Private Equity Burn Out

monkey_scribe's picture
monkey_scribe - Certified Professional
Rank: Baboon | banana points 123

I've had a few years as an IB analyst, about 6 years as a PE associate at a few different shops. Wonderful opportunities, met some great people, learned tons, but I'm burned out. The stress and demands on my time have taken their toll - each shop was the same, mind you, so I've concluded it's the nature of the deal industry. I'm in my late 20s, starting a family, and I'd like to reprioritize my time.

Any thoughts? I'm really looking for some great insight about what could work next to provide the work-life balance I seek. I was thinking about "real money" management as in mutual fund analyst/long-only work. Any other thoughts?

Thanks all for your help!

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Comments (47)

Feb 22, 2015

Corporate Development? Fairly similar work but a lot fewer hours generally.

Feb 22, 2015
MMBanker14:

Corporate Development? Fairly similar work but a lot fewer hours generally.

This is probably the best answer. Great work/life balance (40-50 hrs per week unless working on deal), decent comp and similar work.

Best Response
Feb 22, 2015

Bank Teller?

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Feb 22, 2015

You have mentioned six years of experience at some top PE shops. Can you not get promoted into the VP level or seek out a VP role with a different firm? I personally am not in a PE role but I have little doubt the higher you go the more you can delegate tasks to someone else instead of being the office bitch. Don't mean that negatively but analysts and associates do all the grunt work.

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Feb 23, 2015

Interesting post Monkey Scribe. I am having very similar feelings at the moment and I am starting to regret going down the finance route.

A lot of people say corporate development is the answer but it is still transaction based and therefore unpredictable
with inevitable long hours!

For example, I have a friend in a corp dev role in a large firm. His life is usually super chilled 9-5.30 but for the three months up to Christmas he worked until 2am every morning + right through the Christmas. He is chilled as hell now again but who knows when things will get mental again?

I have looked at REPE as well but again, transaction based.

Equity Capital Markets is another area I have considered. But have heard varying things about the nature of the work and what the hours are really like.

Long only Asset Management appears to be the way to go. Very interesting work, good pay (potentially great if you are good), very chilled hours and generally a more laid back culture with an emphasis on development. The catch is that these are not easy jobs to land unless you have the experience.

I am thinking of a stint in ER first to get there (I am currently in banking). ER itself is not a bad alternative. Pretty predictable hours but with that said a 7am - 7pm average day is still long....and earnings season will be a bitch but finishing at 7pm every day and knowing when you'll be crazy busy would make a huge difference. Could definitely have a decent life.

Would love to hear others opinions and thoughts.

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Feb 23, 2015

For you and OP, if you corp dev (by which I mean M&A at a large company), then why not look into corporate strategy (internal business development at a F500 or something like that)?

Feb 23, 2015

I think it depends on the size / reputation of the PE firms he's worked at. Even though he has 6+ years of buyside experience, I'm not sure that working at a no-name, lower MM firm (or even smaller) will help him get his foot in the door at F500 companies; keep in mind that there will be a number of blue-chip consultants and other finance / investment professionals trying to do the same.

That said, if he's been at upper MM / MF shops for 6 years, chances could be significantly better.

OP, alternatively, have you considered the bschool route?

Feb 23, 2015
Zatopek:

Interesting post Monkey Scribe. I am having very similar feelings at the moment and I am starting to regret going down the finance route.

A lot of people say corporate development is the answer but it is still transaction based and therefore unpredictable

with inevitable long hours!

For example, I have a friend in a corp dev role in a large firm. His life is usually super chilled 9-5.30 but for the three months up to Christmas he worked until 2am every morning + right through the Christmas. He is chilled as hell now again but who knows when things will get mental again?

I have looked at REPE as well but again, transaction based.

Equity Capital Markets is another area I have considered. But have heard varying things about the nature of the work and what the hours are really like.

Long only Asset Management appears to be the way to go. Very interesting work, good pay (potentially great if you are good), very chilled hours and generally a more laid back culture with an emphasis on development. The catch is that these are not easy jobs to land unless you have the experience.

