No VP Promote from Sr. Associate - Seeking Advice

Long-time user over here, who has read through the insane amount of helpful commentary dating back to my time in college all the way through IBPE, and Venture/Growth. 

Well, I'm hoping to bounce some questions off of the more senior members out there regarding my current predicament. I'm going to try and be as vague as I can, as I don't want to ruffle any feathers at my ex-firm, or give away too much personal info that could track back to me. The TLDR here though, is that after 7 years in the industry, I propositioned for a promote and voiced concerns with comp/my position - well, an agreement wasn't reached and instead I begrudgingly decided to part ways. 

As a deeper background - I did two years at a respected IB, 3 years at a traditional PE buyout shop, and then jumped ship to what I thought was my end goal. I just wrapped up 2 years as on the growth side of things, and absolutely fucking loved almost every second of it. I was given nothing but rave reviews, "top bucket" bonuses (still sub-market, mind you), and a continuous indication that there would be a road for me to grow. Because of this, I voiced concerns with my comp levels, and ultimately felt I had the legitimacy and value-add to push for a VP promote. Well, push come to shove, and as we enter into my year-end review, I'm told that they don't see the capacity for another VP, and wouldn't have a timeline to when that might shake out, and after a handful of weeks of negotiation, that it made the most sense to amicably split ways.  

To add insult to injury, when I left my last firm (where the promote was offered to Sr Associate & I had a decent chunk of carry), this firm hired me under the assumption that a fundraise close was within spitting distance and that I would have meaningful carry in it at close. They had targeted the $800mm level, and two years later, not only did it decrease considerably, but after TWO WHOLE YEARS, the fund is barely halfway subscribed to. That's where the comp anger stemmed from and fueled some serious discontent internally.

Well, shit hit the fan and I accept that. I've since spoken with members of the team in a much more candid manner and was told that by and far, my execution, deal work, investment acumen, and finance skills were among the strongest in the organization. But for some reason, despite that, there was a structural issue where I was competing with an inside track member who had risen the ranks internally from Analyst to VP, and that capacity didn't dictate my promote at this current time..."just business". They've all offered to corroborate my value-add and that this was a capacity issue, giving strong recs & intros when needed, as well as the optionality of leading some VP level roles in portco's if that interests me (and they claimed my skillset would be a huge value-add). Still stings though. 

I had planned to kick off lateral searches this year due to a bit of concern that this could happen down the road, but hadn't really pushed forward because I never in 1000 years would have anticipated this outcome so soon. I got my bonus, some decent severance, and we called it quits. This has all been a bit of a whirlwind and It's taking some time to center in on what's next.  

Ultimately, my question to you fine folks is: what do I do next? Any advice for a tired, beaten down, fellow finance monkey? It's time to find the long home, I know that. 

That was longer than I expected; so if you made it here, I appreciates you. Hope there's actually people reading this over the Holidays! 

-Edging Happiness 

Comments (66)

Dec 24, 2021 - 5:18pm
MidMarketMcLovin, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I think you need to take some time off before going back on the job hunt. You've got your bonus and a decent severance, so presumably you're sitting on a nice pool of cash. Now's a good time to travel or focus on a hobby you've always wanted to pick up. I'd spend the next 3-4 months on a beach in Costa Rica finally learning to surf probably. Towards the end of that period, start reaching out to your network and headhunters to see what's out there.

Be candid to them on explaining what happened, given the serious hit to the latest fundraising there not being space for another VP is believable in this instance. While you feel hard done by your current firm, you could ask partners you've good relationships with to recommend you to their network / work out if any of their buddies are hiring. Obviously this whole situation feels shitty, but might as well make the most of it and enjoy the time off where you wont be disturbed by work / new deals etc. Once you're back in a job you probably wont have a chance to do so again.

Dec 24, 2021 - 7:26pm
Edging_Happiness, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Appreciate that insight! Spoke with some friends who have been much more free-flowing in their career path (basically tech companies), and they pointed towards a similar option. Especially with how often kids these days take breaks or leave jobs. It's a valid option for sure.  

I guess my concern here, is how many people would really step up and away from $300k+, instead of just looking for another gig while employed. My biggest mental block right now is interviewing from a position of weakness, and navigating around that. But having said that, end of the day there wasn't capacity, I lacked line of sight, there were fundraising issues, and maybe I just felt that focusing fulltime on finding my long-term placement, and taking a breather under some degree of financial freedom was more important than dealing with live deals and the like. Wish I didn't just renew my $4k apartment lease these days smh. 

On the partner front, it was offered up that intro's would be available, so it's something to think about as well. As is the Corp Dev / Strategy items...but that's a whole other set of decisions. 

I'm just bummed out dude. What a god damn gut punch this was.  

Dec 29, 2021 - 11:51am
Bullet-Tooth Tony, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Appreciate that insight! Spoke with some friends who have been much more free-flowing in their career path (basically tech companies), and they pointed towards a similar option. Especially with how often kids these days take breaks or leave jobs. It's a valid option for sure.  

I guess my concern here, is how many people would really step up and away from $300k+, instead of just looking for another gig while employed. My biggest mental block right now is interviewing from a position of weakness, and navigating around that. But having said that, end of the day there wasn't capacity, I lacked line of sight, there were fundraising issues, and maybe I just felt that focusing fulltime on finding my long-term placement, and taking a breather under some degree of financial freedom was more important than dealing with live deals and the like. Wish I didn't just renew my $4k apartment lease these days smh. 

