First Year PE Associates - How Have You Been?

I feel like I've been seeing a lot of first year PE associates post on this forum recently about their difficulties starting while WFH. Thought it would be a good idea to create a forum for all of us to share advice / vent / commiserate. 

For context, I'm about 2 months into the job and definitely don't feel like the grass is greener on this side yet, but perhaps that'll come with time. 

Comments (49)

 
  • Associate 1 in PE - LBOs
Sep 22, 2020 - 7:09pm

First year Associate here myself. Quite frankly ramping up while WFH sucks. Transitioning to PE is usually likened to drinking from a firehose your first couple months anyway, and WFH makes that even harder because the barrier to asking questions/seeing how things work is much higher remotely. It's also tough to feel integrated with the team when you've never met in person. 

That said, I'm also about 2 months in and it's getting better each week. I'm starting to feel like I (at least somewhat) know what I'm doing on certain things, and have started to develop a rapport with the VPs I've worked with on multiple projects now. I think we're just going to have to grind it out recognizing the learning curve is made steeper by WFH, but knowing once we get up it we'll feel much better. I'd also recommend you gather your fellow first year Associates in your start class and grab a beer on the weekends to talk about it. Definitely helps to feel like others are going through the same thing. 

 
  • Associate 1 in PE - LBOs
Sep 23, 2020 - 9:31am

I posted in another thread anonymously but I'll post here as well.

Not good. I am having trouble learning because of remote and because I am a former consultant.

  • I keep making mistakes - not the same mistake twice, but there are so many things to learn. Because of remote, and because everyone is so busy, I have nobody to turn to for one-off questions. 
  • Everyone in my Associate class is trying to develop rapport so the intentions are good, but it's not the same over Slack.
  • I came here to learn new skills and while that's happening (very) slowly, I'm having second thoughts about being here. I think about quitting throughout the day and I have never thought about quitting anything before in my life. I have already started sending feeler emails to other firms.
  • I'm also pretty tired already of people telling me I need to respond to emails immediately. I'm not a child - I can tell when something requires immediate attention. I am tired of having demeaning conversations where I am belittled for not responding quickly enough, or formatting something just the way the VP likes it. It is unnecessarily humiliating.
  • My confidence has taken a pretty big hit. I was one of if not the top rated analyst / manager during my time at my old firm, and now I feel like a struggling analyst.  Going back to doing analyst work from doing managerial work in consulting is tough.

I don't need any encouragement or tough love - there has been plenty on the other threads. I just want to get it off my chest one more time. Thanks for reading.

 
Sep 23, 2020 - 11:51am

 

I posted in another thread anonymously but I'll post here as well.

Not good. I am having trouble learning because of remote and because I am a former consultant.

  • I keep making mistakes - not the same mistake twice, but there are so many things to learn. Because of remote, and because everyone is so busy, I have nobody to turn to for one-off questions. 
  • Everyone in my Associate class is trying to develop rapport so the intentions are good, but it's not the same over Slack.
  • I came here to learn new skills and while that's happening (very) slowly, I'm having second thoughts about being here. I think about quitting throughout the day and I have never thought about quitting anything before in my life. I have already started sending feeler emails to other firms.
  • I'm also pretty tired already of people telling me I need to respond to emails immediately. I'm not a child - I can tell when something requires immediate attention. I am tired of having demeaning conversations where I am belittled for not responding quickly enough, or formatting something just the way the VP likes it. It is unnecessarily humiliating.
  • My confidence has taken a pretty big hit. I was one of if not the top rated analyst / manager during my time at my old firm, and now I feel like a struggling analyst.  Going back to doing analyst work from doing managerial work in consulting is tough.

I don't need any encouragement or tough love - there has been plenty on the other threads. I just want to get it off my chest one more time. Thanks for reading.

The responding in a timely manner thing is probably exacerbated by WFH for your VPs/managers too. They're quarterbacking multiple deals and it's harder to do so with everyone remote. I hope it's not like you're getting yelled at for not responding within 15-30min, but if longer than that I would get annoyed too, especially if you're making mistakes. 

