Managed Out - Resume Gap & Recruiting

For background, I'm an associate who is being "managed out" of my fund. I started as an analyst and have worked at my current fund for the past 3 years. The first two years were manageable but I became increasingly unhappy and burned out as I progressed through my third year, which I believe was largely a symptom of feeling underpaid relative to the hours I was putting in, and also a byproduct of the general sweatiness of my fund (massive junior turnover during COVID).

After some conversations with the partners, I managed to negotiate an exit period where I transition off my projects and portcos for a couple months. I'm leaving with no bridges burned, and the senior guys have agreed to give strong references for whatever else I decide to transition to next. 

If it were up to me – and optics for business school apps / other finance positions didn't matter – I would take 3-6 months to travel, recharge, and reevaluate what I want from life and my career. Overall, I had a pretty negative experience at the fund I worked at, and although I think a lot of that was driven by the poor culture, I also think that I need to do some soul searching to determine if PE is the right path for me. I'm reluctant to immediately jump into recruiting for more buyout roles, as a number of trusted friends / mentors  within my network have cautioned me that my negative experience isn't unique to my fund, and I could end up in another seat feeling equally unhappy for similar reasons. I guess I'm holding on to the hope that there are some funds out there with a good collegial culture, where your weekend isn't constantly blown up, etc., and I don't want to shut the door to recruiting opps by having a resume gap from a personal break.

Which brings me to my question for the group: has anyone taken extended time off after finishing a few years of work in PE, either due to burnout or other personal reasons? I'd love to hear your experiences and how things worked out for those of you that have, as well as any advice you might have for dealing with burnout in the industry.

Comments (15)

  • Assist. VP in PE - LBOs
Aug 15, 2022 - 7:56pm

Can you elaborate on the negative experiences a bit? 

  • Associate 1 in PE - LBOs
Aug 24, 2022 - 12:40am

Overall, I found the people to be pleasant to work with (i.e., no overtly abusive behavior, friendly enough in the office, VPs and junior team were good people, etc.) but a number of the partners had no understanding of when to pass on deals and when to dig in, which resulted in constant firedrills. 100% of the weekend work I did was for processes where we had absolutely no chance of prevailing. Recent example: An opportunity where we had verbal confirmation from a board contact that multiple strategics (one F500) were in the process and digging in, but we continued to pull together memos, detailed operating model, and diligence calls / third-party workstreams, etc. We ended up bidding far below the range of other parties in the process and did not move forward. End result = 3 weekends blown up for nothing. This happened repeatedly throughout my tenure, and no one thought it was unusual that over the course of a year we created like 20 full IC memos for deals that never progressed past IOI. Moreover, culture was pretty poor at the junior level - no camaraderie, socializing / chit chat, or anything. Work at my fund consisted of sitting in my cube and occasionally someone senior drops by and says "can you pull together xyz - would be great to have it this evening or first thing tomorrow" at 6pm.

  • Associate 3 in IB-M&A
Aug 15, 2022 - 9:17pm

Others may disagree, but my view is life is too short. Take the time off. You will land somewhere, you're undercutting your experience if you think a short break is going to completely undermine 3 years of working in PE.

It sounds like you're questioning if PE is even for you, and in my experience once you get your weekends back, travel a bit, reconnect with your friends, you only start to value those things more, and you might find yourself happier in a role with more WLB. Take a month and don't even think about work or your next step, and then start planning for it once you're in a clear head space. I don't think 3 months off is shutting the door on any opportunities, especially after the last 2 years where a lot of people have recruited just fine with such gaps.

  • Associate 1 in PE - LBOs
Aug 24, 2022 - 12:53am

Thanks man, I appreciate the response. I'm definitely leaning more towards taking the time off and recruiting after. Probably will be more effective if I have enthusiasm and can convey a clear interest in staying in the industry, rather than jumping into processes when I'm clearly jaded.

Aug 15, 2022 - 11:45pm
MacroJunkie, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I'm not in IB/PE, but I personally wouldn't hold a 3-6 month resume gap against you as long as you do something cool (i.e., not just sitting on the couch at home smoking weed or something). Go travel around Europe, Asia, or South America, visit friends and family, etc. IMO (not that I'm an expert or anything), but you might actually be a stronger candidate for it.

Just FYI, I have a bit of an unusual background - having lived/worked on 3 continents before the age of 25. If anything, I would say it's been a net positive and interesting talking point.

