Post offer blues and concerns regarding general life satisfaction and goal setting

Accepted an offer in May after spending the previous 6 years focused on getting into a good school and recruiting. I've felt kind of down and lost since accepting since I don't really have any other concrete goals to latch on to other than just maintaining grades. 

I started thinking about how I'm not really interested in private equity, so my foreseeable future will just be doing my best to perform well in my job for the sake of itself and no external reason other than bonus/promotion. It's been kind of depressing to think that this is what the rest of my life would be - working long hours while trying to enjoy the fruits of my labor in between. 

I suppose this is something that everyone in our modern society has had to contend with at some point, and it's got me reevaluating my values and ideas of what would bring me satisfaction in life. Money no doubt is a part of that, but I'm beginning to realize now that just a successful career alone won't be enough to bring me true life satisfaction. I was rewatching Margin Call, particularly the scene where Eric Dale speaks with Will Emerson about the bridge he helped build and how it's saved people countless tangible hours. I dunno, that scene just made me realize that I'm going to one day have to really confront what I want out of this life. It feels even weirder knowing that millions of people before me have felt just how I do now with the exact same thoughts, questions, and worries and that millions of people after me will. 

I hope one day I can fully understand my place in the world and what I want out of life.

I'm just curious about other people's thoughts, especially from those who are at actual life crossroads now. 

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Comments (18)

Most Helpful
Sep 24, 2021 - 6:48pm

Maybe not wisdom - but a bit of advice. Don't dread the many decades ahead of your life, look forward to them. Don't like the PE job? Just an opportunity to find something else you like. Those skills you will learn - I'm sure they'll be useful elsewhere. The people you meet - same thing. This is the starting line, it's not the finish line. 

More importantly - there's not generally some major thing or event that you are confronting, it's more of a spectrum. It's fluid. When I moved to a city a few years ago I had a minor nervous breakdown. I thought I was wasting my life, that I hadn't figured it all out yet, that I was at the same firm I started with forever, and - the list went on and on. It wasn't great and took me quite a while to work through and process. Anxiety is probably second only to stress in the way it can absolutely cripple you if you aren't careful. 

There's not one answer or one solution I can give you but what I can say is to practice being intentional every single day. Set goals for yourself. They can be minor but get started. Build in daily or weekly habits of things you like and even things you want to try. An easy example could be pick one night a week to go do something that you haven't done before - see a show, get a drink, meet a friend, call someone - what you do isn't necessarily the important part, it's the habit of intentionally doing something and accomplishing it. Life is to be lived and you'll get back what you put out into the world. 

From an existential 'what am I meant to do' - I have no fucking idea. Zero. People are quick to ascribe zero meaning or value to financial jobs - Margin Call while a great movie, can certainly inspire a nihilistic point of view on the world... given it was based on the financial crisis, probably part of the point. I've been with one firm since I graduated college and even there I've held a variety of different roles, experienced a ton of things and learned a ton of skills - and, frankly speaking, I still have no idea what I'm going to do after a decade in. I'm optimistic, I'm excited for what's coming next - but I don't know what it is. 

And now I'll contradict myself slightly - even if you don't know, you need to pick something. In your case it's private equity to start - which is great. Pick it, focus on it, master it and set a timeline of when you are going to think about the next thing. Committing to things is important - and probably the biggest mistake I made early in my career. I had no idea what I wanted to do and I let others influence me into taking on roles, projects, etc. that were there or they thought I was good for. I worried so much about picking the wrong thing - I ended up picking the status quo, and making a choice by not actively making one. It's worked out, fortunately, but I'd encourage you to do otherwise. 

If you are still reading - after this week, I'm not sure any of this is even coherent - the last thing I'd tell you is to be biasedly optimistic. It's one of the hardest things in my life, frankly, to not give into being constantly cynical about things. That's my own problem that I'm projecting on you, but the tone of your post implies that. Many do on here nowadays. Don't take not knowing as a negative, it's an opportunity to discover what really matters to you. In the moment we rarely can see how much progress we've made, but as you look back you'll see it pile up over time. 