On the partner front, it was offered up that intro's would be available, so it's something to think about as well. As is the Corp Dev / Strategy items...but that's a whole other set of decisions. 

I'm just bummed out dude. What a god damn gut punch this was.  

This situation sounds horrible and I can imagine why it would be taking such an emotional and psychological toll. As the other poster mentioned, some time off would do you well to just clear your head and get yourself (mentally and physically) back in the right spot before you try and find another position. 

It sounds like you should get great reviews from the partners, so hopefully you didn't burn any bridges (hard to tell based on some of the language). If you handled it in an appropriate fashion, they should be giving you props for being willing to talk in detail about how you add value and what you bring to the table. That shows maturity to me, though I suppose it depends on the senior individual.

Partners have deep networks within PE and if they are decent people and you were even an average (I realize you are probably better than that) performer, they should be willing to make some intros and help you land on your feet.

As for your story, I wouldn't have any issue throwing your prior fund under the bus and saying, I was brought in with this in mind (trajectory, fundraise, etc.), but it didn't materialize. Any experienced fund (or even recruiter) should be able to understand that if the fund size is cut in half and the timing is that long, things are not going to end well for several non-partners, to no fault of their own. 

  • Associate 2 in PE - Other
Dec 24, 2021 - 5:23pm

This happens very often, I've heard from both friends and former colleagues. Take the time to balance your life out, refresh your CV and see friends, get fit, work on yourself and brush up on some of your previous details and experiences - then hit the ground running.

Being vague as well, a former colleague of mine had the same issue (ASO level), ended up at a smaller but respectable shop (3+ years); thereafter, moved up to a large MM PE fund at a senior level comp ~$1mm.

My understanding is that you may have a few conversations that have a patchy start (explaining the background), but if you have good experience, that's all people will focus on.

Dec 24, 2021 - 7:32pm
Edging_Happiness, what's your opinion? Comment below:

The notion that this happens to others is reassuring. Obviously the big weeding out is IB to buyside, then associate to Sr associate. I'm not as sure what typically happens at my position, and I thought I was done hopping around finally. 

On the interview front, I've been running through mental gymnastics trying to figure out how best to explain the situation and the "why". The damage is recent, so maybe that's why I'm struggling, but framing this is a way that doesn't raise eyebrows is destroying me. I have the recs to lean on, and my deal experience and otherwise solid resume, but I am struggling with the full story. 

Appreciate the data points! 

Dec 25, 2021 - 1:15pm
SuperCashBros, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Why not just explain what happened? "There was no path or timeline for me as a VP, ultimately I thought it made sense for me to leave and pursue a role with upward mobility and my firm was understanding and supportive of this path because it was the best career move for me." You can then add some color saying how much you appreciated your old firm being honest with you / letting you go even though it hurts them in the short term (this is BS but underscores the it wasn't performance based / makes you look like a team player, etc). 

Dec 25, 2021 - 9:54pm
pudding, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Just be honest. No need to spin a story. It's hard to move up the ladder and people get that. Just say, the fund raise was significantly lower than expected, due to that, a VP spot didn't open as growth wasn't going to be as large as expected. There are traffic jams moving up in many firms and many people get caught in them. Don't let this get you down. Just keep trudging. 

  • Associate 2 in PE - LBOs
Dec 24, 2021 - 5:28pm

First, I'm sorry to read all this and I know you're feeling bad right now and I hope you find whatever makes you feel better safely, quickly.

anyway, I've Known close amigos in nearly an identical spot and it took them tops 3 months of searching to find something similar or better. Look, nothing anyone can say can make you feel less shitty. That will play out on its own. But your career is in a fine state. So you got pushed out of a mediocre fund. Move on. It sucks but you know what, not every roll of the dice is perfect. 

Dec 24, 2021 - 7:37pm
Edging_Happiness, what's your opinion? Comment below:

That's helpful to hear, as its been the biggest resident of my brain activity the last 48 hours. Just making it so close, only to have the rug pulled and seeing I put my faith in a team that didn't value my role as much as I believed they did; I took a gamble with the pressuring of my concerns and it didn't pay off. Seeing a couple peers update their linkedins to VP is the icing on the cake. 

This is a rough one dude; wouldn't wish it on anyone. 

  • Associate 2 in PE - LBOs
Dec 25, 2021 - 9:20pm

Forget others' LinkedIn. Who cares? Comparison is the thief of joy. You have a fuck load of money for someone your age, and good health, and are extremely employable. Think about it that way.

Most Helpful
  • PM in HF - Other
Dec 24, 2021 - 8:21pm

I know many people in banking -> PE are very risk averse and the fact you took a risk and got hurt really sucks and probably why you freaking out. In reality this is pretty common on the buyside end of the industry know people in trading/PE/HFs etc it all happens to.

Will break it down to you, your past firm lied basically to attract top talent (common tool), tried to pay you top bucket bonus and compliments to defer questions, failed to get the runway to grow the firm. Upon failure was content since they still get paid a ton (you not them), and chose the "safe, known" option vs the top performer cause well they cant even grow the firm like they wanted so why not. They expected you to come back and make a fuss and then easily allows them to complete the exit plan or continue exploiting you for a few years. 

