Hi WSO - been lurking for a while and wanted to share my experience of being pushed out. It's been about two years ago and when I was going through everything, I didn't see much coverage on here and I wanted to give back.
TLDR: worked hard as analyst; thrown under the bus on a project and pushed out; landed on my feet.
For some background - I entered investment banking (entity level capital raising and m&a advisory) coming from less than a year at a real estate broker and before that, coming from a non-target school. My team was small and although our brand is large in the a select space, it's not known for IB capabilities. When I joined, our team initially focused on a specific form of bond issuance after about a year, we brought on a guy that headed up the investment banking group at an "elite boutique" (think greenhill/Lazard) so we could enter the m&a advisory space.
Over my first year, I would usually be staffed on tougher deals/projects than the other two analysts on my team usually because I focused on simply not making mistakes. I read that once on WSO and it has really served me well. So when the m&a guy joined the team about a year in, I was staffed working with him instead of focusing on the less detail oriented bond issuance focus. When I first started to work exclusively in m&a advisory, it was a fantastic learning experience and where I worked tirelessly (80-100 hour weeks) and learned so much about operating companies over the next 9 months. Because I didn't have the m&a background, there was a well-respected VP on the bond team that gave me guidance on m&a work because the head of m&a was focusing on business development instead of simple deal execution.
VP Completely Threw Me Under The Bus
About six months into my time on the M&A team (about a year and half in), I was staffed on creating a portfolio analysis for an existing client and as per usual, the bond VP would provide me guidance on how to complete it. There was a tight deadline (two days) and the m&a guy told me how much responsibility he was giving me so I naturally cared a great deal. I worked through the clock and the night before it was due, I sat down with the bond VP and he provided his critiques on the presentation. He basically told me to do an analysis a completely different way than the guidance provided by the head of m&a and told me to "trust him and keep it between us." I trusted him and when I turned it in the next day (sleeping about two hours), the head of the m&a team was infuriated. I explained what happened and my VP completely threw me under the bus describing how I purposefully ignored his and the head of m&a's guidance. I tried to defend myself but everyone had already made up their minds. I didn't have email evidence because the VP made the critiques orally in a room as the last ones in the office.
"Consistently make errors"
Next thing I know, I'm being pulled into an office with the head of the bond team (my official boss) with HR on the line saying how I "consistently make errors". This event occurred three weeks after I received a fantastic performance review by the same bond VP (that threw me under the bus) and paying me a bonus that was twice as large as promised. I tried to defend myself but they were not having it.
Asked to resign
I continued to work on projects over the next several weeks and whenever I submitted a first draft to the bond VP, he suddenly started forwarding it to HR describe it as sloppy when there was frankly no decline in my quality of work since one month earlier. One week later, I was pulled into my boss' office and I was being asked to leave. I asked to resign and they accepted it.
I was devastated
I could see the position I'd worked so hard for crumbling in front of me after the first HR talk so I was aggressively putting my resume out there. Even though the work I had been doing was great for interviews, I couldn't land something concrete before having to resign. I was devastated. However, I think in situations like this, it's important to focus your energy on creating a pipeline of opportunities. I kept interviewing and kept my resume dates saying "present" until a month after I left when I added the end date. Employers were surprisingly ok with the end date, it's just really important to have a reference in the event employers ask for it (the job I ended up taking did not even check references after asking for them).
Interviews - Keep it Positive
When they asked the recurring "tell me about yourself" bit, I simply just closed with "and I'm looking to enter [a larger shop/bigger team/get more asset level exposure]", just not even mentioning the exit. If they drill on why you left, just be nonchalant and say something along the lines of "I wanted to move closer to home (which was my situation) / it wasn't a good fit / or one of the above examples [feel free to add more in the comments]. Again, keep it positive and don't linger on it.
Landed a new role
After a little over 2 very intense months of looking (~a month after being jobless), I ended up getting three offers over a several day period. 1 was a reserve and two very good jobs. My reasoning with the reserve job is even if it ended up being terrible, I've heard from VP of a mid size PE group that a year is a minimum to not raise any major flags so I knew I could put up with whatever (and still keep learn) for a year. For a reference point, even after being pushed out like that, I ended up staying at this job for almost two years (with the goal of consistently learning) and just landed a job at a very well-respected buy side job (think VC/PE). I was only actively looking for like two months too. I think these great groups really judge you by your interviewing presentation and your knowledge more than anything.