The Promised Land of Private Equity Turned out to be a "Monster Land"

Pantera's picture
Rank: Senior Baboon | 224

I spent 3 years in bulge bracket bank covering awesome tech companies. Banking was great for me can't complain much. The culture in my group was amazing, the people I worked with were fantastic. Lots of social events, group lunch breaks and coffee chats.

But like everyone else I was trying to switch to buyside -- The Promised Land With Greener Grass!!!

The buyside...

I got a job in the middle market PE that covers pretty much all boring companies in manufacturing, healthcare and energy space. I thought it is probably fine because I would have a better lifestyle (call it work/life balance), even better people who are more human and are more respectful, better compensation, vacation and time-off policy.

I work for a Monster Firm who enslave their junior people and pretends like we are robots

Here I am 4 month later....everyday i discover something new about my firm and it leads me to conclusion that I work for a Monster Firm who enslave their junior people and pretends like we are robots.

Some unwritten rules in my company:

  1. You have to be the last person leaving the office. We have one crazy guy who is always in the office whether it is 8pm or 3am. You cant leave earlier than him.
  2. I like to workout after work... and when it came to leaving at 8pm to go to the gym I was told that I should switch to a gym that is opened 24/7 so I can go later at night
  3. One day I asked to leave early...early I mean 7pm lol...I was told I cant...so I missed the commitment.

Ahh yes here it is an awesome vacation and time-off policies:

  • I discovered that admin staff has better time off policies than the investment team
  • Investment team gets only 15 days of time-off...NO SICK Days and NO Personal DAYS!
  • I was told by HR that if you are not in the office it is a vacation...So Funeral = Vacation, Visiting Sick Family Member=Vacation, if you are dying and not in the office = it is still a vacation.
  • Even thou- gh we get the vacation HR said "You can take it, but no one takes it here". How cool it is!

Comp/benefits vs hours worked and stress

This is all leads to the debate about the overall compensation/benefits vs hours worked and stress you bear.
The comp is below the street for middle market space. 401k is minimal, only matched after 1 year worked and horrible vesting schedule. Insurance not great. Life policy coverage is 420k...are you serious! 15 days - I think this what you get working at a car factory. The standard in all banks is 15 days, 10 sick days and 6 personal days that can be used at your own discretion. Overall this comp package sounds more like 9 to 8 job but not a 80h+ a week.

Frustration

I feel extremely frustrated because headhunter and during the interview process I was told how great it is to work here and how great the lifestyle is. It turns out to be a prison. If you die probably no one even will notice it.
I have no problem working hard. I worked pretty much from 8am till 12am including weekends since I started. Occasionally getting out at 8pm or 9pm. It is an absolute nonsense when company micromanages you and tells you what to do with you life.

Have anyone else experienced something like that or can draw some similarities? Would love to here your experience!

Comments (105)

Jul 19, 2018

This happens to everyone at some point in their career. Not all places are good to work, and it's not easy to see that from the outside. What you do in that situation is you buckle down, do a good job while you're there, and then recruit elsewhere.

This has nothing to do with the "promised land of private equity". WTF does that even mean? This is finance. You're going to be working long hours, there's going to be a ton of bullshit to deal with, and you're going to inevitably work with some assholes with massive egos. You deal with it because the pay is good. PE isn't some incredible space to work, it's a job. People just want to get into it because the work is interesting and the pay is good.

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Jul 19, 2018

Shouldn't have switched jobs from banking if you were so happy with the people and culture. Pay - it's widely known that unless you're at a select few upper MMs / MFs, you'll likely be taking a pay cut compared to your banking associate peers. Sounds like you should have just done more diligence on the place by talking to others, and given serious thought to whether leaving your firm was the right move.

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Jul 19, 2018

I feel like I should have stayed as I had an option like this. In terms of diligence -- during my final rounds and during the overall interview process, everyone bragged about "how great is the culture, it is not a typical fund...people respect each other...we do have a work/life balance, no one ever works on weekends, everyone takes vacations and blah blah blah..." They were saying all this great things but unfortunately it is a complete lie. Another associate in my team was caught up in the same situation where they said all the right things but now he literally works 24/7. At some two years ago I heard they lost all associates and a few VPs... now I get why. Who wants to work in a place like that.