Once you relax on off time you will see your situation is easily identifiable and will end up with a firm that understands how to pay/care for performance/talent. You will be way more happy in the long-run. Eff these fools and their "safe content path". You will kill again killer.

Dec 25, 2021 - 12:42am
Edging_Happiness, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Legendary reply, and know that you got me kind of fired up here in a positive way - read it right before heading into the gym, and got my endorphins firing naturally for the first time in days. Your read on the situation is also identical to what one of the senior members alluded to in a private conversation. 

It's hugely reassuring to hear that my reputation isn't as tarnished as I may be fearing; especially with the recs I'll have as backing. What do you think I should do about the "safe" option who was promoted; mention it as part of my reason for leaving along the rest of the story (line of sight, fundraise, growth prospects, etc.) or don't address at all unless asked / they do their DD? 

Dec 24, 2021 - 8:37pm
CHItizen, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Agree you should take a step back and re-evaluate where you are professionally. I know it's tough times rn, but for one thing, why exactly do you want to be promoted so badly at a firm that can't even close a fund and gets rid of high performing associates? Do you really want to be tied to that?

Omicron aside (and assuming your bank acct looks good), take a vacation somewhere. How many times in your life do you think you'll have $$$ + time + freedom/independence? 

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Dec 25, 2021 - 12:46am
Edging_Happiness, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Honestly - I'm just tired dude. 7 years of this shit; the lost weekends, the late nights, the hopping around, the politics, the firedrills, being a model-monkey. I finally had a team of junior resources, I haven't had to build a model or run the grunt work analyses - it felt awesome to have full control over workflows, auditing the work delivered to me, and crafting the thesis to IC. Of course its always a grind, and thats okay, but I can't go back to being a model monkey and the prospect of stopping the worry about what next was borderline euphoric lol. 

  • Managing Director in Consulting
Dec 24, 2021 - 8:37pm

I third a lot of what's been written above. and I can speak from someone who's made a change under similar circumstance. I walked away from a high 6 figure spot due to fit. (And couldn't be happier that it happened After time has passed) 

you're not in a great state of mind at the moment. Spend some of that cash. Check out. Beach. Aspen. Whatever tickles your fancy. Enjoy what you've built. It's impressive by any measure. 

When you're in a better state, you'll understand this is just business. Not personal. Your network will be there and you'll find another job that will be a better fit. You'll feel rejuvenated and hungry not jilted and desperate.(which are normal feeling at this moment but it'll pass!)

   Being disgruntled for a year while you searched wasn't ideal for anyone and that's why you parted ways. It really is for the best. 2-6 month vacation will set you right.  

  • Associate 2 in PE - LBOs
Dec 24, 2021 - 10:17pm

Others have added good feedback already so won't add too much else but it sounds like you dodged a bullet here. If you're at a fund that is struggling to raise, you don't want to be locked in with carry - this gives you the opportunity to lateral into a VP role at a fund that doesn't have this challenge which is where you want to be as the ability to fundraise quickly and successfully becomes so much more crucial to your overall comp

Dec 24, 2021 - 11:44pm
mrharveyspecter, what's your opinion? Comment below:

First of all sorry to hear about your situation, sounds like you positioned yourself well, did good work, and just got caught in a bad situation due to timing issues. Timing is everything and you just got a bit unlucky. Also, based on your description of the situation, it sounds like you probably dodged a bullet to be honest. The longer I work in PE, the more I see how so many folks in PE are just terrible managers of people. Your situation is a good example where it sounds like they just didn't manage you and your career with much care and although it may seem like your comp discussions are what caused the termination, in all honestly it was probably the combination of the partners struggling to raise a fund and having some pressure to promote that other employee ahead of you. I haven't been in the exact same situation, but I can easily see how something like this could happen and not at all be your fault. 

Now with that being said, I don't think your career in PE is over. In fact, I think you're lucky in the sense that you're entering the lateral market at a great time. It also sounds like you have great deal experience and have been successful in your career so far, so all of that will make it easy for you to find a new job. Once you've taken some time to get back on your feet, here are the things I'd focus on if I were you, in no particular order:

  • Reach out to all the relevant headhunters and let them know you're looking for VP lateral positions. Given your years of experience, I'd be pretty firm on the fact that you want to be a VP or at the minimum a Senior Associate who will be promoted within the year. It's a bummer you never got the deserved VP title but I don't think it'll hurt you too much. 
  • Think about where you want to be on the Buyside (sounds like you know it's growth) and think of the firms you've crossed paths with, admire, have connections to, etc and start networking. 
  • If you get asked why you left, again, kind of a good time to be switching jobs, tons of people are quitting their jobs due to covid. Pretty easy to say some combo of "The fund was struggling to raise capital, needed a break, wanted to reposition in terms of geo and industry/vertical focus". I wouldn't blame the fund at all, but make it sounds like you were doing great at the fund, but made a personal decision to leave.
  • Talk to the people you're closest with at your outgoing fund and 1. Make sure you'll get the references you'll need for future jobs. Doesn't need to be the most senior people, but ideally 1/2 that can basically just say that you were great and can coroborate whatever story you're spinning to the new funds you're targeting. Also, if you have any mentors or relationships from banking or your prior fund, might be time to reach back out to them, give them the update, and make sure you line them up as well. 2. To the extent your'e close enough with someone a click above you at work, ask for honest feedback. Most of the PE managers I've had (and by managers I just mean partners) are generally shit at giving good feedback. You're either doing well, or they're angry at you for something. Even with your good reviews, sometimes there are often unarticulated pieces of feedback that manifest themselves. Again, maybe the ask for comp just bruised their ego and they decided that was it, so nothing you can do to fix that, or maybe there are some little things you could actually get better at. Perhaps they really liked how the other VP candidate mentored more junior folks and that's something you cared less about. No need to go seeking out what you did wrong, but when you're ready, it's worth a light check, just to see if you can get better.
  • Take some time off man. Not sure how long your severance is, but take at least part of it as a paid vacation and go somewhere cool. If you want to explore, do something active, if you want to lay on a beach, go to Bali or something. Clear your head a bit and get some energy and clarity on what you want to do next. A couple of days won't do it, you need 10-14 days if you can swing it.