  • Intern in IB - Cov
Sep 24, 2021 - 9:44pm

Thanks; I really appreciate the response. I actually do have an industry I would love to exit to (airlines), but I guess I'm too afraid of golden handcuffs in IB since I'd never make as much unless I made C suite, which is obviously easy task at a major airline. I have time to decide what I want to do, whether that be stay in IB, or exit to industry. 

  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Sep 22, 2021 - 4:22pm

The meaning of life and where your career fits into it is a tricky one.

Personally, I believe a life purpose isn't something people consciously know, but rather something that reveals itself over time and you actually need to work to determine what you value through your choices. Also, part of life is really determining where you think you fit into the world. It blows and some people certainly just know, but I'd argue most people need to search for things that inspire them everyday. You could do this through friends, reading, thinking, etc. Just think about what matters to you.

Viktor Frankl, a psychoanalyst who went through the Holocaust and later founded logotherapy, basically argues the meaning of life can come from 3 things for people: Love, Work, or Suffering. 

Candidly, kids often answers these questions for many people. Once you have a child you realize-I'm working to give them opportunity, and I take meaning in the love I have for my family. 

I would say the best way to make work better is to start setting goals. Especially for banking, I think what divides the happy and unhappy people is who has a reason for doing the job and who doesn't. Doesn't really matter if the reason is "good", but more that you have one and believe it. Common reasons:

  • prestige
  • money
  • Opportunity for the next job
  • learning 

Personally, when I did banking I took the job for the future opportunity because I figured it would open doors, and the learning. I figured it would help me learn things that would allow me to find a job I found more meaningful and it also would help set a floor on my career where I would always be able to find a decent job no matter what. Eventually, I felt I learned a great deal and was no longer learning so I left (although I stayed 6 months longer than I would like for the money, which was my hardest 6 months personally).

Try things, hang out with different people, and think about the future and the past: What would kid you think you should be doing? Also, what would the you 10 years from now wish you had done?

Edit: adding to this, envision a life for yourself when you are 50. What does it look like? Do you have kids, how many? Do you live close to your family? Do you live in a city, suburb, a rural area? How many hours do you want to work a week and what does the job look like? Do you like interacting with people? How big is your house and would you care if your kids shared rooms? It's questions like these that can help determine paths you should and shouldn't take. Only you can answer them.

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  • Intern in IB - Cov
Sep 22, 2021 - 9:55pm

Now that you mention it man, I guess I really do want kids. I really love the idea of raising people in this world, but I hate the fact that I'd have to wait like 15 years after their birth before I could talk to them as I talk to you now...

  • Associate 1 in IB - Gen
Sep 22, 2021 - 4:46pm

The goal is to make as much money as possible in the quickest way possible, so you can say FUCK THIS SHIT and QUIT

Thats what Helps gets me through the day to day pain and agony. Idk about you weirdos but I don't actually "enjoy" this shit, it just so happens to be what I'm good at.

look to other areas of your life to find meaning - whether it be a side business, hobby, family, etc  

  • Intern in IB - Gen
Sep 22, 2021 - 5:28pm

Yuppp, idgaf about prestige- I'm just trying to make x amount and I'm out.

  • Intern in IB - Cov
Sep 22, 2021 - 5:34pm

I think golden handcuff will hit me hard. I'm in touch with myself enough to know that, but not enough to actually know how to stop that. Maybe if the work is too much for me, I'll have no other choice but to walk away; however, at least in college, when the reward has been high enough, I've never been able to walk away.

  • Analyst 2 in IB - Cov
Sep 26, 2021 - 9:20pm

Do you have any particular money goals? Literally make enough to retire at some point or enough of a nest egg that you don't necessarily need a high income for your investments to keep growing?