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Jul 19, 2018

In a similar position. Not going to lie it seems the more people try to sell you on the firm and how great it is the worse it actually is on the job. Just something to think about going forward about how hard people sell you on a position.

Best of luck to you

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Jul 19, 2018

Hi Sorry to hear you dislike it so much. Can I ask how many offers for different funds did you get? Is this a relatively new firm? What is the carry like? You knew the pay going in so why did you take such a cut / what implications did you think this reflected? I would assume less working hours? How big is the investment team? Are you planning on doing an MBA?

My advice would be to stick at it until you have been there for at least a year before looking for something else (I would suggest looking to lateral) rather than a different career or going back to banking just because its easier to sell that the culture isn't great as long as your firm in known for having a crap culture. If not people may question your motives, I must say I don't understand where this work/life balance being better in PE comes from. Ultimately if you are bottom of the pile you have to do the grunt work and you are moving from 2nd /3rd year analyst / associate in IB to a junior associate role (maybe analyst) at a PE firm where often the team sizes are even smaller.

As far as hours go It really depends on active deals but I don't think your hours are out of line for a lot of firms. I would also mention that unfortunately when firms know people are so desperate to get the position they feel like they can get away with this behavior. Which I don't think is right as you can loose good talent.

Also care to name and shame the headhunters? If they are no a big HH company that actively gets mandates by the biggest and best firms then you need to side on the err of caution as they are paid purely to place individuals. It's always worth while asking if they have the exclusive mandate to recruit of if they are sharing with other HH companies.

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Jul 19, 2018

Hi TradeGreek thanks for your reply. Here is some answers to your questions.

Can I ask how many offers for different funds did you get? I had a few other offers in a middle market space, but accepted here because I was attracted by the hours and work/.life balance plus they are operationally focused fund.
Is this a relatively new firm? They have been around since 2005 but it seems like they started hiring associated in 2010. The fund is growing so they hire more AA these days.
What is the carry like? No carry at all. It starts only at VP level and you need to wait for a new fund to be raised.
You knew the pay going in so why did you take such a cut / what implications did you think this reflected? I knew it would be a pay cut but the expectation was that I work much less. It will sound crazy but I literally worked less in IB than here since all these BB banks have junior banker policies in place now.
I would assume less working hours? Yeap you are right.
How big is the investment team? the team is around 13 people (4 partners, 1 principal, 4 VPs and 4 AAs)
Are you planning on doing an MBA? I don't know. I only see value in these if I decide to switch careers completely.

Honestly I have nothing against working long hours here and there when it is rally needed. What is really frustrating is that this company tracks every single hour that you are out of the office. I don't understand why I have to request half a day off to go to doctor when I work so many hours and in first place this job made me sick. This is literally absurd.

The headhunter is BellCast. When I spoke to them they were telling me all the positive things about the company. Do you think I should share feedback with them?

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Jul 19, 2018

Start looking for another job. You get paid in PE with carry which locks you in. Don't get locked in.

And honestly, just take time off. As in send an email and don't ask. Place sounds like it blows.

Jul 19, 2018

Do you know if a lot of firms offer carry to their AAs? Are those mostly upper middle and mega funds?

Jul 19, 2018
Pantera:

Do you know if a lot of firms offer carry to their AAs? Are those mostly upper middle and mega funds?

most firms do not give carry at associate (even senior associate) level. only really starts at VP/post MBA.

Jul 19, 2018

Usually it is for higher level staff. I don't work in PE, but carry is the coin of the realm.

Place sounds like a hole. I'm sorry, but it doesn't sound like it is worth it.

Jul 19, 2018

This. I've been in a very similar position. The key is determining whether or not you have any leverage (they are understaffed, you are a good performer, etc...). If you do, and you know you won't be canned, just email/post out of office message and don't answer any correspondence.

Jul 20, 2018

I wouldn't do this.

He obviously has no leverage, the firm doesnt care about its junior employees (they all left a few years ago and the firm didnt change a thing). The worst thing you can do in a situation like this is get a bad reputation. PE is a small world, the senior partners across firms all know each other (particularly in MM).

