? I find peoples answer to this question fascinating 

  • Associate 2 in PE - Other
Apr 14, 2022 - 9:11pm

Subscribing as also feeling this way recently. Was stuck in a rut towards the back end of last year and generally felt burnt out. Xmas holidays helped a bit but even now I'm nowhere near as motivated as I was last year. Hunger and drive has gone down. Would be helpful to hear how others have dealt with this. So far my solution has been caring less about work but that's not really a viable long term strategy.

  • Analyst 2 in IB - Cov
Apr 14, 2022 - 11:29pm

Not as achieved as you are in the world of finance.

Maybe think about this: is what you are doing now actually something you wanna do?

From Marcus Aurelius: if you do not know where your soul is going (some ancient Roman or Greek crap like that), it is difficult not to be unhappy. 

Most Helpful
  • Associate 2 in PE - LBOs
Apr 14, 2022 - 11:42pm

I actually went through this exact issue and came out the other end feeling a bit more Amazing-Grace-y (eg "I once was lost and now am found").

Like many I worked hard to get to top PE firm. I hit the desk and I start to wonder after a month or two (once the new job smell goes away): Do I want to live like this? Is it worth it? Do I enjoy the job? What brought me here? Do I respect these people?

Ultimately my self reflection yielded that I was 100% here in PE because of the prestige and money chasing, and that I did not much like the people / culture element of PE. So, I had to reassess now that I had *gotten here* whether I wanted to *stay here* (which is completely different).
 

Between being seriously depressed and finding clarity, it took from about 6 months in to 18 months in; during this period I was seriously depressed, lost dozens of pounds of good weight, etc. (Feels like a good place to s/o to the guy on WSO who suggested therapy when I discussed this publicly a couple years ago, I didn't do that but I should have and that was good advice).

Anyway, once I started framing whether I have any reason to stay, I started to see some good news. The job itself is just PMO and accounting so don't expect to enjoy the actual job outside of brief moments of the cerebral joy of mastering a new subsector (truthfully that's just the joy of novelty and you can get that anywhere / if that's what you're really after, maybe an HF would be a better fit).

Now to my point: I found belonging / a sense of community / my own niche, and then the job got better. I have been [sector] focused since early days of college, so I have built up a strong network. I pushed back on doing unrelated work (it still happens time to time and I have to do well on staffings I do get) but now I try to be self-directed with my work: go to relevant conferences, engaging with people I've met in my career path so far, work with friends from my first group who are also investors now, get more involved in relevant portcos, etc. I try to find my own things that I am emotionally invested in and it's fun because I have a little niche and I know the people and I can kind of do my own thing vis a vis thesis generation.
 

In short, what finding my niche yields is a more fun experience where I'm in control and can be in the driver's seat / building a name for myself. So I like it ok now and if someone says to me "hey you're just a senior associate not a VP, this is not your job" well then you know what, fire me, I was not having fun before, so I would probably rather leave than go back to the old way of working.

To you, I would say give it another year and see if you can start doing interesting work that you seek out and driving the boat a bit more yourself, but if you don't like that, or if your firm doesn't like it, you'll have gained valuable self discovery which is about the most valuable thing you can get. 

May 26, 2022 - 7:37pm
2rigged2fail, what's your opinion? Comment below:

PMO? What is that? The NoFap purists among us will read that as Post Masturbation Orgasm.

Apr 15, 2022 - 1:50am
Kevin25, what's your opinion? Comment below:

being a hard worker is necessary early on. but when you made it already, like you already made it to BB and UMM, you can find something more chill and enjoy life. people made an expression "hard worker" sound good to encourage others to waste their lives in order to produce goods and services for them, but in reality there is nothing good about working hard your whole life, it's meaningless, unless you develop a cure for cancer, but even then people will always find new ways to die (like covid), so it's all meaningless. just go enjoy life and think about why you're here on Earth.

Apr 15, 2022 - 1:54am
masters, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Been there before and got out of it. In my case, it was due to a toxic work environment, where I would see limited upside for myself. Sometimes all you need is to take time off, speak to some friends/mentors, put things into perspective and try to get to the root cause of the problem, it might be related to your job or personal life.

We all go through periods like this, and we can all get out of them, emotions are usually temporary. I also advice to focus on activities outside of work (sports, meeting friends, family, reading motivational books) as this will take some pressure away. 

Apr 15, 2022 - 8:20am
TheGrandWazoo, what's your opinion? Comment below:

This is maybe a hot take, so disregard if it doesn't resonate, but if you're entrepreneurial I'd consider joining a new venture or starting something yourself.