While the setback is disappointing, from a monetary perspective, you're not that much worse off. If the fund you're at was targeting an $800M raise and hasn't been able to do that over 2 years, especially in the fundraising environment that we're in, that is a major red flag in my opinion. Do you even want carry in that fund, haha. Jokes aside, it's a good lesson learned that fundraising takes forever and good on your for speaking out. If I joined a fund under the pretense that fundraising was closing shortly after I joined and more than 6 months elapsed without my comp package being confirmed, I'd be pressing the issue much sooner with the partners. That's tougher to do as a new Senior Associate, and I get that, but a lesson learned for you.

Those are my stream of conscious thoughts, the TDLR is basically, take time off, think about where you want to be in PE/Growth, hit up the headhunters and your network, craft a narrative for your search, and go find another job. I don't think it'll be terribly hard for you if you apply yourself.

Edit: Realized I never finished my thought on one of the bullets above.

Dec 25, 2021 - 12:30am
Edging_Happiness, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I just need to say how much I truly, sincerely, appreciate this detailed response. In fact everyone in here has been great, and I think I may print out this whole thread lol. 

I think you hit the nail on the head with just about everything, and it's reassuring to know that perhaps I'm catastrophizing a bit given the circumstances. I also wish all my cash wasn't tied up in the market given the bloody waters we've been swimming in (I bet we're all hurting here haha), but w/the severance and bonus, I can definitely swing some time off.

I'll probably reply again to this once I have some more clarity on my story, so apologies in advance for subsequent requests for advice, but I appreciate this stream of thought more than you know. Every point you hit - I'll be thinking through. 


Dec 25, 2021 - 10:51am
mrharveyspecter, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Of course, don't take it too hard and best of luck moving forward.

One other random anecdote I forgot to share is, people move at their own pace in their PE careers and just because you had a minor setback here, doesn't mean you won't get ahead somewhere else. I've seen folks struggle for a while at firms where they weren't fully appreciated, then jump firms and make it to partner within a few years. All of the sudden they went from being the "old-age" Senior Associate or VP to Principal/Partner at another firm just because they're the right fit. Even though you were forced out, chances are that given how they were showing favoritism to the internal promotion, you were likely always going to lag behind that person regardless of performance. Better off to go somewhere else where you have a clearer path to the top.

  • Analyst 1 in S&T - Comm
Dec 26, 2021 - 12:07am

Genunie question cominng from trading: is 10-14 days off actually going to impact your career? Please consider why you got into your respective career in the first place: it was probably to make money and enjoy it. I hope you are able to 

Dec 25, 2021 - 9:33am
BrohanSantana, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I think the biggest thing is that you need a bit of a reset so, like others mentioned, take a few months off and don't worry about work during that time. Travel, workout, take up a new hobby or whatever sounds good to you. Once your head is a bit clearer, you'll be able to determine what you want to do and frame it appropriately to headhunters or new potential employers.

Also, I know it may not seem like it right now but you're going to be totally fine man. You will find a spot that makes you much happier and pays just as well. We overestimate how much things like this actually impact our long term careers; this is a speed bump on a long road.

Dec 25, 2021 - 12:23pm
JulianRobertson, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Yeah everyone's advice above is good, just one more thing for perspective, remember in 2008 the whole financial services industry had mass layoffs across the board. People eventually bounced back one way or another. Society likes to put out the message that you MUST be grinding 24/7 non-stop but that's just not true nor is it realistic. Setbacks happen, it's a part of life, you're still in a first world country and if you made it this far, you've got some marketable skills as well as some savings probably tucked away.

Give yourself a break, don't touch the laptop until after New Years, have some fun with friends and family, and then get back after it after a little break.

Dec 25, 2021 - 2:24pm
ke18sb, what's your opinion? Comment below:

That's brutal. From a story perspective, don't lots of PE firms have basically pre-mba track no promote roles, can't you just frame it as such. "I joined knowing there was a chance this was just an associate level program, that depending on fundraising could lead to a more permeant role. Right now there isn't the capacity and thus my program is over despite getting great reviews and the partners are happy to be references." Its white lie ish but basically true. I wouldn't really talk negatively about the prior firm or even eluding to them mistreating you. As for a break, that's all well and good and you should chill...but at the same time post bonus Q1 starts the musical chairs so you shouldn't be completely checked out - still need to be reaching out to HHs and network. 

