Burntout - should I take a break?

Analyst 2 in IB-M&A

Just looking for some advice and / or scolding from people who've been there and done that, or seen others do it.
TLDR: burnt out to the point I'm declining to interview with PEs, wondering if I should quit my (IB) job to think about it, or just drag along with terrible performance till I finally get fired or find that unicorn job.

Profile:
- Mid-20s, went to a target uni, got the requisite 1st class in economics, been working for c.4 years
- I'm honestly more of a hippie and free spirit than a hardened corporate / finance warrior, but a poor one, so into finance I went

Flaws:
- I have self esteem issues regarding my capabilities. I've been doing well in every exam in my life with minimal effort, but ended up self sabotaging by not even applying for internships etc during my uni days until final year
- When I burnout, I no longer bother paying attention to detail - so my quality of work as of late has been declining
- Poor social skills. I've gotten away with this most of my life because most people around me have apparently found me attractive - never had to try hard to make friends because most people would initiate and maintain friendships. However, at work this becomes a problem because I cannot navigate politics effectively and protect myself. I don't like playing games and have in the past tried to shield / help people I consider victims as well, to my detriment.

1st job:
- Took an offer for a role I didn't want in a top BB. Officially it was front office asset management, but their analyst programme was basically a highly glorified admin role, except that I worked from 7:30am to past 12am nearly every day, often to 3, 4 am (even then I was told that I didn't put in enough facetime, this place was absolutely bonkers)
- Paid close to IB pay but was basically admin work (filling tickets, etc), with zero actual investment training or exposure (not that most people who worked there actually knew anything about investing)
- Also suffered through an extremely toxic culture where seniors encouraged the juniors to bully people they perceived as weaker, and worked under bosses who thought (and acted) like they were hot shit but brought in <3m rev a year. Left after 1 crazy year.

2nd "job" - transitioning into IB:
- Took a (long) internship offer from a small firm well known in my city. The director who was the hiring manager perved on me (I'm female) and gave another male intern who couldn't even use excel the sole FT offer. left after c. 1 year

3rd job:
- c. 2 years in a boutique bank that's pretty well known state-side, but not in my city, which is also a finance hub. our team here is also extremely mediocre (to be fair, so am I, after working with them for 2 years). We haven't closed any deals except stuff given to us by virtue of overseas relationships.
- All i've really been doing is countless presentations and desktop research, zero modelling (which I've been teaching myself)
- Culture is mixed, with the top guys being in retirement mode and very tolerant, giving the ones in the middle leeway to be incompetent assholes

Burnout:
- I've been quite burnout since the 2nd job, as I've not had a break between transitioning each of these (at most, 1 to 2 weeks of leave). All I want to do is stop working for 6 months. However, I don't know how badly this will affect my CV.
- in the long run, I could see myself working in certain PE funds, or even a HF, since I have some markets background. At the same time, I am keenly aware that my technical skills are not up to par because of lack of exposure and have been trying to brush them up, but am afraid that it won't be enough for PEs etc. I've been turning down headhunters and friends' referrals to great PE firms because of this
- I can't bring myself to even apply for another finance role. The thought of it makes me ill
- Unsatisfying dating life. I do get asked out and all, but every time I meet a guy with whom there is genuine attraction and compatibility, work comes and blows that it up and I don't have a free weekend till a month later. My last bf was kind and patient (and not in finance), but I realised that I was dating him out of convenience and while I loved him, I wasn't in love with him (he wanted to settle down and get married)

Comments (12)

Most Helpful
Oct 13, 2019

Hello!

Reading this was like reading my own thoughts of few years ago. And my only advice for you is that if you feel you need to take a break than you should do it. I know it may be scary, but six months isn't something that will end up with your career.

Think about something that could be useful. For example, use your break to study something you like, to have some classes, to volunteering... It will be great for you!

I'm also a woman in hers mid 20s. I burned out two years ago. And now I can see how important it is to slow down sometimes...

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  • Analyst 2 in IB - Ind
Oct 13, 2019

Take a step back and try to figure out why you might be burnt out. Do you not enjoy the work you are doing/do you think there is any way to fix that (like if you could model, would you be happier?)? Are the hours too long for you?

