Advice from people who left?

I'd love some advice from people who left PE as an associate / snr associate. I know probably 60-80% of people in PE end up trying to stay in this industry in one way or another, but I'm getting exhausted by the stress / pressure and time commitment required. I know b school followed by Corp Strategy or Corp dev or something is somewhat common, but I'd love some perspective on what others have done upon leaving PE, particularly for those who left for better lifestyle. 

I'm trying to get a sense for what's really out there (what types of roles), compensation (and expected pay cut), work life balance, remote / in person, etc. 

Any information would be greatly appreciated. Additionally, if anyone here is open to chatting live I'd be really grateful for the chance to do so. 

Comments (15)

  • Associate 2 in PE - LBOs
Jan 10, 2022 - 1:03pm

Bump. Interested in this as well. Not a fan of the job after almost 2 years. Wonder also if anyone can opine on how they cope with "giving up the path" that so many of us absolutely grinded to get on, and potentially coping with "What if I had stayed?" type thinking down the line.

  • Associate 1 in PE - LBOs
Jan 10, 2022 - 3:29pm

Completely agree on this question as well. It's so hard to picture stepping away, given not just the money but the work required to get here and the achievement of doing it. 

  • Analyst 2 in PE - LBOs
Jan 10, 2022 - 4:22pm

super interesting thread. would also be interested about people making the switch from PE to entrepreneurship (startup, buying into small business, family busines etc)

  • Associate 1 in PE - LBOs
Jan 10, 2022 - 4:57pm

Feeling the same way -- some days I think I can last until Business School (~18 more months) and other days I think I'm going to quit tomorrow.

Would be great to hear if anyone made the Corp Strat / Corp Dev move before B-School and if they regret / are happy they made that move.

  • Intern in PE - Other
Jan 13, 2022 - 12:57am

I am curious how direct equity investing works at a FoF where most of the work is fund/secondary investments. How does direct investing experience at a FOF differ from a private equity fund?

Jan 13, 2022 - 1:25am

Most of FoF I can think of (HV, HL, SSG) don't have a direct PE program. They raise primary, co-invest and secondary strategies and work alongside GPs.

Partners Group is one that comes to mind that has moved from co-investment to more direct but that clearly has conflicts (competition with the GPs they have invested in) and potential access issues to those GPs co-investment deals. 

  • Associate 3 in PE - LBOs
Jan 10, 2022 - 7:19pm

Ended up moving to the LP side after getting burnt out after ~4 years.  Somewhat of a compromise between totally going off the path vs. grinding it out, but there are a whole host of career paths out there. Had some friends move into tech, one is now into finance-focused journalism, another trying the entrepreneurship path.  

One interesting counter to the risk of making a change is the risk of inaction - the longer you stay in a seat that you hate, the more pigeon-holed you become and the number of better-fitting opportunities passing you by is only increasing.  I would implore you to do some serious self-reflection (which WFH has made easier) - what do you enjoy about your current job? What do you dislike? Can you realistically be happy taking x% pay cut? 

  • Associate 2 in PE - LBOs
Jan 10, 2022 - 7:49pm

Something I struggle with. When is the right time to leave?

  • When you know you don't want to go back to buyouts?
  • When you get into an MBA?
  • When you finish your two-year program?
  • When you know you are structurally unhappy b/c of work?
  • When you have plateaued at your current level?
  • When you get forced out?
  • When you get another job offer you want to try?
  • Once you close a platform?

And so on and so forth. Obviously not looking for a Y/N for each of these so much as introducing a broader question about: "So you know you don't want to do this, but you're not quite sure how to translate that realization into a future action"

Jan 11, 2022 - 11:20am

If you want to do Corp Dev or Corp Strategy I would mention you dont need an MBA for that. I dont have my MBA and a friend of mine in CS is at a Manager level without one and works for one of the largest companies in the US. Plenty of bankers transition to Corp Dev roles with no MBA, and plenty of consultants make the same transition to CS. With PE experience, Corp dev or strat teams would eat you up for either role, and you would almost certainly come in at the Manager level. 

Most Helpful
Jan 11, 2022 - 11:36am

I think most importantly, you need to assess what it is that isn't cutting it for you in PE. You have one of the most coveted jobs in Finance, so if you aren't happy it just means you need to tweak something.

1. Is the WLB killing you? If so, then you could transition to Corp Dev / Corp Strat / FP&A / Management Consulting for an improvement in hours, but would likely come at a pay cut (management consulting would probably have the most comparable comp but the worst hours). I didnt want to put in the hours required to excel within PE so Corp Dev was a natural choice for me. 

2. Is it the granularity of the work? Less talked about on this site, but a lot of PE work is reading through legal docs, breaking out data like you do in IB, and turning comments. If this is your perspective, I would recommend Corp Strat as you are taking on much more of a consulting mindset and solving different problems all the time. Depending on the role, it may not be very heavily finance-based, and therefore you may be frustrated by the "simplicity" of the financial models you are asked to build out. 

3. Do you feel like you dont matter or arent making a material impact? If you want to make a much stronger impact, consider strategic finance roles for a start up. Honestly, any finance role within the right start up would give you a ton of sway and purpose, if you feel this is what is lacking.  

4. Is Finance still what you want to do? This may be the most important question. Congrats, you have won the finance game and climbed to the top of the corp ladder. Some may say that is making MD at an IB or Principal at a fund, but fuck it, Associate at any reputable fund is good enough. You have proven countless times over that you are smart, ambitious, detailed oriented, personable, and hard working. Maybe it is time to reflect on if this is what you want to be known for. In my experience, guys who make it to PE can do just about anything they want. I have a really bright friend who after two years at a top IB (top bucket every year), he left finance entirely to join the film industry. This would be an example of an extreme transition, but the point is that you are at a good point to really reflect on what you want the next 5-10 years to look like. Lastly, no one who is truly your friend will judge you for leaving finance. Finance at the end of the day isn't fascinating, it isnt thrilling, it is providing a basic service. It is a means to an end, and anyone who tells you otherwise has been in the industry too long and lost their personality. 

  • Analyst 1 in PE - LBOs
Jan 13, 2022 - 12:38am

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