 
  • Associate 1 in PE - LBOs
Sep 23, 2020 - 11:58am

The frustrating part - and I think this is just a bad experience - is that I'm responding in 15-20 minutes with acknowledgement, but the berating is coming from not dropping what I'm doing to turn even minor items like formatting preference (e.g., not even errors) or other non-critical tasks. It would be one thing on a live deal but having to tell my wife I need to pause the movie for 20 minutes or not be able to finish the front 9 because I'm getting blown up is taxing.

 
  • Associate 2 in PE - Other
Sep 24, 2020 - 10:59am

I think your expectations were slightly askew due to the fact that you are transitioning from a consulting background rather than an IB one. None of these things will be new to former IB analysts, but it does go to show how much more "reasonable" expectations in consulting are, even at a very junior level, as well as how you are treated and viewed as the junior on a team (a resource [IB/PE] vs. a valued contributor and team member [consulting]). This isn't the first time I've read or heard these same gripes form former consultants turned PE associates - doesn't make it right or wrong, just want to highlight that and give you some perspective.

 
Oct 21, 2020 - 8:42am

Hi - I'm an EM/PL/CTL equivalent at MBB and in the process of interviewing with a MF. The experience you describe touched upon a few of my concerns going into a MF PE role - would you mind if we had an exchange via DM/email? I would really appreciate hearing more. If yes, could you DM me, given you are anonymous?

 

FYI I'm in the last few stages of the process and the head of the group wants to interview me for a final fit session, focussing mainly on the fact that I am more mature compared to the other associates and they want to know how I will handle myself in that regard (have an advanced degree plus 5y consulting experience). They specifically headhunted for people with 4-5 years of experience and sector knowledge built up through advanced academic qualifications, rather than work experience (i.e. I have a STEM background), so they always knew they would get older candidates, but are just doing the extra diligence in hiring someone who might say 'Screw this - I'm out' after a year of the grind. This is especially likely if that person was a successful mid-level professional elsewhere. Like you I have a long-term partner/wife, but no kids (not planning to have them for at least another 3-5 years either) so that is somewhat beneficial if I'm expected to grind hard for the next 2-3 years (that said, I've also done my fair share of mind-numbing work over the past 4-5years, so would not be willing to do it for another 5+ years if that's what it took to be successful in this MF PE).

 
  • Associate 1 in PE - LBOs
Sep 23, 2020 - 9:58am

Can you elaborate a bit on the email response? I don't necessarily do everything as its emailed immediately, but usually would respond with a "Yes, will do" or "Sounds good, thanks" within 5-10 minutes as a way of acknowledging receipt. 

 
  • Associate 3 in PE - LBOs
Sep 23, 2020 - 1:49pm

Not a first year, but lateraled during COVID.  It's been brutal versus my last role but I do think much of that is WFH related.  There's no sense of being part of an organization, you just feel like a paid consultant getting requests dropped on you out of nowhere.  Usually late summer is a great time with partners taking long vacations to places with limited cell service but obviously was not the case this year.  Everyone is online 24/7 given nowhere to go and nothing better to do. 

For what it's worth, the first few months of PE are usually rough - I thought I was severely under performing until my mid-year review.  You're probably right where you should be in terms of development.  

Make sure you take time for yourself at multiple points throughout the day - whether it's going on a jog/walk, watching a TV show, working out, etc.  Easier said than done but there is always more work no matter how much you crank out - it can wait 20-30 minutes. 

 
  • Associate 1 in PE - LBOs
Sep 23, 2020 - 4:49pm

Yea good point. Only positive thing about WFH is how much easier it is to do chores / relax in between turns, although in my experience there's very little down time in PE compared to IB. If there's not work to be done, there's a call, and if there's not a call, it's consolidating notes, etc. 

 
  • Analyst 1 in PE - LBOs
Sep 23, 2020 - 6:39pm

Not an Associate but a first year PE analyst, and I'm straight up not having a good time lol. 
 

Nobody seems to trust me with actual work, and I haven't even touched a model in my first 2 months here. Best case scenario I'm doing some super high level diligence to maybe result in a bullet point or two on an Associate's deck-  most of the time though I'm just taking notes on shit and consolidating.
 

My firm (well-known MM shop) has been too lazy to train me properly so I just get ad-hoc formatting work every once in a while. I'm seriously considering saying fuck it and just starting over at a bank or consulting firm - this industry is too disorganized to properly deal with personnel challenges during covid.

