Talk me off the cliff

Calling Synergy_or_Syzygy and all IB sr associates/VPs and up

First year associate at a top EB group here who is 50/50 on just quitting on the spot. Looking for someone who isn't at my bank and highly biased to give me the logic behind not just quitting right now. With the exception of a single protected weekend and Thanksgiving/Christmas, I have done 90-100+ hours every week since I hit the desk. I never have time to consistently exercise. My sleep cycles are completely fucked up. The rare occasion I have some free time, it is sporadic enough nothing can be planned and I am too exhausted to take advantage. And the worst part is that there is no end in sight to any this and I am not convinced it is going to be better when we are back in the office now that people know we can do all of these meetings over Zoom instead of in person.

I have stopped taking recruiting calls from undergrads because I cannot in good conscience recommend that anybody do this job. 

What is the reason at this point, besides $$, to not quit and do something else? The VPs are working a similar amount, so when exactly does it get better? An MD on my deal took 6 zooms this past week during his "family vacation." Is that what I have to look forward to?

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Comments (60)

Apr 11, 2021 - 12:45am

In a similar situation but not leaning towards quitting. Personally would wait a year for a few reasons. Obvious is your signing bonus claw back will likely expire. But if that isn't a concern and you're unhappy then I wouldn't waste another minute in the job. Check your employment contract though might be language around required noticed (not sure what they do if you don't actually give it) is the only comment about quitting on the spot.

  • Associate 2 in IB-M&A
Apr 11, 2021 - 1:33am

Sorry man. I'm at an EB and while 2020 was REALLY bad, 2021 has been much more chill so far. I remember last year having a 4 week stretch of 100hr weeks, and I was in a bad place too. If you're legit thinking of quitting,  maybe start pushing back hard against staffings and workload and see if that helps. If not, then try to make it 1yr for the sign on cto vest and then peace out. 

There's not much else as an option if there really is no end in sight. Hang in there though.

Apr 11, 2021 - 2:00am

If you're at the point that you want to quit, then you should consider just pushing back a lot harder. If you don't give a fuck anymore, then that should allow you to push back on staffings and then you'll have more time to recruit for something else. If they fire you, then you're in the same spot anyway. 

Apr 11, 2021 - 2:11am

The issue is that I don't understand what people mean when they say, "Push back."

One client decides two nights ago before the CIP is to go out Monday they want to completely change the framing on two entire sections of the deck that had been final for two weeks and the MD says okay. Do I tell the client to fuck off myself or the MD? This type of bullshit happens all the time.

Then on top of that, I had a VP threaten to "write the worst review he has ever written" when I pushed back on a nonsense midnight request to rearrange three pages of sponsors logos from alphabetical to some retarded undefined idea of "deal volume in sector" on an internal deck. I am not going to grind to then get shafted on the bonus, which my EB is known to do to people who push back.

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Apr 11, 2021 - 5:03am

Get the bonus first. And I meant push back in the sense of decreasing the number of deals that you're getting staffed on / refusing to get staffed on certain teams. You're always going to have instances where you're dealing with these BS requests, but if you're on fewer deals then you shouldn't have 90-100 hour weeks consistently (assuming you're currently staffed on multiple deals at a time...)

  • Business School in PE - LBOs
Apr 12, 2021 - 11:32am

I haven't been in shoes as bad as yours, and it's easier said than done but if you truly are going to quit anyways, you have all the leverage because the worst case is they fire you.

On your first example, when the client request rolls around on Saturday, you could just email your MD and say "hey I have an urgent personal matter I need to take care of tomorrow - I can make some light edits but if we're going to overhaul the deck I need some more help". MD will either 1) push back on client 2) get more staffing or 3) call your bluff in which case you can choose to stand firm. Depending on what you prefer, you can either lie and make up details or be purposefully vague. Either way, don't do the work. This will most certainly feel uncomfortable, but if you're truly considering quitting, the worst case is that you get fired so who cares.

If things are as bad as you say, you'll probably end up quitting anyways, but before doing that, I'd go to your staffer and literally tell them, "hey I can't handle this and I'm considering quitting." See where it goes, but at least give things a chance to improve. You'll probably get put on a list of people ticketed for the bottom bonus bucket, but you can at least squeeze out a few more weeks of salary while thinking through next steps.