Whatever you think it may be, think about finding a job that you could see yourself doing long term. Remember that there is so much in this world outside of finance. If you see yourself as more of the creative types, you could go into marketing. If you love to think about the strategy of a company and how it can improve then consulting would be appealing.

Hopefully that helps. Remember there are definitely a good amount of people especially in IB who have felt burnt out at some point and never really take the time to assess that.

    • 2
Oct 13, 2019

fwiw, treat your burnout with respect. it's a real thing and can have adverse effects on your career, personal relationships and mental and physical health.

By the sounds of it, you've been revving your engines for a while. They're now screaming "give me a break I need a tune up". Give yourself that break. Even if its only a few weeks. it also sounds like your work environment isn't the greatest and a little toxic. Perhaps that's a signal to begin looking around. If your philosophies and interests of the firm/management don't align. Chances are it wont end well or at the very least be a pleasant and fulfilling experience for you. Look elsewhere, they are out there!

For someone with "poor social skills" I found the less you talk about yourself and ask questions about the other person, makes things really really easy. It takes time to get the hang of it, but asking people about their interests really lets peoples guards down and the conversations flow easier. (ex: Outside of banking, what do you like to do in your spare time?....What got you into that? etc..

My $0.02 - Take a break, get some rest and recharge. take care of yourself first (mental/physical health) you will feel better and you will perform better.

Good luck!

    • 2
  • Associate 2 in CorpDev
Oct 14, 2019

Most people have reached burnout at some point in their careers, myself included.
How to manage this depends on the specific circumstances, and in your case it appears:

  • you are not learning enough in your current job to help you find a better role
  • the current job is demotivating you and affecting your job search (never underestimate how important it is to be in peak form when recruiting - managers pick up on negativity easily and its often a deal killer)
  • you have a lot to figure out: at work its about navigating corporate culture, outside work its about your personal life
  • you have switched 3 jobs in 4 years and you need to make your next move really count

With all these in mind - overall, it would do you more good than harm to take a break and address all the above before moving on. Feel free to PM me, happy to share my experience

    • 1
  • Analyst 2 in IB-M&A
Oct 16, 2019

Hey guys... OP here.
Thank you all for replying. I actually teared up reading your responses because I wasn't expecting this much empathy.

I think it's the mixture of the type of work I'm doing, where I feel that even as a team, we don't really accomplish much, and genuine burnout from being an analyst for 4 years (with another 2+ to go).

My current team's environment used to be quite toxic indeed, however my MD intervened and put a stop to it recently and everyone is behaving better now. I had to sit myself down today and make a conscious effort to drop the attitude I'd been having as a response to the previous state of things, since he has been so kind to do that.

I managed to get a 2 week long vacation - the first time in 4 years - approved in the next few months, so going to do alot of reflection (hopefully recruiting too) then.

I've kind of been blindly chasing the finance dream and been too risk averse to go to another industry where I'd have to take responsibility for decisions with real business impact to advance. (because as an analyst / assoc / even some junior VPs in finance, no one's going to hold you responsible for deals not closing).

But it's clearly not that good a fit, so will have a long, hard think about this

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  • Associate 2 in CorpDev
Oct 17, 2019

Hm try to take it easy OP, a lot of people go through it.

Also agree it would be extremely strenuous going through analyst years - 4 isn't too long, but I know moving companies / readjusting etc. is very tiring. The 2 week break would do wonders, take some time to rest up and consider your options - what other industries are you thinking of exploring?

  • Analyst 2 in IB-M&A
Oct 19, 2019

I'm considering leaving banking altogether (so Corp Dev would be a good role), also considering buyside - PEs / HFs.

I just never want to go into another sell-side again. I really cannot stand the hours and I can almost feel my body breaking down after 4 years of these sort of hours (maybe I'm weak, but a fact's a fact)

I also feel really insecure about not having the same type of exposure and technical skills that other candidates have... and dread having to start from the bottom again if I switch industries.

All I want to do is resign and take 3 months off to do other things before applying. But I keep getting scolded by older people (parents, ex bosses, etc) who say that this is career suicide. And of course a part of my hesitation in quitting banking is pride / fear that I won't get similar prestige / have nothing to show for after 4 years of grinding it out.

My mind's all over the place now and its quite alot to unpack there

    • 2
  • Associate 2 in CorpDev
Oct 20, 2019
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