Is the grass greener or should I be more content?

I'm in an M&A team at a top "prestigious" EB, top ranked (bonuses well over 100% of base, well above market comp) and have a clear path to VP. My team has a great culture and I don't work particularly hard, probably typically 50 hours a week (yes this does ramp up some weeks to typical banking hours, but it is maybe one week every couple of months) - reasonable MDs above me and very competent juniors make it possible. I have significant freedom to manage my own time on my projects/staffings, for example, I'm frequently able to do things on weeknights and I don't remember the last time I had to cancel plans on a Friday night.

From an actual work product perspective, I feel like my work has a tangible impact, e.g. slides I write/draft are used as the final versions in books for CEOs of large cap businesses (>$20bn market cap) and on deals I'm trusted to lead and run key workstreams independently, acting as a VP with an MD above me.

To many people, both inside and outside finance, I have a dream job, where I am paid very well relative to hours worked. Having said that, I don't feel content. I failed to get an offer back when I recruited for private equity and cant help but feel like a failure, even though I knew I would work more and get paid less (wasn't targeting MFs).

In addition to feeling like I failed, I'm also worried about long term progression as the EB model is hire BB MDs, making it harder for homegrown MDs to compete. However, speaking to friends in PE, long term progression is also far from guaranteed with the 2 and out.

Friends in finance who know about my situation find it crazy that I would try to leave given the pay/hours worked, but wanted to hear WSOs thoughts on my situation and any advice

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Comments (49)

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Oct 19, 2021 - 10:22am

Uhhh so you're an Associate at an EB and are pulling 50 hours a week? Sounds like you struck gold if that's true. Why the hell would you even think about PE? College prospects have you brainwashed. Enjoy your time. The only thing you should be thinking about is if you want a even better WLB down the line in corporate or something, but you should be able to save enough here to not have to worry about another job for a while. 

  • Associate 1 in IB-M&A
Oct 19, 2021 - 12:28pm

Exactly my point... I know I have it good but I still don't feel content (but maybe this is just because I failed in recruiting) - I know outside in it seems great (as my friends in finance say) but I guess just having PE as the 'endgame' and not getting there doesn't feel great

Oct 20, 2021 - 5:30pm

I understand what you're feeling because I went through something similar. When you're unable to achieve something it makes your brain want it more than what you already have. If you had PE offers on the table you would probably be thinking differently.

Most Helpful
  • Investment Manager in HF - Other
Oct 20, 2021 - 9:59pm

There isn't an "endgame". The sooner you realize that the happier you'll be. What will being at the PE firm get you that you don't have now? You said it yourself, less money and longer hours.

So what is the positive? Is the work that much more interesting (hint: if you aren't content at an EB you most likely won't be doing the PE work)? That's probably not it, so how will your life be more fulfilling? 

So if it isn't the work, then is it just the "goal" and feeling like that's the next logical step? I can promise you those won't go away. Once you get into PE then you'll think about progression within PE or start thinking about HF or something else, or worry about whether you'll be partner or maybe you can run a portco. Etc. 

There is always the next step, the next raise, the next thing to buy. 

Rarely do I see people who are "content" because of their job, or the money they make or "respect" they receive. It's usually the friends, family, experiences, etc.

Don't get me wrong, finding a job you love is pretty important, especially if you spend lots of time at work. But you need to start with understanding what you want out of a job, what is currently missing, how you want your day to day to be, and not aiming for some random path that has been drilled into your head since you were a freshman. 

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Oct 19, 2021 - 10:40am

Have you thought about trying to start something on the side? or if you are a accredited investor starting to angel invest? seems like something like this would be able to get the PE itch scratched while still taking advantage of your awesome job.  

  • Associate 1 in IB-M&A
Oct 19, 2021 - 12:33pm

I think this is a good idea and where I should focus my energy rather than on recruiting...I expect I'll make total $450-500k total this year

  • Associate 2 in PE - LBOs
Oct 19, 2021 - 11:18am

I am married to a beautiful woman who is smart, fun, chill, and rich. Should I consider getting a divorce?

Oct 21, 2021 - 9:04am

You should repost this in the thread where some guy is having an existential crisis and feels like he should become a Post MBA consultant. This person makes 500k+ at a Hedge Fund while working chill hours. 

Oct 19, 2021 - 11:27am

Milk it as long as you can. If you can manage to ride the wave through a few Director years, you could probably save a couple of Ms in the next 7ish years even if you don't want to do banking for the rest of your life....assuming an aggressive post-tax savings rate. That seems like a good trade to me. If you're not about money, save yourself the time, quit today, and find something else to do. Never forget that banking is a means to an end -- either relatively early financial freedom or getting those next few titles up the seniority chain. If neither of those are your personal motivating factors, pull the ripcord.

  • Associate 1 in IB-M&A
Oct 19, 2021 - 12:34pm

I have thought of this but my main worry is what happens when you've done those few years at Director if you don't become MD, where do you end up? Can you still do corp dev?

Oct 19, 2021 - 12:43pm

You could but the best time to leave at the mid-senior levels appears to be VP. Seen a few VPs exit to be Directors in Corp Dev and in some cases VP, SVP, Head of M&A if it's a newly developed department/focus of a late stage startup or a pre-IPO company trying to gain value/appeal through inorganic growth.

  • Analyst 2 in IB - Cov
Oct 19, 2021 - 1:31pm

Don't listen to this person.  I am in a similar spot where I have found my self a very comfortable life due to bosses be genuinely good people and often wonder the same thing.  Not to mention there are always threads on here with burnout stories and long hours so it make you wonder if you are doing things right sometimes.  