I am thinking of a stint in ER first to get there (I am currently in banking). ER itself is not a bad alternative. Pretty predictable hours but with that said a 7am - 7pm average day is still long....and earnings season will be a bitch but finishing at 7pm every day and knowing when you'll be crazy busy would make a huge difference. Could definitely have a decent life.

Would love to hear others opinions and thoughts.

Why don't you start your own thread instead of butting into OP's. You're a junior banker, not a guy with 6+ years of buyside exp. And in any case it doesn't sound like you actually like anything about finance other than in theory.

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Feb 23, 2015

mrb have you even read my post? What I said is directly applicable to the OP?

The OP said he was looking for insight about what could work next to provide the work-life balance he seeks. I outlined my views on the alternatives based on my experiences. Surely that is the point of the forum?

Also you know nothing about my background or the route I have taken. Is this thread limited to people who only have 6+ years of buyside experience?

Why not add something productive to the thread yourself instead of sh1tting on others?

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Feb 22, 2015
Zatopek:

A lot of people say corporate development is the answer but it is still transaction based and therefore unpredictable

with inevitable long hours!

For example, I have a friend in a corp dev role in a large firm. His life is usually super chilled 9-5.30 but for the three months up to Christmas he worked until 2am every morning + right through the Christmas. He is chilled as hell now again but who knows when things will get mental again?

The difference is that you do not have to be in the office for those long hours, like you do as a banker. There are a few exceptions, but most people are in the office during normal work hours and complete the remainder of their work at home. And after closing a deal, most places allow you to work remotely for the next couple of days (potentially even a week at one F500 I know).

That really isn't too bad given the pay you get in corp dev vs many other corporate functions.

Feb 23, 2015

Aren't a lot of MM PE firms like, relaxed to work at in finance terms? Like 50 hour weeks, 8-6, weekends uncommon, etc. (all outside of active deals of course)?

Feb 23, 2015

Some are some aren't. My friends at MMPE average 60-80 hrs a week (100+) during deals

Feb 22, 2015

Not necessarily. Think about how lean some of those shops run compared to larger funds. In many cases, experienced associates and VPs are responsible for sourcing, modeling / vetting, prepping IOIs/LOIs, performing diligence, managing the process (QofE, legal, etc.), and managing portfolio companies.

All while traveling extensively.

Feb 23, 2015
Bullet-Tooth Tony:

Not necessarily. Think about how lean some of those shops run compared to larger funds. In many cases, experienced associates and VPs are responsible for sourcing, modeling / vetting, prepping IOIs/LOIs, performing diligence, managing the process (QofE, legal, etc.), and managing portfolio companies.

All while traveling extensively.

Nailed it

Feb 26, 2015

From my experiences, associates and the like at MM PE firms work just as much, if not more than their compatriots at the large firms. There are less people at these smaller firms, so inevitably there are less people to spread the work between. On the plus side, there are less people to split the pot of gold with.....

Feb 23, 2015
very.chipper:

From my experiences, associates and the like at MM PE firms work just as much, if not more than their compatriots at the large firms. There are less people at these smaller firms, so inevitably there are less people to spread the work between. On the plus side, there are less people to split the pot of gold with.....

Yeah, but at the same time the pot of gold is much larger at a megafund, since 20% of a $10 billion gain is much larger than 20% of a $1 billion gain. From my experience because MM firms have less partners, it's more hierarchical and harder to move up, vs a megafund where there is more of a lockstep promotion culture. Very raw deal in terms of long hours lower pay and harder promotion at MM PE firms

Feb 27, 2015

Really? I don't know anyone at a large cap fund that works less than their middle market counterpart. It has more to do with culture and the types of people willing to do to the fund, and less to do with how many people they employ. Your logic doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Sure they have less investment professionals, but they also have substantially less flow.