Dec 25, 2021 - 9:04pm
Edging_Happiness, what's your opinion? Comment below:

A little bit of a contrarian view on the timeline, but I'll take it! Yea knowing my general vibes with planning, I'm sure that I won't be completely checked out. I suppose it's all a balancing act. 

Gotta stay fresh on deal details as well since I didn't bring anything with me - so will do that in tandem with networking. 

  • Analyst 2 in IB-M&A
Dec 25, 2021 - 9:16pm

Following... Have a shitty feeling that I could be in the same exact spot come the end of next year.  OP, wishing you the best of luck.

Dec 26, 2021 - 10:38am
BrownChad, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Hey I've definitely been in this situation twice. I had the same feelings you have and actually posted a thread asking for help the first time around. I'm a master networker now which has helped me navigate through hard times. I'd love to offer some free advice if you want to just dm me. Lastly, don't let this pull you down. You'll get out of this so much stronger and better I promise you that.

Dec 26, 2021 - 1:34pm
Smoke Frog, what's your opinion? Comment below:

That sucks man. What bonus and severance did they give you?

On the forum people pretend it's so easy to ask for higher bonus, etc but real life is never like this forum.

It's daunting to try to look for a job when you don't have one, I mean it's daunting to look even when you have a job.

Don't despair too much, because negative thinking can ruin you.

I think you have a decent story and can make up a little bs as well - firm was struggling to fundraise, they let a few people go with you, have offered to give strong refs stating the let go was capacity based and not performed based.

They even gave you a chance to work at a portco, so you could always take that while you're looking in the mean time.

I think with your background you will certainly get a shot somewhere, just be cognizant of the fact it could take up to a year.

And don't spend frivolously this year or start abusing substances. Don't make things worse.

Dec 26, 2021 - 2:53pm
curiousgeorge79, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I am not experienced but perhaps this could be a net positive as you can now focus full time on finding a shop that doesn't have fundraising issues and provides you with the growth trajectory you deserve. Honestly, there is so much capital flowing around, there should be a good number of them.

  • Associate 3 in PE - LBOs
Dec 26, 2021 - 5:26pm

Would echo all the above - found myself in the exact same spot somewhat recently.  I would just emphasize the need to make a very calculated and well thought-out next move vs. diving back into things.

I was pretty devastated when I had the rug pulled out from me being on the cusp of a VP promote. Made me question my competency and ability to assess my own performance as I had consistently been a top bucket performer through both IB and PE. Made me wonder if I had made a mistake choosing this career path especially as some peers moved up the ladder at their respective firms. Instead of doing some serious self-reflection, I just started gunning for the most prestigious lateral spots to prove my former bosses wrong (without any time off in between), even if it didn't really align with what I was looking for. Found myself in a better name brand fund but actually hating the new role much more. I fortunately made another move into a better fitting seat but would implore you to take the necessary time to reset and not recruit from a place of spite or self-imposed urgency.

  • Analyst 1 in HF - Event
Dec 26, 2021 - 11:14pm

At the end of the day this is just an unfortunate reality of the buyside. One that I have experienced as well unfortunately. 

You got dealt a tough hand, so strategize and play it the best you can. Looking back into my own life, moments like this ended up setting me up for even greater successes. 

You have seven years of invaluable experience. The market tends to compensate for skills. Patience and if I were you I'd enjoy the time off. 

Dec 27, 2021 - 3:50am
Long Only Funds, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Pursuing an MBA not an option for you? I think you need a break. MBA will give you what you need in this situation. If you think your opportunity cost is big, you could go for lower M7, which they will likely give you full-ride scholarship.

Dec 30, 2021 - 12:52am
Incoming cfa level 1 charterholder, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Replace the whiskey and pills with cardio, weightlifting, and masturbation.

What was the tone like during these negotiations? Were you angry/pushy, too firm? I can imagine you had strong conviction when going into these conversations and backed these sneaky finance people into a corner. They had no intention of promoting you because things weren't going well enough for them to do that, however, you showed them your hand, which was that you would eventually look to leave, and they chose to can you because they're dicks.

I can be wrong but this is the impression I am getting from reading your post. I think your only mistake was showing your cards. You could have gotten the answers to your question, which was what is the next step for me/what do I have to do to be VP, and then smiled and nodded at whatever answer they gave you. Maybe push a little less hard next time but it's hard to say based on only this story..

Going after what you deserved is a powerful thing. Have some pride and don't be sad you were canned. You are associating being canned with being let go for poor performance, which is not true. Own it. Turn your failure into strength. "I worked my butt off, took them at their word, worked hard on expanding the firm's deal flow and was then let go when I asked about the VP promotion after doing XYZ for the firm. I am looking for a PE firm that rewards people that work hard and are transparent about progression (insert w/e you want here)" 

Also, realize all of these recruiters/headhunters have no skin in the game and are following make-believe rules in an industry where people decide whether you belong based on arbitrary criteria. If they tell you anything negative, tell them to fuck off and keep on applying. You definitely have the knowledge and experience, just work on re-framing your view of this situation as a positive thing (you stood up for yourself, and have confidence in your skills hence why you fought for what you wanted). Your previous firm is like a partner that cheated on you. It hurts at first but you end up saying good riddance once your mind is working correctly.

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Dec 30, 2021 - 4:51pm
Edging_Happiness, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Appreciate the reply! The amount of interaction this post got is blowing me away, and hugely helpful. 