  • VP in IB - Gen
Oct 19, 2021 - 11:43am

I stopped reading at 50 hours.  You're basically indentured labour at this point and should alert the Occupational Health and Safety board to alert them to your inhumane conditions.  Also, GTFO

Oct 19, 2021 - 12:51pm

For your feelings as a failure. I get it, but you are in a spot people would KILL to have. Make tons of money, young, have a reasonable amount of time every day, good work culture, and ability do progress higher up as well as prestige. PE would make you lose time, and potentially culture and even progression. So don't think as if you've failed because honestly you've made it! You've made it to where thousands of people grind for each day. So congrats! And as your career progresses and you start to lead deals that will give you new opportunities whether it be on a board of a company, startup investment etc.

  • Analyst 2 in IB - Gen
Oct 19, 2021 - 7:32pm

I think the answer to your question lies in the responses to this thread, the amount of people jealous of your situation should alert you to how good you have it. Totally understand the grass is greener mentality so my advice would be to approach recruiting for buyside exits knowing that it better be damn good to get you to leave. Ideally you can keep earning and use the the outside time to pursue an interesting hobby or start a side hustle and be mindfully aware of different opportunities that come across.

Speaking plainly, the stigma from staying in IB can definitely affect your ego and perception of "prestige". PE and HF are considered "better" careers due to the more interesting work and better hours and it sounds like you are already set in 1/2 of that equation. To fill the other void try and get involved with some angel investing through your former school's club (if applicable) or network your way inside one of the professional groups that do this sort of thing. I imagine that the trading restrictions aren't as stringent at an EB vs. BB so you could also do some serious work in the public markets if that's more your speed.

Either way you might be looking at this situation through a black & white lens when actually there are quite a few other options to fill that void you seem to be missing.

  • Associate 1 in IB-M&A
Oct 20, 2021 - 11:14am

This was helpful. I think the perception of "prestige" is definitely mainly it as I don't think I would enjoy the work significantly more and I think I would actually work more hours than my current role, for less pay. I think the advice to approach recruiting for buyside knowing it better be damn good is really sound - this is something I really haven't been doing and have considered whether I should try for some real small LMM (sub $1bn fund) opportunities where I would work very hard and take a near 50% paycut. Indeed when you write it out, it sounds even more ridiculous. I guess I really need to let go of the "prestige" aspect as I think that is what is really affecting me

  • Analyst 3+ in IB - Restr
Oct 19, 2021 - 11:30pm

I understand this feeling. The below is my thread on this in case helpful - in a similar situation and I think I'll be staying on for now even though my buyside window is closing. It sounds like you like your work, so why should it matter whether you're on the buyside or not? At some point in your career, we all have to stop making moves for prestige only. Now that moment doesn't need to be now, and usually those of us who go down this path stop making those moves post-B school or something like that. But why not now if you're in a spot you like?…

  • Associate 1 in IB-M&A
Oct 20, 2021 - 9:27am

Good to hear someone else who gets it... I saw your thread and agreed that I don't feel like I have a massive passion for investing. I'm not one of those people who went into banking knowing they would leave within 2 years, but having tried and failed, it's almost like I'm only trying to prove something rather than actually moving for pull factors (or even wanting to move cos of push factors)

  • Associate 1 in IB - Cov
Oct 20, 2021 - 8:30am

Are you in nyc or in a regional office? What industry do you cover?

Oct 20, 2021 - 11:57am

It sounds like you yourself acknowledge that leaving wouldn't actually be a smart decision, but you feel compelled to anyways. This thread seems like a way of confirming / double checking what you already knew - that you have it good and don't need to leave. 

Your real problem seems to be that you can't get certain negative thoughts and feelings out of your head. This is a very real and common problem, and you should address it directly and strategically.

It sounds like you are really upset about having felt like you failed in recruiting for PE. However, you also likely recognize that these feelings are overblown. Recruiting is a very noisy and imprecise process (despite firms' attempts to make you feel like it isn't) so not getting an offer wasn't necessarily an indication of your ability. And if it was, it was an indication of your ability to do what, exactly? Do well in PE interviews? Your success in your current job says far more about the abilities you probably actually care about than interview performance does.

However, knowing these things in the back of your head isn't enough if negative thoughts are running through the front of your mind all day. What you might want to try is a practice called cognitive reframing. When negative thoughts come up, habitually remind yourself that they are distorted and overly negative, and bring to mind the evidence as to why that is the case. If you start to do this every time the negative thoughts arise, they will start to become habitually linked with the positive counter arguments and the negative emotion will become more manageable.

Or maybe cognitive reframing isn't your thing. The point is, your problem is psychological in nature (which is normal) and you should look for psychological strategies to address it.

this forum is generally a bad place for that sort of advice because people will just troll you and try to make you feel bad for feeling bad. 

  • Associate 1 in IB - Restr
Oct 20, 2021 - 7:48pm

Would 100% coast there.  If SVP is your cap, that's not a bad thing.  I'm MM so you probably have a better feel for what's market for an EB SVP, but that's plenty of money w/out having to bring in business and peg your comp to your ability to do so.  

Also, who gets contentment period, let alone from their job?  You're almost definitely not going to find it in PE and you'll probably kick yourself for giving up a great gig when you leave and realize that. 

Oct 20, 2021 - 11:55pm

I'll give the same advice,that I gave the guy who had a similar question about leaving his HF job that paid well………..stay and get a hobby with the extra time. Establish a name for yourself and maybe you can start your own fund down the  line. Most of the prominent PE founders were Senior bankers. Enjoy your ride and extract as much value out of it that you possibly can.

Oct 21, 2021 - 4:29am

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  • Managing Director in PE - Other
Oct 21, 2021 - 3:39pm

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  • Associate 1 in IB-M&A
Oct 28, 2021 - 7:23pm

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