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Feb 23, 2015

I know a guy at a lower MM PE firm on the west coast. Same story, got burnt out. He went to a portfolio company, made a pretty penny in equity and came back to the fund as a VP when the portfolio company was sold.

Is this something you can explore in doing?

Feb 25, 2015

Seems like the best suggestion in the thread, to my mind

Feb 24, 2015

Take some time off. Spend some time with your spouse/significant other (and kids if you have any). Travel, read a book, explore your town, volunteer, pick up/pursue a hobby. Whatever it is that floats your boat (or think might) and won't get you a divorce/break-up (unless you want one).

You'll learn a lot about yourself, others and what you want to do or might be able to do. Some good ideas here, but so many of them finance related or similar to what you did. There's a big world out there for you to explore, so why not think about it and do something in the meanwhile? You never know where something will come in or what tomorrow will bring.

In addition to the stuff that's been bandied about here, you could consider doing LP stuff (fund investing, co-investing etc). You'd know some deals inside out and be able to grill GPs. You could look into a family office. You could help a start-up/small business since you can execute all kinds of things and have knowledge while learning a lot.

Good Luck.

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Feb 24, 2015

working at MM PE shops in a region-focused (or some niche-focused) office could be a good option.
in Europe it is not too demanding.

Feb 22, 2015

You really should look into long only asset management firms, they are all about growing the person to become the next PM. They usually work in teams of about 5-10 people depending on how large the fund size is and hours seem very realistic. Large Asset Management shops can pay very well and you get to keep your sanity.

Good Luck

Feb 24, 2015

Go work at a large family office focusing on PE and other illiquid growth equity investments

Feb 24, 2015

For the CorpDev route, from my observation of my CorpDev Team's hours, the hours are pretty decent 40-50 hours if not on a deal/special project (depending on your CorpDev team's scope). If on a deal the hours shoot up to 60-80 hour weeks with the possibility of even more. A lot of it depends if you are on a deal which is unpredictable as you may find a great opportunity back to back (as my team did) and have very minimal regular hours.

Even worse is if CorpDev decides to do two deals at once. You should keep in mind that CorpDev usually runs VERY lean, I've seen two people running the M&A process at multibillion $ companies.

But then I am pretty sure the OP already knew about CorpDev.

Feb 25, 2015

The thing about CorpDev, especially at F500s that aren't either acquisition platforms or in industries where there is a constant M&A, is that the deals can be driven by a single guy (where CFO, VP corp dev, etc.) who has buy-in, and if he either loses credibility and/or leaves the party is over. See SBUX for a good example.

At 6 years experience, Bschool isn't out of the question, and if you aren't getting looks from the long-only shops, might be the way to go.

Feb 23, 2015

BSchool is not for me. I'm pretty committed to that.

Does anyone have long-only intel? I love investing, I love the markets, I love corporate situations and am equipped with the tools to be a great analyst. My problem with fast money/HF is that lifestyle isn't much butter, and the stress wouldn't help with my work/life balance goals.

I seem to have it in my mind that long-only shops would value my experience, so I think I could work from a candidacy perspective. However, I'd love to hear some views from folks who are currently doing long-only/real money management. Am I wrong to think it's a better lifestyle (even if that means much more limited upside)? Is this just another "grass is always greener" mirage?

Love the community support, btw. I really do value everyone's input.

Feb 13, 2019

Not sure if you're still an active member, but I would definitely appreciate hearing how things have gone for you since originally posting this.

Feb 25, 2015

There's definitely life after PE. I think a lot of people on this site mean well but experience is across the board. I did IB/PE/MBA thing and there are definitely interesting careers that are better work/life.

MBA may not be for you but at least it gives you time to think about what to do, etc. In any case, keep an open mind...there's a lot more out there than corp dev/long-only/etc. Hell, I didn't even know my job/profession existed until I stumbled on it and i have no idea how to answer the inevitable "what do you do" question whenever I meet someone.