My advice is to look for another lateral position.

Jul 19, 2018

Quit but spin it (to HHs / firms you're interviewing with) that you realized you missed tech and aren't being honest with yourself or your current firm to focus on industrials. Tempting as it always is to trash people who deserve trashing, don't do it, especially if it relates to work/life balance. Most senior people in PE put in years with zero work life balance, so they're not going to sympathize.

Jul 19, 2018

I sit near a PE team and they are such fuckin nerds its unreal. they never leave the office.

Jul 19, 2018

Yeap...Those guys literally are married to their jobs and are ready to die for it. In reality for normal people a job is just a job to make money and life, family and friends take priority...PE guys a whole new breed of humans!

Jul 19, 2018

Hey @Pantera ! I should include a caveat that I'm an investment banking analyst transferring out, and therefore don't have much experience in PE. Take what I say with a grain of salt. My roommate is in PE though and some of my friends have had similar experiences. I would recommend thinking out of the box on a solution--if you truly hate your job, it will impact your performance. Why did you take the role in the first place? What did you seek to learn? Perhaps you can find it elsewhere. Consider all solutions. I ended up going to a back office role that I'm completely in love with--you just never know what opportunities will come up.

Jul 19, 2018

Hi LateralMoneky - when you get into IB everyone starts talking about PE in the first month of the job. Everyone (including headhunters) talks about how interesting is the work, the pay is better and the lifestyle is awesome. ME PE seemed to be a perfect option for me. More interesting work combined with better lifestyle. Whoever you talk to usually says ME is much better than IB and MF.
I accepted the role because I was looking for better hours. That is a priority for me. Life is too short to spend time working for some complete assholes who has no respect to people. Of course other reasons were is to learn more about investing, get more involvement with the companies --- so all these should be more interesting than just putting high level pitch materials and spreading comps.
Yes the work is slightly more interesting but it is not sophisticated and ends up to be same bullshit. I am lucky to close first deal in my first 4 month at this firm. Surely I learned quite a bit but it is not a rocket science.

Also it is an absolute nonsense when the entire firm thinks that performance of the fund is correlated to the number of hours employees work and the number of time-off they take. This is NUTS!!! That type of culture lowers the moral and won't have success in the long run. One of my colleagues who has been here for a year now said:" This really depressing because they said all the right things. But since I joined I worked all weekends, all holidays, no time off... The partner who I work with won't even been bothered if I get hit by a truck...he ll easily find someone else to update his model."

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Jul 19, 2018

I hear you on the hive mind regarding PE. I saw that super clearly during my own banking internship and later as a full timer. Most people I know had absolutely no idea why they were going into PE. It was just "what they were supposed to do" so they did it. I'm close to an MD at my firm who told me that I had the "rest of my life" to do PE (and he's right), and I didn't need to do it right at this very moment if it wasn't for me. It was really solid advice. This website is such an incredible resource, and I partially credit it with the success of my IB internship search from a semi-target, but God can it be a little doom and gloom on opportunities sometimes. Have you considered F500 or Strategy roles? In terms of career, what's the goal? It might be worth taking one of those forbidden vacations and using it to attend conferences (this is what I've done) and network hard to meet people in other areas in the business world to eventually transition to something you enjoy.

Totally concur with everything you have said so far about PE. My roommate is at a fund where she works ~9:30am until about ~7-7:30pm everyday, which is pretty amazing, but I have friends at other MM funds and even megafunds like Carlyle that are seriously struggling and have gained weight from all the stress. My friend at Carlyle is working banking hours with zero improvement.

I've found that my most interesting work has come when I worked with somebody I had a prior relationship with, whether this was in DC or high finance. Part of the reason my BO role is so interesting is because my boss let me carve out my niche and decide exactly what I wanted to focus on within this space, which meant I got to pretty much craft my dream job (with an obvious strategy bend) at 23 years old. This would have been impossible without senior support. Who do you have relationships with? Who do you respect? Perhaps those are people that might see potential in you and give you just a smidge more independence (which it seems like you would very much enjoy).

Good luck and please keep us updated! I hope you find something you enjoy soon. You're absolutely right that life is far too short to do something you despise.