You hit the nail on the head dude - I probably fucked up showing my cards, and they called my bluff to a degree. I thought given my performance, they would feel pressure to promote not to let me go; that any sane manager would want to keep their strong performers and make room, not lose them. Jokes on me. I'm trying to be more positive on everything, but I can't shake the idea that this is it for me. Irrational...maybe? But it is what it is. And your cheating analogy is perfect - in fact I'd say I feel 100x worse right now than any breakup I've had lol (at least this partner was paying me a lot of money!!). 

On how you framed the circumstances, it looks like you're taking a bit of a different approach than everyone else who has told me to explain the lack of seats/capacity/fundraising issues and then make it my decision to leave vs. you are leaning into acknowledging that it was a termination. Any thoughts on the two strategies? 

Dec 31, 2021 - 12:33am
Incoming cfa level 1 charterholder, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I think my strategy fits your personality, a confident, competent, hard-working person that got screwed. With my story you're showing that you worked hard, got screwed, but still have a good attitude about the situation. The strategy pitched by others IMO is a sign of weakness. You did nothing wrong, you do not have to apologize for anything. You were betrayed and screwed over.

Re-framing your mindset, exercise, and fixing your mood should be your top 3 priorities right now. 

Jan 5, 2022 - 10:07am
FinancialModelzNbottlez, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Hey man, I feel you, genuinely and I feel like a hypocrite to be honest, but please lay off the benzos and alcohol.

Take some time to yourself and don't immediately go job hunt. You know your value and after a bit of a break you can heavily pursue it.

We all have set-backs in life. I know many of us in the industry consider this our life.

You will get to where you want to be in time.

You already passed the hard entry phase and burn outs so you should feel good that you're a peak performer. I truly think you will get the position sooner, rather than later.

  • Principal in PE - LBOs
Jan 5, 2022 - 6:47pm

A couple of thoughts here. When I was more junior in my career, there were some things I took for granted that I thought were just table stakes, but when I landed elsewhere I realized it was quite unique and worth appreciating. In the vein would flag a few things here.

1/ You loved what you were doing. You clearly liked the style and responsibilities of what you were doing. This is not always a given.
2/ This is a white-hot market for fundraising and growth equity. If you have some track record and half a pulse, you can raise money. The fact that they can't raise a fund in this market is telling. To put it bluntly, they probably suck. Potential firms will probably make that same inference and will to some degree discount your training. You are a junior person though and so wouldn't hold that against you as much.
3/ This is a white-hot job market. It won't always be that way. Go sell your talent while there's a glut of demand.
4/ If you're beating yourself up for asking for the promotion and as a result getting let go, don't. First, any firm that promotes junior people based on tenure (i.e., politics) is a joke. It's that mentality that probably has driven their dog shit track record and resulting inability to scale their business. They probably would have kept you stuck in that Sr. Associate slot until they were forced to push you out. Better you forced their hand now vs. 2023 or 2024.
5/ Contrary to what someone else said on here, DO NOT take a break to fuck around. Go get a good job and derisk the current predicament you find yourself in. Your story already has a bit of hair on it... the last thing you need is one more element of uncertainty to your candidacy and one more attribute people need to take a flier on. Your friends in tech that are suggesting you do that are giving you bad advice. They don't work in PE. While you're following their advice, you might as well bring your fucking dog to work and tell your founder you demand a kombucha tap in the pantry. You can always get a month or two off before your start date. It's not always this hot of a job market, move now. I've worked at a few different firms. And uniformly no one takes someone seriously who is fucking around for a few months.

Your predicament isn't the end of the world. You can tell a good story around it. I.e., had an Assoc -> Sr. Assoc offer in hand at the last shop, moved to the current place because much leaner/more entrepreneurial could get in on the ground level (whatever), fundraising hasn't gone as expected... changes the trajectory and investment professional pyramid... time to go elsewhere.

I do think that you're still in a somewhat precarious spot given you're still in the Sr. Associate seat. Hiring is a game of information asymmetry. Sellside to buyside doesn't instantly give you ubiquity in competence. On paper, there have been 2 other suitors that didn't put a ring on it after having spent 2 years with you. That's purely the "on paper" pessimistic view. Your story/rationale, how you come off, interviews, references, etc can and will debunk any doubts. Be that as it may, the above are just facts. Don't fuck around. Nose to the grindstone. Go get a job. Take a month or two to decompress once you've traversed this slippery slope, not before. Where I come from, when you have your back to the wall, you push forward. You don't sit down and take a breather unless you really don't know what you want to do and need to get perspective. Sounds like you know what you want to do, really enjoy it, and are good at it. So get after it.

Jan 5, 2022 - 8:41pm
Edging_Happiness, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Really helpful take; a little anxiety inducing, but I see where you're coming from. I'd say I'm taking a mix of all the advice here, not balls to the wall focusing on interviewing right off the bat  - but instead peppering in networking and interviews on a rolling basis and kicking off in a manageable wave that I can augment & take off my interview training wheels. I don't have the personality to say fuck it and take 3-4-5 months off and wing it, but a couple months - I'd love that reprieve. 

On the experience dynamic - would it make a difference if the story was that I actually received the Sr Associate promote for my 3rd year & lateraled, vs what actually happened (I.e. I found the job after I knew I'd secured the promote for the following year; working 3 years as an associate with my 4th year being sr). I have a great relationship with that firm still; I'm sure they'd help me out on the ref basis. I don't want that un-promotable mindset anywhere near me. 