Your experience will make you an attractive candidate across industries (i.e. they'll assume you'll be able to figure out whatever job it is). "Real money management" may have better hours but don't do it just for work-life balance....people get burnt out in 9-5/40 hr week jobs all the time.

I don't have thoughts on specific careers but just my 2 cents.

Feb 24, 2015
jrr253:

There's definitely life after PE. I think a lot of people on this site mean well but experience is across the board. I did IB/PE/MBA thing and there are definitely interesting careers that are better work/life.

MBA may not be for you but at least it gives you time to think about what to do, etc. In any case, keep an open mind...there's a lot more out there than corp dev/long-only/etc. Hell, I didn't even know my job/profession existed until I stumbled on it and i have no idea how to answer the inevitable "what do you do" question whenever I meet someone.

Your experience will make you an attractive candidate across industries (i.e. they'll assume you'll be able to figure out whatever job it is). "Real money management" may have better hours but don't do it just for work-life balance....people get burnt out in 9-5/40 hr week jobs all the time.

I don't have thoughts on specific careers but just my 2 cents.

And this is what's key - "people get burnt out in 9-5/40 hr week jobs all the time"

- too true. 40 hour jobs can be hard. Not because of the hours or potential politics etc (which do exist) or boring/uninspiring. But because then you have all other kinds of thinsg going on that you have to/want to pay attention to and do and may over-extend yourself (which happens all the time). Before you couldn't. Your life was work and maybe family and the odd friend (I don't see how it is otherwise, because its a fact that there at 24 hours in a day for all of us and if you are spending at 12-16 of them working, sometimes more) then that doesn't leave much time for sleeping, eating, showering, taking a dump etc. Not to mention quality family time or bonding with friends.

Feb 27, 2015

Agree. I made the move from F500 to a small PE firm years ago. The 40 hour jobs were hard and not very rewarding. The hours ramped up when I entered PE, as did time away from family and home, but it was worth it. Worked for the small shop 5-6 years, did well and stated my own shop. Life couldn't be better.

My point is find a place where you are happy doing PE, even if it is way off the beaten path. If you can find the deals and grow the businesses in a way that generate attractive returns LP's remember you. I believe some of the best returns are to be made in smaller deals.

Assuming your current PE track record is decent, I think you will be amazed at how many small shops will take you on. More importantly, I think you will find some of the smaller shops to be a lot of fun to be part of (making the longer hours bearable).

Good luck!

Feb 26, 2015

Go teach at a school.

Feb 26, 2015

I work in CD for a highly acquisitive (albeit non-tech) company. Worst week I've had is about 65 hours. Most weeks between 45-50 hours. Much more laid back and the work can be very interesting.

The best aspect is that you aren't a middle-manager cog in the machine that the CEO wouldn't know from John Doe. Typical CD groups (at least at companies where M&A is valued) get ton of exposure to the top executives in the company. If you show well, it could set you up well to move into a leading operational, sales, or P&L role.

Feb 27, 2015

Its pretty likely that spending 6 years as an Associate had something to do with the burnout.

Feb 27, 2015

This comment may not give you any direct ideas, but make sure you do plenty of planning and "right-sizing" of your budget before you get too far down the proverbial road. Regardless of any of the other options you might move to in finance (perhaps with the exception of a good year in ECM), you will likely have a rude awakening when it comes to the adjustment in comp.

I moved from the in-house counsel side at a PE/VC shop to the associate side (JD/MBA), and then ultimately moved into an operating role with a corporate VC sponsor that is active in internal incubation. it's corp dev-like and I work extensively with the corp dev group, but largely without the stress.

as a note, i also went to a market that is not awash in "investment finance" talent. that actually helped me leverage my comp. just a point, YMMV.

Feb 27, 2015

This comment may not give you any direct ideas, but make sure you do plenty of planning and "right-sizing" of your budget before you get too far down the proverbial road. Regardless of any of the other options you might move to in finance (perhaps with the exception of a good year in ECM), you will likely have a rude awakening when it comes to the adjustment in comp.