If a few extra weeks of salary aren't important, then by all means quit, but I'd at least consider the in-between step.

Apr 11, 2021 - 3:50am

Rocket Man

With the exception of a single protected weekend and Thanksgiving/Christmas, I have done 90-100+ hours every week since I hit the desk. I never have time to consistently exercise. My sleep cycles are completely fucked up. The rare occasion I have some free time, it is sporadic enough nothing can be planned and I am too exhausted to take advantage. 

This sounds like hell.. but this is a personal question you have to ask yourself. Is this sacrifice of time worth the $$$ / the potential doors it might open in the future? In my opinion it is not. To me, what you have described here sounds like absolute hell. I understand and know some people who live for the prestige and props to them, I just don't have the gall for it. Life is meant to be lived.. not chained to a desk. You've got two main options..

A: Stick it out for the money and for the exit opps so that you can live your life one day
B: Jump ship and find a better balance so that you can enjoy the moment

There are plenty of fulfilling jobs out there that pay well and allow you to have a life outside of work. Given where you're at right now.. sounds like that might be the better option for you. Regardless of which path you choose, I promise you it will get better. I wish you the best of luck and am happy to help as best I can.

Apr 11, 2021 - 12:50pm

It is definitely not worth the money and I am not even sure a $100k special bonus would keep me here long-term at this point. My hope is/was that there would be some light at the end of the tunnel and the job becomes less completely bullshit endless hours of days/nights/weekends.

Apr 26, 2021 - 6:35pm

Easier said than done, but I'd leave, take a few weeks to regroup, take another few weeks to figure out where you want to take your life/career, and then hit the job search hard. With the hours you are working you are not going to have the capacity to really see what's out there, and even if you find something moderately interesting you are going to come into your new job completely burnt out. That's not a recipe for long-term success. Figure out your exit, take some time to regroup, and go from there. 

Most Helpful
  • Associate 1 in IB - Ind
Apr 11, 2021 - 7:42am

So I'm a 1st year associate who is heading out the door this year for buy-side. Difference is I am an A2A promote. I would say generally it's not possible to push back on work on your first year working, whether you're an analyst or associate. You need to build trust and have sponsors/people who protect//shield you, and it takes time to build those relationships. I am in one of the hardest working groups on the street and I can tell you that it honestly does get better. Senior analysts, senior associates, senior etc - they all coast. It's only grind time when you're entry level or freshly promoted. The VPs you think are working a similar amount? They don't. They've just perfected making it seem like they do. The MD who took 6 zooms this past week during his family vacation? How exactly did you find out about that? Did he per chance...tell you? 

My recommendation - grind it out. If you fucking hate it then quit after the full year. No questions asked. But you're not employable in finance with less than half a year of work experience. That just screams "I'm a quitter" above all. Do you know what the #1 comment by MDs are when we get MBA associate resume books in for summer recruit? Sure, this guy went to Harvard, but does he have grit? Why does he want to work here? The moment you put those cleats up you'll be branded like this for a while.

I wanted to quit 50 times during my first analyst year. And this is what someone told me - when you're at your absolute lowest point and you don't think you can take anymore - talk to whoever you're closest with on the senior level. Tell them you're absolutely fizzled out and that you need a week MINIMUM, maybe even 1.5 weeks, of PTO ASAP minimum to reset and re-fuel. And I'm talking ASAP - the sooner the better. Unplug during that week, spend your time doing whatever it is you want to do - sleep, make music, go hiking, play video games - and then after that 1 week realize you got paid to do absolute fuck-all that week. Look outside the window and you'll realize that life isn't so bad when you literally got paid money to take a shit 20 minutes ago. Construction workers and healthcare workers don't have the luxury of taking a break like that. If by the end of all this, you still want to quit, then quit. But at least you'll be in a more sober place of mind making that decision, not this 0 sleep, Satanic mood that you're probably in right now. I honestly don't know of a place so inhuman/illogical they would run the risk of losing an associate and all that time training them > not giving them PTO 

Apr 11, 2021 - 12:42pm

I didn't MS and appreciate this post, but this is the exact same thing every hardo in banking says while making immense personal sacrifices for the job and downplaying them, so it is not shocking some people took offense. If/when you eventually break in, you will meet many people like this and I may have even been one of them. I think most are genuinely coming from a good place, but not providing an accurate assessment of what sacrifices are made.