 
  • Analyst 3+ in IB-M&A
Sep 23, 2020 - 7:25pm

Relax, you're 2 months out of undergrad. You wouldn't be doing anything meaningful at any job at any established firm. You're being trained to know how to function as part of the workforce and that's about it. Until you've proven you do you won't be doing much at all anywhere - hard pill to swallow but better get through it with a (fake) smile as it'll be quicker

 
  • Associate 1 in PE - LBOs
Sep 23, 2020 - 10:43pm

One thing I keep thinking about is why I'm doing this? When I was in banking I told myself that PE would be more intellectually rewarding and more interesting than sell-side work. While I think this is potentially true at the senior level, I've realized that at most firms the size of mine, I will be running underwriting sensitivities and putting together slides 70+ hours per week into my mid 30s and I just don't know if that's the life I want to live for the next 10 years. So I've realized a really important reason I'm doing this is for the money. I'm making 300k my first year, but it doesn't feel like all that much because I turned down an associate role at my bank where I made 175k+ as a second year analyst. I'm frustrated that there isn't more transparency about comp beyond entry level associate roles.. anyone else feel similarly? I mean I'm literally working in PE and I quite honestly have no idea how carried interest works at my fund but also in general... 

 
  • Associate 1 in PE - LBOs
Sep 23, 2020 - 10:53pm

I've realized that at most firms the size of mine, I will be running underwriting sensitivities and putting together slides 70+ hours per week into my mid 30s and I just don't know if that's the life I want to live for the next 10 years

I can't escape this thought either and it makes me wonder, why not just get out now and so something intellectually stimulating where the money might not be as good, but is still pretty good, eg., MBB, unbanked venture/growth equity.

 

There's a pretty good level of information on carried interest in general on the forum, enough to understand how it works in theory, but I think you might be SOL for understanding it at your fund until you develop enough rapport / balls to ask a VP.

 
Most Helpful
  • Managing Director in IB-M&A
Sep 24, 2020 - 12:57pm

Third year PE associate here. Below are some thoughts on the various topics in this thread:

1. Training/mistakes - this is the unfortunate reality but first year sucks WFH or non-WFH. Probably exacerbate due to WFH...but to be truthful, first year learning curve is steep and takes some time. PE execution is the same as banking execution-all about the reps (not the most efficient way to learn but it's just what finance is)

 

2. Emails/formatting - there's definitely an unreasonable expectation (across IB and PE) that you respond quickly to emails and that you turn formatting comments as VP/senior person wants. But if you are getting berated / not being asked to these things nicely, leave that shit place. But fair warning, bulk of PE firms have shit culture. 
 

3. Does it get better over time? Yes, just like IB/consulting, your learning curve will flatten out so your second year will be better. But the difference in PE is that it's a step-function after each level. Whereas in banking, I felt like I could do associate/VP job without much more effort, PE senior associate/VP job is a whole new level of ownership. You will feel this during your third year and get an understanding of why mid level PE people grind (and have uncontrollable tempers at shit culture firms-the stress is immense). Also in some ways it does not get better. Once you get good at execution, you now have capacity to think and people expect more of you/independent thoughts (vs in banking, it's just execution without much thinking until VP when at least you are expected to come up with a draft pitch book. 
 

4. Is PE the promised land? As many of you are realizing now, it is not. It is an absolutely the most risk adverse way to make a buttload of money (unlike IB, PE is extremely stable especially at established firms). The price of risk aversion is the grind. As you think about next steps/b school/career, think hard and long about where you sit in that risk/return spectrum. PE is at the extreme end of low risk and high return, and over the last 3 years I've realized that I don't belong in that end. I've also realized I'm not the most risk loving person, so be measured / self aware in your career alternatives/timing.

 

Lastly, as a word of encouragement, there is some light at the end of the tunnel when new first years join next summer. It will be a while but grind on/get paid/save up. At the end of the two years, I've realized I've grown a lot as a person and as a professional. For some people everything clicks early, but at least for me personally, PE was very helpful in me learning to operate on my own, develop a healthy level of self respect amongst not only my peers but also seniors/executives (i.e. they are not as godly as you think and you are not as stupid as you might believe), as well as accumulating good level of savings to the point where I can be more bold in my career/myself 

 
  • Managing Director in IB-M&A
Sep 24, 2020 - 3:06pm

Still TBD but thinking about joining a (smaller end) portco to do corp dev/finance. Goal is to transition to a role where I can still leverage my skillset (e.g., M&A) in an industry that I want to pursue (software with B2C/B2B/marketplace components) so that (1) I can continue my career path towards something exciting like a PE backed CFO or a search fund in software (2) to have a sustainable lifestyle job where I can dedicate a good chunk of my time on side/entrepreneurial endeavors and be ready to commit to it if something sticks.

