Should I just quit?

I joined a start-up private equity firm at the associate level (came with some prior investing experience). Before I joined, and part of the reason for my switch, is because I was promised better work life balance (due to low deal volume target per year) and path to senior associate. Less than 10 people work at the firm total, it's a "lean" investment team. In reality, it turns out they have an aggressive deal sourcing and closing target. I will admit - when I got the offer, I did not do enough reverse diligence on them. I was "grateful" to get the offer and the opportunity to continue the path of a investor. 

However - I am the only "junior" investment professional on the investment team and have been working non-stop.

Because a) I am on too many live deals, b) timelines are very short, c) am only "good" at my job not a genius, and d) haven't been able to take nearly any time off or breaks -> my underwriting materials / work product has suffered due to burnout and fatigue. 

When I had a conversation about this with the partner, they say i just need to "get more efficient, so they can add more on my plate". On the other hand, it feels like they are just saying whatever they can to keep me cranking on deals that are closing in the near term. I work every weekday until 3am, get emails on the weekend, my (life) partner has grown resentful, and it feels like I have been retraded and lied to (path to senior associate and some sort of balance).   

I am trying to hold on for dear life for my bonus end of Q1. Mental health is at an all time low. Should I just quit or continue to ride it out for bonus? It will be a very long 100 days.  


 
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What would be "optimal" is to: Keep going and trying to lateral rather than quitting outright in this market. I recognize this sounds impossible in your current headspace, but that's what is "optimal." The market is slow right now and you may be recruiting for a very long time without a job. Which may actually feel worse than you currently do. And yes, get the bonus

You are going to cringe reading that so the steps to help keep you there are:

  • Recognize many others feel this way. Look around the forum. There's like 4 posts on the front page of the PE forum about burnout currently
  • Consider therapy while your mental health is compromised
  • Work out. Know you don't feel you have time and are exhausted but this is the only all natural antidepressant that exists
  • Stop drinking / other drugs altogether. Even weekends. You can't afford anything else compromising you for the next several months until you get a new job
  • Recognize that even in your current job, it will ebb and flow
  • Start doing research and networking, prepping for interviews. You won't feel you have time but this step will give you energy and help you not feel trapped 

It will not feel easy. But with above steps you WILL get another job and you WILL feel better. You got this.

 

Finally...a wholesome and actual humanistic response to someone seeking advice. 

 

not OP but you are amazing soul. we need more folks like you. wish you all the best this world has to offer.

 

Try to go a little longer to get that bonus--you are almost there!

In the meantime, it is going to be hard to prioritize your mental health, physical health, etc. if you are working all the time. However, you should definitely get your relationship in order--It is not worth throwing away your life partner for a job. Make sure your partner understands that they will need to put up with you not being around and stressed all the time for only a little longer. Together, figure out your money situation, how long you can go on without a job, etc.

It sounds like there is no future at this firm--your boss just wants to keep adding more to your plate. While the job market may not be the best right now, if you were smart enough to get into PE and it seems like you gained a ton of deal experience at this firm, you will be fine.

With the little free time you have, get your resume in order, outline a plan of action, figure out if there is anyone in your firm you would still be able to use as a referral, network and reach out to recruiters, prepare for interviews. Try to involve your partner even if they can't help much (read over your resume, ask you interview questions, work next to you, tell her about a role you would be excited for or a good networking conversation you had)--it's not the best way to spend your time together, but it's better than spending no time and building more resentment. If it is your life partner, then you need to rely on her support to keep you sane when times get really tough like this.

Lastly, I agree with the other commentor that you should cut out drinking/drugs during this time. Your mental health is in the gutter, drinking will only make it worse. Revert this time to working on your health, relationships, or executing on your plan of action. 

 

There's a lot of good advice in this thread. 

I have a different suggestion, and maybe this will be a bad idea in practice at your firm, but for the purposes of a thought experiment, what if you were to just set boundaries and stop overworking yourself? Only do as much work as you're comfortable with, and within reason. 