Apr 11, 2021 - 12:37pm

I respect this thought process and it is the only reason I have not already quit, but with respect, my VPs are sending out emails at 2 and 3am and those 6 meetings were just the ones I saw our MD on-undoubtedly there were others I didn't see.

What makes me skeptical of things "getting better" are that responses like yours are the same I hear from peer associates and VPs, yet the same ones that have told me how many of their friends' weddings they have missed, how they have played golf less than 5x in three years and had to cut one of those times short, and more. I look at the calendars of Directors and they are completely booked 8am-8pm every single day. Is that really what you have to look forward to after "making" it in this job? Never even knowing your kids?

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Apr 11, 2021 - 4:59pm

Dude you gotta realize that not everything people say is what it seems. The emails that VP sends out might be scheduled, or even if he is up, he might be taking a longer nap the next day. I do agree EB houses some workhorses who are insane (my ASO2 sleeps at 3 or 4am on weekdays, I don't ask me how), but generally people try to make it "seem" like they are having a very tough time, because by talking like that they are able to coast. Just trying to offer some perspective.

  • Associate 1 in IB - Ind
Apr 12, 2021 - 2:01am

Thanks - this is the poster but like I said, people upplay their work all the time. I am guilty of doing the same. The only way to not get staffed with more work is to seem/look busy. Sure, sacrifices have to be made but I always have had the feeling that if there was truly something important, I could do it. Furthermore, every VP I know at my group was able to be at their kid's birth and immediately take a month of paternal break. Obviously that shouldn't be raised as an accomplishment (it should be sheer human decency) but I am trying to make the point that work does come second in critical situations. Dude, golf is a for-fun sport. How would you feel as analyst if your VP was playing golf 2x a week while you were getting absolutely shafted? Honestly I'd be fucking pissed if I saw on the Gram that Chuck aged 33 was playing golf in the Hamptons. 

Don't worry so much about what life is going to look like 3-5 years from now. Take it one step at a time, day-by-day. Think about strategies/ways to get an hour or two hours extra each day to yourself. I'm not saying blindside yourself and ignorantly waltz and let people step over you but thinking of how you might be fucked a few years from now is not doing any justice to your mental sanity

At the end of the day, I'm doing a bit of handreading here and I think you and I both know what decision you're going to make. There's a reason you titled this "talk me off the cliff" and not "i'm going to quit right now and this job fucking sucks." And to reinforce this - there's a famous quote that the biggest evil in the world is inaction. I don't agree with that. I think the worst thing you can do in life is have regret. If you want to quit this job for a startup that is risky as fuck but you don't think you'll have another chance to do something like this in your lifetime and you would always think "what if" for the rest of your life, then 100% quit your job. Similarly if in 3 years you're going to look back at this inflection point and whisper "I wish I didn't quit this job" to yourself and think "what if", to me, there is no bigger failure in life than that. Note how I'm not saying quitting is bad. I think quitting without purpose is bad. If you want to quit and travel the world for two years and just fucking live life, then 100% do that too. Whatever you do, do it with a full head of steam and don't look back. It's important to get a sense of what other people / mentors in your circle think about critical life decisions and debate them (death to yes-men), but the moment you pony up and make one, people should support you, not question you 

  • Analyst 1 in AM - Equities
Apr 11, 2021 - 1:52pm

This is great advice. Whoever threw MS is a quitter lol

Apr 11, 2021 - 1:13pm

Every eb is a sweatshop, you should have known this.   Also, call this firm out by name, they deserve it 

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Apr 17, 2021 - 11:40pm

Agreed.  Normalize calling out shit banks/groups.

"That was basically college for me, just ya know, fuckin' tourin' with Widespread Panic over the USA."

Apr 11, 2021 - 1:58pm

I think you should quit.

Sounds like this job isn't for you. On one hand, sounds like your group is pretty toxic. On the other hand, I also get the sense you're coming up with narratives, etc. about how terrible your group is - maybe you know for sure, but seems surprising to me you know so much about the inner workings of your group being a first year + virtual.

So it doesn't seem like this job is a fit. Save your sanity and find something you enjoy.