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Jul 19, 2018

Its okay. If its any solace - me too. You are not alone. Hang in there.

Jul 20, 2018

I hope that everyone takes this post to heart because from all the conversations here WSO has a massive and unwarranted bias on how great MM PE is relative to the megafunds. I worked in MM PE for two years and it was an awful culture and grind esp. compared to my banking experience (BB/EB) which was really collegial and fun despite having rough hours. There are so many MM PE firms with a few partners who are trying to make their carry in their 40s who do not give any care about their associates and will work them to death and have a "slave" type mentality where you basically serve at the whim of the partners and VPs. There are also amazing MM PE firms with great cultures and mentorship. Just be careful to shoot for the latter instead of the former

Jul 20, 2018

Just out of curiosity, what are you doing now? If you were to put yourself back into your shoes when you were 20 knowing what you know now, what would you shoot for?

Jul 22, 2018

How do you filter funds to optimise for the ones with great cultures?

Jul 19, 2018

This is a great question. I don't think you can really do that. At the end of the day you meet people from different funds and they give you an awesome pitch how great it it but at the end it is the same crap.

Maybe Growth / VC has a better culture or at lease a few of my friends from banking they ended up in VC / growth and certainly love it more.

Jul 20, 2018

Can confirm. One of the guys I knew for the past decade or so made it to director level, but told me the grind was brutal and the office culture was unforgiving. Work hours were around 8/9 AM to 9/10 PM including weekends as need be. He noted that many of the administrative staff had a leisure lifestyle and had more time off instead of them. Vice versa, I know many administrative staff from the firm wished that they were in their senior shoes.

Ironic, isn't it?

No pain no game.

Jul 20, 2018

I'd argue that the fact that your PE firm doesn't pay for your health insurance is already a red flag. Maybe I'm lucky to be at one of those MM PE firms but I always though that was industry standard.

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Jul 19, 2018

Ilc22 - sorry if it wasn't clear. They do pay for insurance but it is not great with high deductible.

Jul 20, 2018

Pantera have you considered public markets investing? Seems to me transaction led jobs will always have that tougher lifestyle compared to HF/AM.

Jul 20, 2018

I had an experience similar to this. Probably 75% of yours so not as bad but I know how you feel. I worked 1 year at a MM firm, got two good deals under my belt and lateraled to another firm.

Happy to talk over PM if you want to discuss. There are options available to you and a strategy to manuvering. Most impotant is if you are getting good experience - in this career work experience comounds. Buy-side guys don't have the time or bandwidth to train, if you a slave right now but geting really good experience you will be very valuable in 1-2 years to a lot of firms with better cultures and lifestyles. Few peopel realize how hard the VP promote is. It is usually the guys who got the most experience and got crushed for a couple years that naturally end up moving forward, and to some extent on their own terms.

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Jul 19, 2018

Hi BigBambino! I would love to hear more about your experience and how you coped with that . It would also be invaluable to hear how you moved on and handled the situation. Let me know if it is possible to connect with you.

Jul 19, 2018

Thanks for all your responses guys! It does make me feel better a bit that I am not the only one who is living a miserable life in my mid 20s.

In this situation seems like some of you would stick around for a bit and move on. I think this what I am going to do as well.

But in the meantime how would you behave? Would you work 24/7? Would you not take vacation or would you cancel a vacation that you planned? Would you go to the gym?

I am really struggling with what would be the right approach here. I certainly want to close another deal and get some more experience but I don't think I am willing to put in 80h+ for the rest of the year to do that and forget about my personal life and hobbies that I have to be someones puppet.

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Jul 20, 2018

I really empathize with your situation. I've been in a very similar one, and have endured for about 3 years. It actually started off well, but went downhill about the same time in as you (~4-6 mos.). I get very frustrated sometimes, and did a lot more early on, but have been fortunate to have gotten an incredible amount of exposure and deal experience. I hope that's at least the case for you. For me, that's been invaluable, and made the experience worth it as I'm currently contemplating offers that would otherwise be unavailable to me if it weren't for enduring here. Feel free to PM me if you need any advice or just want to commiserate.