Most Helpful
Aug 16, 2022 - 5:02pm
hklevfinbanker, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Don't want to dampen the mood but only ever saw that once and that was super specific

Context: regional head of levfin Asia relocates to France HQ and takes a sabbatical with a secured job in Paris at the end

Result: market turned, his seat in Paris disappeared and was left with no clients and no book

Caveat: very specific given relocation at senior level but sabbatical didn't help

Other than that, everyone I know in IB / PE who want a "break" go do an MBA (very debatable how much of a break it actually is)

Sadly and again don't want to be killing the good vibes of other posts, reality is that

1. there are still a million candidates

2. the economic outlook is pretty shit and lots of banks are going to start firing soon as they hired too much post covid

3. why would you go the extra mile hiring someone with a 6 month gap vs someone who doesn't….

  • Assist. VP in PE - LBOs
Aug 16, 2022 - 7:29pm
hklevfinbanker

Don't want to dampen the mood but only ever saw that once and that was super specific

Context: regional head of levfin Asia relocates to France HQ and takes a sabbatical with a secured job in Paris at the end

Result: market turned, his seat in Paris disappeared and was left with no clients and no book

Caveat: very specific given relocation at senior level but sabbatical didn't help

Other than that, everyone I know in IB / PE who want a "break" go do an MBA (very debatable how much of a break it actually is)

Sadly and again don't want to be killing the good vibes of other posts, reality is that

1. there are still a million candidates

2. the economic outlook is pretty shit and lots of banks are going to start firing soon as they hired too much post covid

3. why would you go the extra mile hiring someone with a 6 month gap vs someone who doesn't….

Why is it debatable if an mba is a break? It's a complete joke and you just travel and drink

  • VP in PE - LBOs
Aug 17, 2022 - 10:24am

Correct take. If you have worked in PE before and/or have an iota of time management skills, MBA is a cakewalk from an academic perspective (source: Wharton MBA). Hustling for a PE job post-MBA can be a grind, but it sounds like OP isn't sure this is the path for them. The "structured" recruiting processes (consulting, banking) are also difficult in their way, but the MBA is essentially a choose-your-own-adventure experience assuming baseline academic competence.

Aug 17, 2022 - 3:11am
hklevfinbanker, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Not sure about the "complete joke" comment. I haven't done one myself but my understanding is that it varies a lot across the programs/schools

Anyway won't start an off topic on MBAs as not the best person to opine and this is not OP's question but I stand by my point that a MBA is probably the "best" mini break OP could have if they want to minimise impact on career 

  • Principal in PE - LBOs
Aug 17, 2022 - 10:58am

Agreed that an MBA makes a lot of sense here. You can use the rest of your transition period to take the GMAT, prepare essays, get rec letters etc. and resign once you officially submit apps in December / January (whenever round 2 is) and then take the next 6 months fully off before school starts. Once you're there, you basically have two years to try whatever you want and figure out what direction to take the rest of your career. Def worth the cost in your situation IMO

Aug 17, 2022 - 5:43pm
ke18sb, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Don't agree with the take from HKLevFinBanker. 

I've know plenty of people that have taken breaks like this and have landed great roles. The important thing to do is to craft a good story and not apply once you're back from your travels - you can maybe even negotiate with your current firm to let you keep your jobs as present on your resume. Begin the networking process / application process after a month or two...no at the tail end of month six. 

If you're good and personable this really shouldn't be an issue, especially at your more junior level. 

Aug 19, 2022 - 4:14pm
Green_Bananas, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I had a similar experience where I burned out in direct PE and abruptly quit. I then had a 9 month gap (3 month sabbatical and then 6 months on an entrepreneurial endeavor). I began recruiting again to get back into PE, but on the co-investments side (not direct) which usually has better WLB. I ended up getting an offer after 3-4 weeks of recruiting and a lot of firms (which were all not direct PE), totally understood me burning out.

Maybe historically I would have had a rougher time recruiting again, but finance is starved for talent and you can likely get a decent offer somewhere. I would strongly advise you not do direct PE anymore, it's long hours and sharp elbows virtually everywhere. 

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

  • 2
  • Associate 1 in PE - LBOs
Aug 24, 2022 - 12:59am

Would you mind elaborating a bit on the co-investing path (i.e., worklife balance, how the work differs from direct, pros/cons, firms to target)? I recently interviewed for two hybrid secondaries / co-investing roles and was interested in pursuing more opportunities like that as an alternative to direct investing.  

  • Works at Goldman Sachs
Aug 24, 2022 - 12:45pm

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