Apr 11, 2021 - 4:31pm

Rocket Man

I completely recognize I may be suffering from cognitive dissonance, which is the purpose of the post. What parts do you feel like I am exaggerating or imagining? Serious question. 

VP reviews dont matter. Other reviews dont matter.

Some of the tasks you describe are bs but come w the job, so it's not like you're being treated any different or your experience is so unique.

Part of the reason you're doing 90-100 hours (I also don't completely buy this) is also probably because you're new to the job and not ramped up (especially in the covid environment).

  • Associate 1 in IB-M&A
Apr 11, 2021 - 4:09pm

Alright - somethings fucked here. You're either not being efficient, not being transparent enough with the staffer or both. 

In the beginning, I allowed myself to get railroaded. I'm at an EB too, and a lot of times you get a new potential staffing, as a 1st year MBA, you think - yea, cool, let's do it. Especially if it's a sexy client/transaction. Cut to multiple all nighters, regular 3 am sign-off, etc etc. 

If you don't stand up for yourself, no one will. Not because they don't care, because they don't know what your situation is. It took some time, but I started being incredibly frank with both the staffer and my teams as to what I have on my plate and when I can get things done. I usually jump on the phone and say - "Look, I've got x and y else going on right now, happy to loop in ___ if this is priority, but realistic time frame for me is [ ] - what do you think?"

VPs and ESPECIALLY analysts (because they are focused on themselves) will allow you to take on work until you drown, so you need to be tough but fair. This ALSO means taking work off your analyst when they are clearly drowning. Check in with them too, they may be able/willing to give more support. 

Also, do what you can to "play on your front foot" - actively try to kick stuff out to india or support teams, push back when a VP makes an unreasonable ask - because even if it's the analyst who needs to "respread the full compset" you're still going to be fielding the emails from the VP chasing all night then need to check when you're half asleep. It usually works for me to try and be thoughtful about maximizing our output by the evening so the VP can review - "can we show you a page with capIQ numbers and a TBU so you can get the flow of the deck while we scrub tonight/tomorrow morning". 

I don't mean to be harsh, but this happens when you act like an analyst: ask for orders, take orders, churn out work, wait for new orders. If you can instead start actively managing up so the pace of play is manageable for both you and your analysts, I can promise things will get better and you will gain standing in the process. Acting like an analyst is riskless, assuming you get everything done, but you're going to pay with your time and sleep. If you take a risk and speak up, you are absolutely taking a risk because now you guiding the process, but if you're right it will pay off. 

Apr 12, 2021 - 4:20am

Not all post-MBA associates are created equal. This is solid advice for both senior analysts and associates alike. 

I don't know... Yeah. Almost definitely yes.

Apr 11, 2021 - 8:25pm

I totally get it and have been there mentally. If I wasn't a family man, the banking experience would probably have led me to bounce quite a few times over the past 5 years.

The most practical advice is try to survive until you find another job. There are tons of exit options for banking Associates.

How do you survive in the meantime? These ideas range from ethical to slightly more unethical life pro tips...

* Set a minimum sleep time and hit it. 2 AM to 8 AM is 6 hours, you should just do this no matter what. Get a small amount of exercise (if you don't have to take notes on a non critical call, you might be able to get away with going on a walk or something and listen in)

* As others mentioned, push back on new staffings. Banking staffing is a game of "who looks the most busy" and your compadres might be hamming up how busy they really are. When everyone exaggerates, and you tell the truth, you'll get screwed by staffing. A little padding the stats is ok IMHO and expected.

* Actually schedule leave, but seriously put the time on the calendar and take it

* Be as ruthlessly efficient as possible: outsource as much work as possible to a third party where you can (Factset help, Bloomberg help, your graphics team, etc.) 

* Ask "naiive" questions to seniors giving you difficult work to emphasize that your team doesn't really know how to do it / they need to give you more instruction. "Huh, I think I kind of get it, but I don't really understand, can you walk us through what you want or send us a drawing of the page you had in mind?" This sentence could save you and the Analyst several hours per usage, if you can get the seniors to think a little more before asking you to do something. Other phrases "this page wasn't exactly off the shelf before, it will take a lot of manual calculations to refresh it. We can probably do it but [push back on the deadline]"

* Fake an illness and cycle through them once a month or so. 24 hour flu, food poisoning, Covid, whatever you have to do to have a day of rest, chores, playing video games, interviewing, whatever. Get vaccinated (twice) and have *really* bad side effects for a few days...