You already know how to work hard (a prerequisite for this plan), you're likely smarter than most people and have a great background (will help with getting hired and/or raising money), and you're looking for something that'd be more fulfilling. Is this risky? Of course. But it always shocks me when WSO is reluctant to encourage insanely high-achieving people to take bets on themselves and try something unique. If it all falls apart you'll have a killer application for bschool.

  • Associate 1 in PE - LBOs
Apr 15, 2022 - 10:15am

Thanks for the comment -- I'm honestly leaning this way now. I've thought hard about joining a Series B / C company to get some start up experience first but then trying to break out on my own and be my own boss.

The crippling burnout makes me weary of doing anything right now but think if I take a bit of time off I'll be able to snap back into it.

Apr 15, 2022 - 3:30pm
numbersloth, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Just here to caution that if you are looking for good WLB, you should be looking to big corporates not startups. There is zero redundancy for your role in a start up and you are basically on call 24/7. Ridiculous board requests, constantly worrying about fundraising, putting out cross functional fires, etc. It definitely can feel fulfilling but might not be the right step if you are looking for better WLB or less stress. 

Apr 15, 2022 - 11:14am
Capital Squared, what's your opinion? Comment below:

If you still want to be an investor, I'd try another strategy. Credit, Real Estate, etc. Buyout doesn't need to be the end-all be-all of your path thus far. You can obviously do the work if you made it to an UMM. 

If you don't want to be an investor, that's fine too. Remember those ex-bankers who bought a regional plumbing business that's now doing $9MM of EBITDA? They're doing OK too and had to decide to step off the Golden Handcuffs Express (probably with the same piercing anxiety that everyone has when they take a pay cut to do something new).  

Apr 15, 2022 - 11:49am
escokid, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Felt the same way very recently. Had a tough few years during COVID, didn't take a proper break for probably 3 years, and had lost all motivation /energy for anything and was about to quit out of frustration.

Spoke to a couple of good friends to get things in perspective and took a 14 day break and made it clear to work i was completely unavailable during this time and would not be checking emails or joining calls (they were obviously not too keen, but I told them the organisation was big enough to find cover and that I was taking time out). Used the break to recharge and pick up those things which i had to forgo on the account of being too busy during COVID and basically having no time to focus on myself and feel good. It was a much needed break (so this is what you should asap). Decided I would reprioritise life a bit more and focus on having a WLB balance (ie not doing 4AMs anymore, logging off at 11 latest, going to gym and delegating more to analysts etc, making more plans in the week evenings etc and sticking to it).

Long story short, the break was the best thing to just decompress and I ended up feeling better about life and got more motivation back for the role. I do enjoy what I do, but it is only worthwhile (high salary, status etc.) when it is coupled with a healthy balance for personal life and being able to enjoy myself. 

I would recommend you do something similar and take time out just to decompress as soon as you can, as it sounds like you need it and you are burnt out.

You could start with a shorter break and then if you dont feel better/have a clearer way forward, then do sabbatical.

  • Associate 1 in PE - LBOs
Apr 15, 2022 - 1:14pm

Thanks -- this is great advice. My firm culture on vacation is that you have to 'earn' it, so if work perks up and I get a deal done I'll try to take a week or so. Since we are relatively close to the bonus I'm weary of asking for extended time off as I don't want to signal I may be leaving, but agree that I really think I might need some time with no agenda and feel better about things.

Hopefully I'll figure out what I want after that, but not sure it'll be finance / investing as I agree I've realized I need some balance in my life (and willing to take a pay cut if needed).

  • Associate 2 in PE - LBOs
Apr 15, 2022 - 2:31pm

Experiencing the same recently as well. Even in a new role i find myself spending 90%+ of my time going through endless iterations of modeling (it seems the industry as a whole just throws the Pareto principle out the window when it comes to modeling), and as a result I get frustrated and make mistakes since modeling just isn't my strength. I'm much better suited to a more balanced role where I'm spending more time doing biz dev/portco support/investment evaluation, but I'm concerned I never get senior enough to be give those responsibilities and just end up stuck as a mediocre Excel monkey. 

  • Analyst 2 in IB - Cov
May 25, 2022 - 1:48am

This might be a dumb question:

Doesn't PE teach you how to invest in private businesses? Assuming you work middle market deals, you can essentially go screen LMM deals yourself and become an investor no? Theoretically at least. I'm not in PE (yet) so I don't really know if this spare-time-growth-equity thing is real. 

  • Associate 1 in PE - LBOs
May 26, 2022 - 3:14pm

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May 26, 2022 - 7:43pm
2rigged2fail, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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