3 years in and still making dumb mistakes.

Hopefully I'm not alone in struggling with this or else I might up and leave the industry and go be a tradesman or something. I have had a lot on my plate recently and have been having a hard time balancing working quickly and catching dumb errors. I had this problem when I first got out of college and am recently feeling like I am falling back into the same hole. Got called out on a recent deal and am not feeling good rolling into performance reviews. Mostly just venting here and reminding myself I fixed it before I can do it again. 

 

Originations

Appreciate you sharing. Not making the same specific mistake but could generally fall into proofreading/attention to detail in memos. Its just tough to keep tables in a memo updated when the model is constantly changing. Need to re-evaluate my workflow on certain things and do a better job of fending off my superiors who tend to review stuff before I have had a chance to double check haha. In a perfect world I would just do everything right the first time. 

 

Assuming you're working directly at a capital provider, originations are a shit show rn. Overwhelmed with requests on every type of deal, 90 - 95% of which is outside your strike zone, and dealing with impatient brokers/borrowers. It's also important to note that the underwriting style you've likely grown accustomed to from 2021 - 2022 originations is no longer quite as applicable on deal profiles today. I was fortunate enough to be exposed to sufficient deal flow pre-pandemic, so I have a reference point for what "normalized" underwriting can look like. Everyone in your shoes is having to adjust to the new normal. 

Don't be too hard on yourself.  

 

EVERYONE makes mistakes no matter how far along you are in your career. In fact, they just get increasingly more meaningful and stress-inducing the longer you're in the business (our MD made an enormous one just this week that could have had terrible consequences). The goal is to learn from them and not continuously make the same ones.

Attention to detail errors in a memo or model are bound to happen when workload is high and time constraints are tight. But you need to ensure that they aren't material enough to completely change the decision that will be made as a result. With memos specifically - updating numbers/tables should be the absolute last thing you do before sending it out. That way you have a final check and know its based on the latest model available.

 

There’s a saying in the navy seals:

“Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast.”

Slow down, get methodical, and focus on consistency. Once you’ve got it consistent, you can slowly start dialing up the pace.

Create a checklist for yourself each time you do work. Use it every time. Add things as you go along and make mistakes.

 
Most Helpful

Everyone makes mistakes. I am 8 years in an and still make mistakes all the time. Don't think that will ever change

Three things matter. 1) when you or someone else spots a mistake that was your fault, fix it and own up to it immediately. Do not try and hide it or deflect. If you were given bad information or there was something outside your control that caused the mistake, let people know. You'd be shocked how quickly people forget after you do this 2) Do your best to set up processes as to not make the same mistake twice. You will be easily forgiven for making a one time mistake but if you keep making the same one over and over, people might start to get worried that you don't care and 3) if you are the one running the spreadsheet / powerpoint / memo etc, make sure others on your team are reviewing your work many many times before it gets to the CEO / Board / Investors / IC etc. There's nothing wrong with this. Its part of the process and why we have drafts

 

Appreciate you sharing here, said this in my other reply but I'm not necessarily making the same specific mistake but could generally fall into proofreading/attention to detail in memos when there are constant updates and multiple deals on my desk. 

I always own my mistakes and sometimes take the blame when I know the person who is criticizing me is the one that made it... Probably should grow a spine there. 

Never have anything make it to credit committee before catching something, its more my VP getting on me about catching stuff as we are working through drafts before it even gets to our MDs desk. 

Its tough because I have plenty of ammo if I were to level the same criticism against them, just a matter of pecking order.

At the end of the day, I'm the sole analyst on like 5 live deals right now with different VPs, its pretty hard to nail everything first try. 

 

Definitely stand up for yourself when its warranted. People respect someone with the humility to admit they are wrong but picks their battles when they need to.

In what sense is he getting on you? Is he just a dick or are you taking the feedback too personally? 

Also I don't think i've ever done a first draft that didn't get ripped apart 5 times so why am I going to perfect it?

FYI I am a VP in acq/investments

All that matters is the draft that goes to committee

 

They definitely aren't being a dick about it and its entirely possible that I am being overly critical on myself here, part of why I made this thread. Getting on me in the sense that I could sense they got annoyed when there was a second separate but new mistake in the second pre-turn of the doc that I made on Sunday night and didn't catch until today. Don't want to get too specific but another issue is them giving comments on work I haven't said I have completed or proofread yet. Like of course there are going to be mistakes... I haven't checked it yet. I personally have trouble proofreading something immediately after I have completed it so I like to give it 30 minutes or so to refresh my head before proofing. They will often go in and proof for me during this time which just makes my work product look sloppy. 

Really just wish I could run with deals on my own to avoid these workflow issues and maybe increasing my personal stake would make me more accurate first go but I feel like this issue is holding me back from leveling up. 

 

I think you might be too hard on yourself. If he's proofing it before you I would let him know, that way there's no confusion that this was not your final work product. very simple "hey, thanks for your comments. I didn't have a chance to proofread this yet as I was doing XYZ, but I am taking a looking now". When I am giving my boss my chicken scratch, I tell them. Sometimes that's all I have when they ask for it so I do what they say but just caveat the level its at. That way there's no mis-judgement. He/she is your boss but you can very much treat this like the collaborative effort that it is unless your relationship totally does not have that vibe. 