* Slack off your work strategically if you don't plan on staying. This doesn't mean not doing things that people are counting on you to do (like screwing your own teammates over) but don't be the person who pipes up to get more work. Push back on pages, dramatically exaggerate how difficult they are to do, etc.

* Use the Scotty method from Star Trek:

1) Calculate average required time for completion of given task.
2) Depending on importance of task, add 25-50% additional time to original estimate.
3) Report and commit to inflated time estimate with superiors, clients, etc.
4) Under optimal conditions the task is completed closer to the original time estimate vs. the inflated delivery time expected by those waiting.

From what I understand my EB VP brethren's lives are like, they make a lot more money but they also work a lot more. Up to you if the tradeoff is worth it, but it's not life-changing to get promoted, and there is a lot more pressure and close supervision by the seniors directly if anything goes wrong. I like this job a lot, but I wouldn't do it at just any bank or under any MD.

I seriously think, after taxes, the extra work it takes vs. reward to get a top bucket bonus vs. a mid-bucket bonus is probably not worth it for you. I would aim to be good, reliable, but not the extra special hardo who burns themselves out. Put in some time and invest your bonus, and jump for something else that's more interesting. Perhaps you become efficient enough that you make it through the Associate years and to the next level, but there's no shame in leaving this rat-race.

Be excellent to each other, and party on, dudes.
  • 4
Apr 11, 2021 - 10:51pm

Thanks for your feedback. Appreciate it.

Does it get meaningfully better at VP? Do you at your BB get most evenings to have dinner with your family and 6-7 hours of sleep? A live deal is a live deal, but how much of your time is in a shitshow vs living life? I want to start a family soon and the idea of never spending time with my kids most days in unacceptable and it is bad enough to barely see my SO.

This was not remotely close to my experience during my internship. Unless things were truly ASAP, associates usually left by 8 and handled emails from home. Analysts came in around 10-11 most days.

Apr 11, 2021 - 11:54pm

I saw the same during my summer internship where most analysts and associates were out by 10/11pm on weeknights and rarely in the office on the weekends (unless you were on a live deal). Feel like with wfh and recent departures, the culture of the group has completely changed in recent months. Things were busy in the fall but manageable but from January to April, shit really hit the fan and I'm struggling mentally and physically. They keep telling us Q1 and Q4 are the busiest times and that things will slow down as we head into the summer but I'm not sure I believe them

  • Associate 2 in IB-M&A
Apr 15, 2021 - 12:29am

I'm at an EB and also have a family; frankly, early on I set up super clear boundaries with my team. I'll go HAM 2 or 3 nights in a row until 4am if need be, but unless things are LIVE I am eating dinner with my family and putting my son to bed and reading stories. It's not even a question in my mind, if I couldn't do this I would find another job, and my team knows it. 
 

For reference, I also got top bucket and no one even questions it anymore. Set boundaries, but also perform when the pressure is on. Performing for BS tasks means jack shit in the end. You'll also get way more efficient at the 1 year mark, which should make your life noticeably less stressful.

Apr 11, 2021 - 11:44pm

Thanks for sharing and for all the helpful comments. I'm in a similar boat and this year has been beyond challenging. I think about quitting all the time and understand all the rational reasons of why I should try to stick around for at least a year but when you're in the thick of it, it's so damn hard to keep going. Have started scouting lateral opportunities but tbh I'm not sure it's better at another shop. I am trying to recruit for non-banking opportunities but have not found much success. For those who have successfully recruited for non-banking/PE/HF roles, how did you find these opportunities outside applying on LinkedIn?

Apr 12, 2021 - 4:16am

This is going to sound real stupid but have you considered moving to the London office of your firm? Think us brits take holidays & work life balance seriously. You would obviously get a pay cut though. 

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Apr 12, 2021 - 8:04am

What percentage of the late night hours are the seniors above you and the experienced analysts below you staying awake with you?

You need to ensure you're not just bad at your job before quitting. I guarantee in recruiting they told you you'd drink from the firehose. This is it. Highly recommend not quitting before you have something in hand and try and get to one year for a full bonus.

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