Self-admittedly "mid" analyst transitioning to MF PE

About to wrap up my second year at a highly-regarded M&A group and starting in MF PE in a few months. In terms of work performance, my two years were fine (at best) and I was mid-bucket through and through. I truly was not blowing anyone away with my thoughtfulness, skills or speed in Excel or Powerpoint, and overall just did what was required to leave a good impression and get the work done without causing a major issue.

I do want to excel at my next gig but was curious what advice this forum had before starting. Is it time to consider that maybe finance isn't for me? Are there intangible factors that are valued in PE that aren't seen in banking I should focus on to make a good impression? Any specific technical skills that are especially important as an investor vs. a process monkey on the sell-side?

Any and all advice would be appreciated as I am a little bit worried as to the level of my competence moving onto the new firm where everyone I'm compared against will be top of their class coming out of top groups and probably cares way more about work than I do...

Most Helpful

To me it's likely an attitude and perspective thing rather than an ability to do the work. If you wanted to be faster in excel/powerpoint or even more thoughtful with your commentary and contributions, you probably could be. You'd just have to care more and work a little harder.

The problem is, that you're like most normal people in the sense that you realize banking (and PE to a similar extent) are kind of shitty jobs. There are elements that are obviously great, but at many of the top tier places, the folks that are rewarded are those that are neurotic and obsessed with their work. Perhaps some of your peers are like this, finishing work at 2am, but putting an extra hour in to become an expert modeler or doing one more pass through the deck before sending to the Associate/VP with their own commentary. Whereas you might be more realistic and you figure that you'd be better off with the extra hour of sleep. Absolutely nothing wrong with this, but to me, that is the difference. The folks that succeed ultimately love the work and/or are obsessed with the lifestyle. I always think of Josh Harris as a good example of this, here's a guy who's a Billionaire many times over and he's still notorious for being crazy intense there was a WSJ article about him a few years back and I know a couple of guys who worked closely with him at his family office. He's the type of guy that will send an 8am email on Saturday and be mad if he doesn't have a response within 30 min. I'm sure the things he's asking about aren't life/death, but he's obsessed, loves deals/work and that's is likely part of what made him great. 

For you, I wouldn't think of it as necessarily not being cut out for the job, you clearly are. My question to you is, do you love it or are you doing it for a specific reason beyond just the appearance of achievement. Even money usually only goes so far. You need to reframe it your mind to make you excited about the work and willing to do what it takes to go above and beyond. 

And I think you can find good reasons to do that, you're incredibly blessed to have the opportunity to work at a MF, it will set you up for life, you will learn a tremendous amount even though it will mean suffering for the next two years. Instead of being pissed about another Saturday working or a late night grinding on something, maybe think of it as a navy seal like training for Finance. You're going to hate most of it, but you've got 2 years to really build the foundation of your finance skillset and really your life in general as doing well here will set you up for years to come. 

Now with that said, if you really can't bring yourself to doing that, that's completely fine, you can be a hard working and extremely accomplished business professional and person in general without being in PE for your career. You've built a great base so far, I'd stick out PE for at least a year, and if you continue to hate it...quit. To me a lot of banking/PE is kind of similar to the finale of succession (I won't spoil it) but to some extent the ones who survive are the ones who are best at just eating shit, taking orders, being stomped on and coming back for more. Don't force it if after 3/4 years you continue to not enjoy it. Try a new job, get some perspective and figure out what makes you happy.

Incredible response, really appreciate it.

I definitely subscribe to the "finance bootcamp" mindset and in my experience it does appear that the people at the top of the finance food-chain appear to be married to this job (in some cases in my opinion, to a detriment in the grand scheme of things). Will keep things in perspective but it is starting to hit me that, as someone following the "traditional" path of IB > PE, this is the first job after grad which could be the final impression the industry has of me before hopping out of finance, should I choose to. When comparing it to my mindset going into banking, the stakes feel much higher.

I agree with most things that mrharveyspecter said, except for literally the last part.

It sounds like you are not passionate about the deal business. It sounds like you are motivated primarily by leaving a good impression, but not necessarily seeking to excel, differentiate and outperform. It seems like you are doing the required to be "good enough", but not trying hard enough to be spectacular. I will probably get MS'ed for this, but you will probably live a miserable life in MF PE, and also not make it very far.

For WSO context, I wrote one of the most hated WSO posts called "MF PE is Paradise...LOL". Whilst I purposely took a chance and wrote it in a more demeaning manner to try to make a stronger point (which was not well-received nor is it normally how I communicate), I still stand by the arguments I made. You can give it a read.

Be in IB or PE for the right reasons. Don't just do it for the money, or you are just a slave to the money. I could be completely misinterpreting your post, but it doesn't seem like you are passionate. You NEED to be passionate in order to succeed and make it to the top. You seem like you have adequate skills to deliver what is needed for a junior IB/PE role, but maybe not the intrinsic drive to help you improve and become an all-rounded dealmaker, which you need to do to make it up the ladder.

I apologize in advance if my interpretation of your post is partially or entirely wrong. If you are passionate, you will find a way to make it work. If you are not, and you are already thinking about leaving finance, don't put yourself through two years of misery as a MF PE associate, just to get it on your resume. Life is more valuable than that. I can also tell you that two years of MF PE associate work doesn't make you a better entrepreneur/operator/businessman(woman). If you have doubts already, you should consider seriously if you want to even go. Or, if you decide to try it out, pull the plug soon if it's not working out. Don't tough it out for extrinsic motivations. It's too stressful if you don't love it. It's only worthwhile if you love it (in my opinion). 

Hope this is helpful.

If you do it right I feel as if it is as developmental and can be as exciting of a time as college. It’s a crash course to becoming a high performing professional and a time to make many connections many of which can last through your career .

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