As a side note there have actually been some really cool studies on how it can be very difficult to proofread your own work without focusing your attention on something else. You are right to take 30 mins before doing another read-through. Some people that are naturally good writers are better at it than others. ChatGPT is honestly a good tool for this. After you write something ask it just to check for typos and grammatical errors, not to change any of the other language. 

I can also understand your desire to run your own deals but its really hard for one person to do everything on their own. If it were possible you'd see a lot fewer people at all these shops. Even the guy who starts his own shop and puts together his own deals is actually working with a ton of different people, be it attorneys, brokers, consultants, etc. Best to learn how to work well with others. Everyone brings something to the table. 

I also don't think its holding you necessarily from leveling up. I don't know all the details but leveling up is about showing not only that you can do the work but that you have experience, good judgement, are trustworthy, work your tail off and have kissed the right asses. The firm also has to have an open spot to promote you into. Totally different than making typos in a first draft. Honestly the head of my firm might make more typos in their general written correspondence than anyone else at the company. Obviously you can't be a complete typo machine but doesn't seem like thats whats going on here

 

Thanks again for your input here, I really appreciate it! Storm clouds feel lifted. 

 

Just want to add that these mistakes are inconsequential to the actual property or deal metrics. They are almost entirely formatting preferences / mis labels.  

 

First things first, don't kill yourself over it. Second things second - attention to detail is a skill that can be learned. By nature, I am DOGSHIT. But I've gotten pretty good through the years because I had to be. I've found that you tend to catch things more easily on printed paper. I'll catch a lot more when I review a document that I've printed out. With numbers, there's really no substitute for reviewing every single number. You will miss things if you just casually review a table. I tend to create a crib sheet with all the correct numbers so that when I go through a document, I can compare it to my crib sheet. 

 

Very easy to run into this, zoom out for a minute to the macro level...  Maybe you dont suck, maybe they suck.  Maybe you can find coworkers/bosses that arent 10/10 anal retentive and constantly checking your work before you are sending them the work product?  People like this drive me nuts, I have simply chosen not to work with them as I progress in my career.  Most are not acting in good faith/trying to help, they need to find little "gotchas" to show they are better than you and "add value".  Simply avoid them... Way more to life than worrying if you missed an oxford comma on work product you arent even finished with  

 

Regarding keeping tables updated in a memo, there are programs that can link imagines directly to an excel file. You click refresh and every linked table refreshes itself in one go. Huge time saver when I was in IB although I don’t use it in REPE now bc we do a lot of print to PDF from excel and only turn IC memos a handful of times 

 

You should print stuff out and read it before you send it off. At least pdf it and read that. Everyone makes mistakes.

I’m 15 years in and make mistakes all the time. I will typically catch them before the thing is shared with anyone important, but shit happens. Having said that, as a junior employee part of your job is to do grunt work and make sure everything looks polished and professional, so your boss doesn’t have to. If you are constantly making similiar mistakes around proofreading then it is going to be hard to gain trust. Most of your job is to make your boss’s job easier, and regular proofreading mistakes make their job harder. The junior employees without the mistakes, who have the trust, will be the ones to get ahead. There are always exceptions, but I’d try to make sure to proofread if I were you 
 

 

Going thru this rn. Just exhausted from constantly making mistakes that I shouldn’t be making. I’m in a similar boat as you. Maybe it’s time to pick up plumbing. I think I’m just talking into the void

 

Everyone makes mistakes and you’re going to for the rest of your career. It depends entirely on the mistakes that are happening. Proofreading errors in a memo? Hell, there isn’t any document or presentation that crosses my team and bosses desk that isn’t ripped to shreds at least 3x before it goes to the recipient.  If you’re struggling with updating tables when models change, then create “Memo tables” tabs in your models that link to the exact numbers you need. Just remember to repaste your tables back in the memo. This is what I did as an Analyst as I feel you, it was a fucking pain when my boss would change numbers 50x which required new tables.

Own up to your mistakes and move on. The worst is the person who tries to dance around or make excuses as to why they made a mistake. I had an Analyst like this and I use to stop him mid sentence to tell him, “Everyone makes mistakes. It’s not a big fucking deal. Let’s just fix it and move on.”

 

I also struggled very badly with typos and a mis-update mistakes, when resources are tight and there is a time limit, this is bound to happen. 

I eventually copied all my PPT tables format to my Excel sheets and use a formatting that will be easily copy-pasted into the deck without much reformatting. This saves a lot of time and cognitive loads for me. 

For our financial models, just avoid the very significant models by being consistent in the models and review the outputs and do some sense checking on the numbers, I think this is the way of my reviewers and MDs review my models very quickly. they have that intuition when something is not right. 

If you have someone in your team that can help to check then do go through each other's work before pushing it to the higher-ups, I think it's easier to see mistakes on other people's work than your own. 

Cheers!

 

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