I moved from the in-house counsel side at a PE/VC shop to the associate side (JD/MBA), and then ultimately moved into an operating role with a corporate VC sponsor that is active in internal incubation. it's corp dev-like and I work extensively with the corp dev group, but largely without the stress.

as a note, i also went to a market that is not awash in "investment finance" talent. that actually helped me leverage my comp. just a point, YMMV.

Feb 27, 2015

Adjunct finance professor at your alma mater? My PE professor had a similar background.

My posts will be fraught with grammatical errors since I post from my phone. I will try my best not to post an incoherent babble.

Feb 27, 2015

Definitely Corp Development

"You are neither right nor wrong because the crowd disagrees with you. You are right because your data and reasoning are right."

-Warren Buffett

Feb 27, 2015

Yup everything said about Dev is pretty spot on. We have some guys at my company that did IBD->PE--> B School --> PE --> Corp Dev. You can come in at a pretty high level, make decent money and the hours are a flexible 40-50 a week, meaning that I've tried to set up meetings with guys and have had their EAs tell me that so and so left at 2pm today to do xyz.

Mar 1, 2015

Couple thoughts on this related generally to finance burnout but not specific to PE.

1.) If you're already burnt out, don't start a family! At least not until you have the mortgage and student loan paid off. It's nice to be able to work in this business- it sucks to *need* to work in this business.
2.) 2nd taking some time off. You deserve a 3-6 month sabbatical after six years. Lehman actually used to have a policy that every five years, you could take 6 months unpaid leave and they would hold your job for you. In this industry, taking a several month break every 2-3 years is probably a good idea.

Mar 1, 2015

1) Academia (get a PhD in finance/economics)
2) Work for the FBI investigating financial and other white collard crimes
3) Completely change paths and work as an analyst for the CIA/NSA
4) Take a shot at the foreign service with the U.S. State Department
5) Join a commercial bank in some sort of Treasury capacity and set yourself up for future executive positions
6) Bank examiner with the SEC or FDIC
7) Analyst and economics roles at the Federal Reserve

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Feb 27, 2015

I've thought about 2-4 before, more close 3-4... biggest issue IMO is that you'll essentially be making $50-70k a year for the rest of your life, so hopefully you have family money. And more importantly, there's really nothing noble in these professions. You're a tool used to implement someone else's political whims. Don't ask questions, don't ask why, just do it and let the politicians worry about keeping the moral compass centered. LOL.

Feb 23, 2015
DCDepository:

1) Academia (get a PhD in finance/economics)
2) Work for the FBI investigating financial and other white collard crimes
3) Completely change paths and work as an analyst for the CIA/NSA
4) Take a shot at the foreign service with the U.S. State Department
5) Join a commercial bank in some sort of Treasury capacity and set yourself up for future executive positions
6) Bank examiner with the SEC or FDIC
7) Analyst and economics roles at the Federal Reserve

You gravely underestimate how difficult it is to get a meaningful job with the FBI / CIA / DIA / NSA.
The vetting process alone can take years, depending on the role.

Mar 1, 2015
Whiskey5:

DCDepository: 1) Academia (get a PhD in finance/economics)
2) Work for the FBI investigating financial and other white collard crimes
3) Completely change paths and work as an analyst for the CIA/NSA
4) Take a shot at the foreign service with the U.S. State Department
5) Join a commercial bank in some sort of Treasury capacity and set yourself up for future executive positions
6) Bank examiner with the SEC or FDIC
7) Analyst and economics roles at the Federal Reserve

You gravely underestimate how difficult it is to get a meaningful job with the FBI / CIA / DIA / NSA.
The vetting process alone can take years, depending on the role.

I'm not gravely estimating anything at all. I'm suggesting different career paths.

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Mar 2, 2015

Fund of funds - that focus on purely distributing risk across fund managers in diff geographies (perhaps asset classes but you may have to widen your kbiwledge base accordingly) and no coinvestments. Good Luck.

Mar 2, 2015
Mar 2, 2015
Sep 15, 2015