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Jul 20, 2018

I understand what you're going through. Like others have said if you're at least getting good experience I would suck it up for a little longer and then decide what you want to do. If you want to give PE another shot, you'll be well positioned to lateral, but keep in mind any transaction-oriented career is going to have rough patches and similar work.

If you're completely over PE and want a better lifestyle, your transaction experience would look good for Corp Dev roles in your industry of focus.

Alternatively, and this is rarely talked about, have you thought about going back into banking? You already have a good rep with your old group, and now you have buyside experience, which is valuable perspective. Risk adjusted earnings for a good banker through his or her career is better than an average PE professional. You're getting mostly cash comp every year, while a PE investor has to wait years for meaningful carry... that is if the fund actually performs.

The high level view: when there's a glut of money chasing a limited amount of good deals (i.e. PE the past 8 years), the advisors and sellers are who really win.

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Most Helpful
Jul 20, 2018

It sounds like you're running up against two types of problems: structural and personal.

Structurally, private equity isn't for the faint of heart. It's a demanding industry.

  • You have to have elite credentials to get in the door. There are firms who are serious about not hiring anyone that didn't go to HPW for undergrad and GS/MS for banking.
  • It's an inverted pyramid. The ranks are thickest at the top and thinner below. This means associates get staffed to support multiple partners, and the promotion trajectory is both slow and opaque because partners stick around for two or more decades.
  • There is little differentiation between firms, so it's often a 'he who works harder, wins' scenario where the fund that does the most work possible to see if there's a way to support a half turn or full turn higher on the bid multiple is the one that gets the deal.
  • Senior people always seem to subscribe to the 'in my day' mentality, so there's often a stupid system where young guys have to have it just as hard as the old guys did when they had the associate job, even if technology means you can get the same work done today in half the time.

All of what I just wrote is eminently knowable, though. It's not new, people don't hide it because it can't be hidden. You're going to work no less than 70 hours a week anywhere. 80+ is a norm at a lot of the super institutionalized (read: megafund) shops.

The tradeoff you're making is that you're getting paid today in an intangible element (uncommon experience) that's useful to you tomorrow. You work really hard now so that you can work easier later.

If you make it five more years, your job has a sourcing component - you're reading, thinking, and talking to people to develop your own investment thesis, then you're schmoozing to find things to buy.

I can't tell you private equity will ever be easy. It isn't, unless you can hack your way into a family office role or some kind of situation where you're running things on your own (search fund, SPV, consultant, etc.). Even in the latter situation, you may cut your actual work down to 30 hours a week, but you have inordinate mental stress because the buck stops with you.

Personally, it sounds like you're approaching this with a slightly immature perspective.

I do not mean this as a personal attack, please take this as a dispassionate third-party assessment of your overall approach here. You present as mildly entitled and mildly nebbish.

Let's unpack both of these.

Entitled because you think 15 days of time off is bad. I am pretty surprised to hear that banks are at 15+10+6 these days; that's 31(!) weekdays at complete discretion. If that's true, I could take six work weeks off in a year? That's wild.

Maybe banks are happy to offer that because of the raft of bad PR and unkind news coverage from a few years back (2014-2016) regarding poor work-life balance at the junior level. It is somewhat defensible given how little the entire analyst talent pool contributes to the overall cost basis of the division. It's easy and cheap enough to expand the analyst classes by 20%.

I can guarantee you no investment management firm would ever take that approach. Two weeks is the standard. That's 10 days (if it's spelled out in the policy as weekdays, 14 if written as calendar days). Everyone junior tends to take a two-weeker every year, plus play it by ear around the holidays as to whether it's possible to work remote the week around Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Why? Two simple reasons.

  • (a) The work has to get done. How on earth can new deal processes get moved forward and existing deals be supervised effectively if someone is taking 31 weekdays out of 260 total each year?
  • (b) Supply and demand. There is a tremendous surplus of qualified and willing bodies waiting for a chance at each seat, so rationally, why would a firm bear the expense of expanding the team size (the way a bank easily can) or accept some inefficiency because an integral team member is out frequently?

Nebbish because you haven't taken any steps to manage the situation directly.

When you get a weekend email that says "Let's talk NOW. Where are you?", you call that person and talk about what they want to discuss. If you don't reach them, email back and say "I just tried you, I'm available again at X:00 on 212.abc.defg" with an availability no more than a couple hours out.