 
  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Sep 29, 2020 - 7:49pm

How is PE more stable than IB if you do not mind me asking? 

 

In PE, it seems the funnel is a LOT more narrow at the top. Few associates, even fewer VPs, even fewer partners etc. so chrun is very high. Whereas in IB, especially at the BBs there seems to be more room for new MDs. Furthermore, while PE is based on performance, large banks generally have quite a bit of recurring revenue from equity/debt deals which makes them pretty strong through the cycle. I do understand PE is locked up long term money so is def more risk averse than HF. Finally, even though this is changing, most funds are still 2 years and out in which you have to re-recruit and potentially pay for B-School.

 

I found your post very insightful and really appreciate the contribution. Just a second year IB analyst who is honestly kinda enjoying the job and seeing the merits of whether or not to try to make the jump to PE. 

 
  • Managing Director in IB-M&A
Sep 29, 2020 - 9:46pm

Ah I should have clarified. I meant it's a stable seat AFTER you get on career track (i.e., senior associate / VP). Agreed it's much less stable as associate 2 years and out program.

 

I think you're correct that banks are relatively stable but 2008 - 2012 crisis proved IB seats are exposed during down cycles. COVID somewhat changed my perspective on that a little bit in that main street performance = / = wall street performance. This was mainly driven by the Fed supporting the financial markets (unlike the mortgage crisis). TBD if the Fed sustained economy will pull through and prove that IB seats are as stable as this cycle seems to suggest. 

 
Sep 28, 2020 - 11:12pm

This thread is the most perfect thread to read for anyone who's working in IB and is with a great group that you get along with and have good rapport with and think that PE is some amazing paradise where all your troubles will go away. Be very careful before stepping away from a good role that you enjoy, they don't come by often..

 
  • Associate 1 in PE - LBOs
Oct 1, 2020 - 12:52pm

1st year associate that came in from banking in January and have been work from home for the large majority of my stint thus far.

 

Honestly, I don't feel as though I'm making much progress on the learning curve and it's starting to severely worry me. I left banking in hopes for better hours and less stress, but both have only become worse in my experience. I don't feel as though I am adding much value to the deals that I work on and, quite frankly, feel like a hindrance to the effort. I make frequent mistakes (stupid formatting and conceptual mistakes) and feel quite lost a fair amount of the time when I am asked to do something. While I have quickly become quite jaded by the experience, I am starting to worry that if I keep this up I'm going to get fired.

 

I don't know if this is more of a ramble or me asking for advice, but clearly this firm is not the right fit for me (and I think they have realized the same). I have no idea what my options are, but I constantly, constantly think about quitting the job. I have never felt so low in my career and my self esteem. If work isn't keeping me awake, the stress of the job and my performance is keeping me awake. My mental health really can't manage this much further. Has anyone known an associate that has totally flailed at the role? What are my options even? Maybe PE isn't for me, but if I keep this up and get fired (is that even a likely outcome?) what will my options be then?

 
  • Associate 1 in PE - LBOs
Oct 1, 2020 - 12:59pm

How hard is it to go back to banking after your associate years? I feel like I probably won't be promoted and would love to rejoin my banking coverage group as a VP? Is this possible? Would I have to come back as an associate? Do you think I'd have trouble recruiting? For reference, I was working for a good BB and am now at a MF. 

 
  • Associate 1 in PE - LBOs
Oct 1, 2020 - 2:08pm

I'd think you'd have to come back as a mid level associate assuming this is post 2 years pre MBA PE associate. To be honest I don't think you'd really want to rejoin immediately at the VP level as you'll want time to readjust to banking rather than getting compared to the people who stuck it out in banking and have strong momentum 

 
  • Analyst 1 in IB - Ind
Oct 17, 2020 - 11:56am
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