Jan 9, 2022 - 11:25pm
FlybyWilly, what's your opinion? Comment below:

1) don't talk to anymore recruiters until you've had 1-2wks to distill your story and re-orient your mindset. you can't really backtrack a story to a valuable contact with good memory.

2) how you bounce back from this, assuming it's your desire to, will determine what you're made of, professionally. it seems like things have gone well since college. life for many, much earlier on, is filled with moments like these. i understand the stakes are somewhat higher, but you're just 7 years out of college, right? the people most successful in their 50s and 60s are the ones who took the biggest beatings personally/professionally in their 20s. it's a legit pattern i've recognized. these moments make or break you, and there's no other easier/softer way to obtain this level of resilience. you need real pain/challenge/despair.

3) i echo all the valuable comments here re teeing up references/contacts/networking/etc

  • Works at Other
Jan 10, 2022 - 4:17am

I'm in an even worse position than you now but too cheap to fire.

I would treat it as a blessing in disguise. My impression is that from VP level and above your investment track record really counts yet you likely still don't have that much control over whether the deal gets done. And it doesn't sound like you were ever going to get a good record at this firm because they, not you, seem to suck.

One of the teams in my firm has extremely poor performance but the ear of the chief, iykwim. So they can promote their people to VP level but I'm also wondering what these people will put on their CV if and when HQ finally decides to purge our regional offices and they're forced out for lack of performance, stemming from their lack of execution skills. 

They do have a really hardworking, smart, not an a-hole assoc on the team and they're completely ignoring him - I have no idea why and they must have beat his self esteem down so low from non-promotion that he's still here with them.

  • 4
Jan 14, 2022 - 6:18am
CompBanker, what's your opinion? Comment below:

You've received a lot of really solid advice above and I will try not to rehash any of it. Instead, I'll offer an alternative thought. I have no idea if this is true, but something for you to consider and reflect on: You may be awful to work with. Hear me out...

You said that you are a top performer but that for some reason there was a 'fit issue.' Do not ignore this feedback as it could very well be the sole reason you weren't promoted. I have worked at a few different PE firms that had meaningfully different cultures. At one, grinding out good deals was all it took to get promoted, one's reputation was based on deal doing and how they treated their juniors or carried themselves did not matter much. In short, it was okay to mistreat others as long as you were getting deals done. At others,  a person's temperament was super important. If you weren't treating others with respect, you would get shown the door. Period, that's it. I don't know how big your fund was in terms of number of employees, but at sub $1bn they probably didn't have more than a couple dozen at most. In this environment, fit matters, a lot.

I encourage you to reflect on your work style. Are you ultra-demanding? Do the individuals doing your models like you? Do you provide them with mentorship, ask them for their opinions, give them praise in front of the partners, promote their career / interests? If you aren't 100% sure the answer is yes, then the answer is no. 

An anecdote to hammer home the point. I worked with a vice president who thought he was the smartest person at the firm. He would even tell you. He badmouthed all the other employees and openly proclaimed how great he was at doing deals, crushing work, and generating returns. And it was true, the guy was a workhorse. However, he mistreated his deal team members, calling them up on a Wednesday and asking them to write a memo for Friday on a deal that he had on his desk for weeks. He took all the credit for everything, whether it was his work or not. Despite all of his accomplishments, his promotion path got blocked on the basis that his personality was awful. And worst of all, he either didn't agree or didn't care. I offered to give him feedback and he wouldn't even accept feedback. This is an extreme case, but it doesn't need to get this extreme to be fired or 'coached out of the firm.' So again, I have no idea if this is true in your situation or not, but you should really reflect on whether or not it is even partially applicable and, if so, start seeking feedback so you can do better in your next role. And for the other readers, it never hurts to step back and think through this.

Mentorship with CompBanker:

  • 7
Jan 14, 2022 - 2:28pm
Edging_Happiness, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I think this is super helpful feedback, and most certainly could apply to some, but I can almost 100% without a doubt guarantee that it was the polar opposite for me. One thing I was constantly hammered home with in every review was just how much everyone liked me, particularly how strongly I managed my junior resources and how much their reviews of me were positive. So much so, that part of the junior team has left or is about to leave to another firm(s) specifically because I "left" and would no longer be there from a mentorship standpoint. Brought a huge fucking smile to my face and was something I went out of my way to ensure for all of them - because I've been managed by horrific seniors, and would never carry that forward. 

I got more color - I've been holding calls with everyone I was close with - and the final nail in the coffin was just organizational needs. They just didn't need me, and knew that I was adamant about the promotion. They could get another cheaper SrAso, and be on their way. That keeping me around with no end in sight would create a hugely toxic work environment for the junior team (in their opinion), and the best solution was an amicable split. Again, I got told that there was zero question that my performance & investment acumen was top tier. My biggest fuck-up was speaking up. But also, that something I discounted - and this could be helpful for others reading this - was that I had "zero pulse" on office politics. I was told by a partner that for a large organization, you really have to play the politics, and I was extremely unaware of those conditions. Also that WFH for almost my entire 2 years bc of COVID didn't help. I fucked up the politics, and thought skill & likability alone would be enough...and it bit me in the ass; especially with the inside track option they already had.  