If you want to exercise, do it first thing in the morning or immediately when you get home at night. If someone hires you as a junior resource, they expect to be able to hand things to you at their convenience. It's inconvenient to find you out the door at 7:00 for 90 minutes when they want to spend 15 minutes walking you through something before heading to a dinner they have to be at.

Does it suck? Absolutely. Is that the thing you do in your 20s in private equity? Yes, that's the role you signed up for.

The point I'm trying to make is that you (i) make reasonable sacrifices (working part of every weekend, getting up early to exercise or developing a fitness regimen where 40 minutes gets you what you need [and thus you can cram it in at lunchtime, for instance]) and (ii) manage expectations internally.

If something is unreasonable, ask about it. "Is this something that needs to be done immediately? When would you like to have it to review?" Three times out of four, someone simply wants to talk to you right away, they don't want the work right away.

That segues into a larger point. This is a perception game. They want to feel that you're heavily invested, that this matters to you a lot. You asking to leave at 7pm is identifiably dumb because it tells everyone on the team that you aren't heavily invested.

It's actually pretty doable to make work easy on yourself by acting like you're the hardest worker in the room without actually being the hardest worker in the room. What's better is if you're both, but you don't seem to have that mindset.

///

I'm writing this not as a guy who spent 15 years earning partner at a giant shop, but as a guy who figured out how the sausage gets made, that he didn't love that flavor profile, and eventually, how to skip a few rungs on the ladder by taking very unconventional steps.

My point is that you can make life a lot easier on yourself by taking pains to understand the system you're operating in. With that knowledge, you can choose whether you want to optimize yourself for that system ... or find a system elsewhere that's more optimized for what you are already.

Now, since a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, let's talk about what you can do here. Two steps:

Start to 'manage up':

You need to figure out how to push back on what's unreasonable. To do that successfully, your mandatory first step is to crush what is reasonable. Most of what you complained about sounds like stuff that just comes with the territory. If you want a big-boy private equity job, it isn't going to be a bed of roses.

12-hour days is the norm. Weekend work will vary depending on what shop you're at, but expect to spend 4-6 each weekend day reading or handling email. This is your 70 hour threshold: (12 * 5) + (5 * 2).

Some downtime where you wish you could walk off the desk, go for coffee with buddies, read personal material on your computer, hit the gym, or anything else you could get away with during what sounds like an incredibly cushy analyst stint but now have to stay butt-in-seat for is also the norm. They pay you to be there. I don't know other $300k office jobs that don't have this. (Senior software engineering management at FAANG maybe.)

For the unreasonable stuff, play the political game the best you can. Cite other projects you're on, get the real deadline (not the made-up one), make your own calendar events to block space out, reply to emails strategically ... all the normal stuff.

Find a way to move:

Some of what you've described doesn't sound like a healthy culture. If they had an entire set of juniors walk out the door, something foul is afoot. If they're truly micromanaging (i.e. dictating not just what your work is but how you actually get it done on an hour-to-hour basis), that's not right. If it's that extreme of a facetime culture and you aren't exaggerating, we'd all agree with you that it's not a good place to be.

So exfil gracefully. You can do this (even in the midst of an associate stint) with a really similar mechanism to how you got this job: headhunters.

Get your resume shipshape, highlight your deal experience, ask for warm intros (e.g. your analyst classmates who used SG or CPI or Oxbridge instead of Bellcast), and be very articulate with a 'why' in your first coffee chats.

Your 'why' is best if its born out of experience. For instance, "At my current fund we focus on middle market companies in mature industries like manufacturing and energy. I enjoyed my time in banking covering faster-moving companies in the technology industry, and while I've enjoyed my first investing role and confirmed that this is the career path I'm best suited for, I'd love to marry the two by taking a seat investing in private technology businesses."

This implicitly states that you're not loving your current role but does it very gracefully. You aren't badmouthing anyone. You're saying that you want something else more, not that you don't want what you have now.

I say this because much of what you've shared here borders on whiny, and if anyone got a hint of that, be they a recruiter or someone on the deal team at a prospective employer, your chances immediately fall to zero.