  • Intern in IB - Gen
Sep 22, 2021 - 5:27pm

Honestly I think it's great you're thinking about this now and not during year 2 of your analyst stint while you're overworked and sleep deprived. Thinking about this while you're comfortable and in a good head space is the best way to figure out what you truly want. 

Take some time to really think about what types of things make you feel aligned with your true self. What brings you joy out of life? What do you want your life to look like long term?

Do you want to be working 40 hours max a week? More? Less? What lifestyle do you want with that? Do you want kids? Do you want them in private or public school? Do you want to have a vacation home? Where do you want the vacation home? Do you see yourself going to charity dinners, dinner parties, and extravagant events or do you see yourself living a quieter but still "upper class" life with your family? Or maybe you don't need that luxurious of a lifestyle and getting some land in Montana or something would make you most fulfilled. Maybe you'd be fine in a nice suburb where you get to golf year round. Basically, the reason you're thinking about this is you need to be thinking about what jobs/ side hustles could get you to this desired lifestyle by x age.

This is a hard one for students to answer (especially those on wso) bc most want a mansion in the hamptons and the "lavish" lifestyle that comes with it. If you look deeper though, to your true self, where you're thinking about what would fulfill you and not what would make you seem cool/rich to your peers, then less people want that house in the hamptons. A lot may realize they still want a beach house but would rather one somewhere different (which likely ends up being more affordable). Others may realize they want a lake house or maybe they want a mountain house, idk. Some realize they don't even care about a vacation home and would rather just have a nice house in a nice suburb and just travel more or something.

Obviously, as you grow as a person, some of these things will change. But just make sure you have a north star to work towards. Point is- only you can answer what you truly want and you shouldn't care what others are doing. We're all on different paths.

There was also a thread a couple weeks ago I commented on that was geared towards those in their early 20's. I'll link below:…

Sep 24, 2021 - 10:18pm

Yeah you got into private equity and you're not sure if you will 'love' it. A job is a job and you've already set yourself up for a good one, so you have completed all the prior requirements. And now you're not happy with your reality.

1) You picked this path - embrace it.

2) My speaker at my commencement address gave me some advice - "grow where you are planted"

2a) He was chairman of the JCS and knew a thing or two. You should embrace this concept. You decided to put yourself here so it is time to embrace it.

3) You have been given the opportunity of a privileged lifestyle. There are people starving all around the world and you have to sit at a desk. Know your place and appreciate your worth and also your valuation by the job market.

4) Always know your value. The salary you are given is about worth and it is about respect. 

5) Always give 110%. If you don't like this opportunity, you still must put out as much as possible.

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

  • 4
  • Intern in IB - Cov
Sep 24, 2021 - 10:42pm

My post is a bit misleading wording wise. I'm going to be in IB, not PE. I meant I'm not interested in exiting to PE. I don't find financial investing to be interesting. I guess my main problem lies in your third point. Yes, I am very privileged. My household income is slightly over $500k (in non-NYC CoL), so I've been afforded a pretty nice lifestyle compared to 98% of Americans. I've always paid a bit more to your opinion on matters, since you're the only openly spiritual person who frequently posts here. Having grown up with that lifestyle for the past two decades, it's hard to want to let that go; golden handcuffs have already come into play as bad as that sounds. I hope that one day I can learn to disregard that. 

Sep 26, 2021 - 10:09pm

Many people, including myself, find contentment in the everyday learning and mastery of a certain task rather than the grand, existential purpose of that task.

The Japanese have this ingrained in their culture.  Think of the guy who trains for 30 years to cut sushi or raise bonsai.  If you are someone that pursues a craft and excels in that craft, your excellence will itself be a source of fulfillment.  

Are you changing the world in a romantic sense?  No.  But almost no one is (and the people who have the power to actually affect the world did some dirty, dishonest stuff to get there)

Sep 27, 2021 - 8:24pm

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