The initial "fit" explanation was just a shit cop-out in the moment by a new partner who didn't know how to handle an exit interview (allegedly). 

I should feel better with all the above - but I just don't. End of the day, I still am in this position and am hoping I can manage my way out of it. One thing I have noticed, despite the incredible responses I've gotten here, is that the market just feels too hot to truly kick back and do nothing for any extended period of time right now. I took a little over a week to decompress, might go hit Mexico for a bit if timing permits, and I'm getting my head right...but taking too long to reach out to headhunters/start getting my interview chops up to snuff seems like a dangerous path to go down. I come back to this thread every few days to keep my chin up though, and if the months go by inadvertently, it'll help me stay calm. 

Jan 16, 2022 - 6:49am
CompBanker, what's your opinion? Comment below:

So kudos to you for doing your research and learning more about your situation. I can certainly empathize on the office politics - I made a most a couple of years ago about how much I dislike office politics while acknowledging their importance.

That said, you need to be more humble or you're story is going to fall flat in future interviews. Based on the way you've described yourself in these posts, you have amazing execution, deal work, investment acumen, and finance skills all while be loved by your juniors and receiving rave performance reviews. When asked to reflect on whether you might be difficult to work with, you state it was 'almost 100% without a doubt … the polar opposite," and that the new Partner didn't know how to handle an exit interview and used 'fit' as a cop-out to cover up the real reason you were fired, which was organizational needs. 

I would be highly suspicious if you were to use this sort of positioning in an interview. It is very rare for a firm to fire one of their best employees because they don't have room in the organization to promote them. What firms usually do is give the person a title bump to Vice President but tell them that their pay and responsibilities will not change until the new fund is raised. This tactic is no secret in the PE industry and the fact that they elected to straight up fire you is very, very odd. You need to make sure that when you interview that you don't give the interviewer any reason whatsoever to suspect that your personality was a factor in the decision.

This means being confident and proud but also speaking positively about your former colleagues and deal teams. Saying things such as:  "The deal was a huge success. I had a phenomenal analyst on the deal team which allowed me to focus my own efforts on building a relationship with the management team, structuring the deal, negotiating the legals, etc. I also had a great Partner on the deal who took a hands-off approach, allowing me to take ownership of certain work streams while also providing guidance and mentorship to ensure a good outcome for the firm." This type of language, if delivered sincerely, will ease concerns that might arise over your 'fit' with the firm that fired you.

Mentorship with CompBanker:

  • 9
Jan 22, 2022 - 7:52am
BBatNorthKorea, what's your opinion? Comment below:

My biggest fuck-up was speaking up. But also, that something I discounted - and this could be helpful for others reading this - was that I had "zero pulse" on office politics. I was told by a partner that for a large organization, you really have to play the politics, and I was extremely unaware of those conditions ... I fucked up the politics, and thought skill & likability alone would be enough...and it bit me in the ass

Is the office politics that you describe something that you have to keep in mind from day 1 of joining a new firm?

  • Analyst 2 in VC
Jan 15, 2022 - 11:27am

Sorry to hear this OP. Can sympathize with your situation - I recently left my firm in similar circumstances. Take solace in the fact that your previous firm was a dead-end anyway. Inability to raise funds (not even hitting half of the target raise in 2 years) is symptomatic of deeper issues within the firm's performance / people / process that potential LPs have flagged. You'll land on your feet - buyside recruitment is hotter than ever with the amount of capital being raised and deployed.

Jan 19, 2022 - 9:35pm
GramReaper, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Agree with a lot of the above, we all recognize how much of a kick in the pants this is but it's time to focus on the positive. You know you're a stellar performer, you love the work, you're motivated, the list goes on. At the end of the day, for any prospective employer, it's all about how you frame this story. I'd recommend taking the next month or two, go somewhere you've always wanted to visit, think about the deals you enjoyed most, what it was you liked about them (was it the jndustry? The people? The deal structure? Was there a specific ESG theme that spoke to you?) and make a list of firms you could see yourself at. When you get back, let a few recruiters know you're interested, and reach out to friends at those firms. It's not at all uncommon to move firms, and you're certainly not walking away from $300K, you're walking towards a better future that's more in line with your goals for success, all because YOU CAN.

Jan 20, 2022 - 4:19pm
Pizz, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Chill don't have a wife or kids to support and so be thankful for that...go take a 6 month vacation and start recruiting after you come back rejuvenated. You'll be alright. 

  • VP in PE - LBOs
Jan 24, 2022 - 2:32am

A bit late to the discussion so don't have more useful advice to add than what's been said. Instead here's an encouragement piece. Apologies for the cliché. 

Another way to look at this whole episode is how will this be part of your life/career story? When you're in your sunset days, how will you remember what seemed to be the largest career setback at the time in your life? What's your version of Steve Jobs being sacked by Apple's board in favor of another executive (no offense to him as he's done mighty well by any standard, but nobody knows who the hell John Sculley is), starting NeXT, selling it to Apple, and somehow retaking the helm? We all have a story to tell, and nothing offers an extraordinary resurgence like beating the new bottom with a whole new level of success. Keep going bro, you got this. Enjoy some time off and let's kick some ass. 

Jan 27, 2022 - 10:52pm
Edging_Happiness, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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  • Associate 1 in PE - LBOs
Feb 15, 2022 - 3:12pm

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