Let's workshop what would actually happen if you did this. Obviously the worst thing that could happen is you'd get fired, but will that actually come to pass? 

It sounds like if you got fired/quit, the rest of your team would be overextended such that they would piss the clients off with slow deliverables, and that's really bad. Sure, you may be the most junior person on the team, but sometimes that could be a position of strength. Imagine you're running a logistics company and you only have one truck driver. What happens if he walks off the job and no one else can do it, or it would take months to hire a new guy with a CDL license and train them? It's not a perfect 1:1 example, but I want you to recognize your own value in this firm's operation. You have more power to push back than you think. 

There are many employees at companies that carve out a successful career for themselves by becoming "unfireable". This is done by being "the only guy that does X or Y" such that getting rid of them would have serious consequences for the higher ups, so they need to be constantly pleased with annual raises and special accommodations. There is a way to turn a position of weakness into a position of strength. 

I'm not in finance and not too familiar with how this stuff plays out in PE firms at a nuanced level, but I have employees who I try to keep happy because I really don't want them to leave. If they asked me to reduce their workload by 20% or they'll quit, I'd have to oblige. 

So the question is, do you think your firm would rather fire you and retrain a new associate in the middle of a bunch of live deals, or simply put up with you doing 20% less work? That's a question that only you know the answer to, but strongly consider this option. 

It's not an 'either-or' scenario - you should still apply to other firms and work out as others have suggested, but you may be able to carve out some reprieve from your workload as well. 

In this perverse world we live in, many bosses are incentivized to keep you as busy as possible, not just to extract maximum value out of you, but also to prevent you from exploring other options. In a fight, you often need to make space to re-evaluate your opponent and strategy. Your opponent wants to prevent you from making space between them in order to constantly keep you on the defensive. 

 

Echoing what urban_engineer said. If you are the only junior, it can also be a case of your ability/ willingness to take on more work being part of the problem. If you have not given feedback that you are tapped out, consider doing that and scaling back on tasks going forward and setting more realistic expectation on task completion dates. They probably think they can dump any amount of work on you and you can manage. Obviously that is not the case, which gets more pronounced if multiple people assign work to you and no one in senior management has a complete picture of your total workload. Being the only junior, I doubt they will fire you right away. But if they do fire you, it's probably for the best since they are not willing to scale back on their near inhumane expectations.

 

You're describing an almost identical situation that I was in during Q1'2021, albeit with a few important differences. I ended up quitting after 4 months for a much needed sabbatical, but a few important details make me think you should stick it out and not quit immediately like I did.

  • The main reason I left was because my sole VP was an actual demon. A completely unhinged individual that was emotionally unstable, had no idea what she was doing, would make life hell for literally no reason, had multiple formal complaints filed against her from several people, and was later kicked out after a year. I quit so soon mainly because of her. It sounds like you don't work for a toxic person like that so that's a really good sign.
  • Labor market was way different back then. People were getting offers left and right. Now, not so much. You have to be real careful before you move on from your current firm.
  • I was working 100+ hours per week (including full days on the weekends) on "real" deals, but also on deals that we all knew were not going anywhere. That was a huge bad sign for me b/c it meant the unnecessary long hours were a structural problem and were never going to change. Maybe I misunderstood but it sounds like you are only working late on "real" opportunities. If that truly is the case, then it's a better sign because the firm will eventually "run out of capital". PE truly ebbs and flows, and maybe you just haven't gotten a break yet that will come soon. 

Just my two cents but I think you should just put your head down and revisit recruiting in 1-2 years.

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

Really good advice on here - all things that worked well during a similar situation for me. 

One addition: if you can, set a drop dead date: i.e. the date you will tender your notice regardless of job situation (2 weeks after bonus is received for example).  This will provide you and your partner with psychological relief. Tell your family. Make it real. Obviously part of this will involve financial planning. Start having a story / other activities lined up. 

You may also find that once you resign they ask you to stay for awhile, given the lack of junior resources. 

Good luck and hang in there. 

 

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