You won't be able to move without a year of experience, so reach out to headhunters at about the 9-month mark in your current role. If I'm reading your post correctly, that puts you with about five months to go.

///

Good luck. Unfortunately it sounds like you had the 'new' analyst experience (which I've heard a lot of guys my age talk about disparagingly), so when you heard of "greener grass" you thought it'd be even easier in your new role. It wasn't, and to top it off, it was actually a place tougher than the norm. I recognize that from your post and am sorry you've had a rough time.

You should recognize, however, that it isn't supposedly "greener" because it's easier, but because it can be a more engaging career path for certain types of people.

If you're someone who loves results-based success rather than process-based success, for instance, investing is dramatically more satisfying than banking. You're an investor, not an advisor.

Plus, over time, you get a tremendous level of ownership over what you work on. If you don't like the deal, you don't spend any time on it (at the Principal / Partner level). You don't have that luxury in banking.

Factors like these are why people refer to it as the 'promised land'. It's quality of life because of the type of things you do, not the volume of things you do. You get no real volume improvement relative to banking, you just get a caliber improvement.

Again, good luck.

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Jul 20, 2018

Also, @Layne Staley, weigh in here, man.

Jul 24, 2018

Very well written post, but this is not a good mentality and I hope to never fall into this way of thinking. Appreciate what you're trying to convey, but you've presented a lot of dehumanizing perspectives that make me believe you did not develop any real leadership qualities over your 15 years of becoming a partner.

I'm sorry, but you seem to be detached from the people who work for (or with) you. I also have the sense that this post you've written was a way to rationalize your own work life and possibly the way you treat your juniors. I'll give you credit for some topics (managing up, and generally how to function in a professional setting), but your general view of "junior" staff I quite demoralizing.

I truly hope this post was written by an Associate who is merely role playing as a PE Partner for this website.

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Jul 20, 2018

I think your reading comprehension isn't excellent here.

I said I didn't spend 15 years becoming a partner. It was an attempt to indicate that I'm not in my 50s and thus not a jaded old guy talking shit on a "Millennial" frustrated with a challenging work environment.

Please help me understand where what I wrote was dehumanizing. I've always understood the literary definition of that word to mean 'the removal of human qualities' and the legal definition to be 'the alienation of rights'. I can certainly tell you that wasn't my intent, perhaps my execution sucked.

Have you ever heard of Jocko Willink or read his book Extreme Ownership? I loved it the minute I came across it, it was one of those cool moments where you find someone's taken the time to write down something you already believe and practice.

I didn't have the easiest childhood. I didn't skate into Harvard, enjoy Ivy League OCR, and begin a career with ease. The way I overcame socioeconomic and personal challenges was by accepting that the system was the way it was and it fell to me to figure out how to succeed within it if I decided I wanted to participate in it at all.

Nowhere did I say this guy is a bad person. I went the opposite route and took care to avoid saying that he is entitled, but rather that he presents like it. I built on that to offer candid and experience-based suggestions on how he can mitigate what sounds like an admittedly toxic environment.

I've never been one to rationalize. I went into the industry knowing exactly what I was signing up for because I invested energy in learning about it beforehand. When I encountered a situation I felt failed my standards (summer analyst at one of the 'elite' groups), I changed firms (analyst at another 'elite' group).

Each bad experience I had as a subordinate shaped my idea of leadership. I'm imperfect, and I'll be the first to tell you that. That admission is borne out of this concept of ownership, and my first comment was a stab at sharing how similar principles can help you overcome adversity.

I treat people with respect. I'm fortunate today for the luxury of having true friends work with me where the ongoing strength of our longstanding personal relationships meant that over the years they asked if I was willing to bring them on board. Knowing them as friends first is the greatest impetus behind how careful I am treating them as colleagues.

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Jul 19, 2018

It took me some time to digest your post and prevent myself from emotional response. But here are some thoughts.

**"private equity isn't for the faint of heart. It's a demanding industry." Not sure what you are referring to here. Is it the long hours? Dealing with complete assholes all the time? Mentally demanding job? I can agree with the first two. So far I don't see that PE requires an elite skill set. Sure those guys at the top are smart and educated but there are millions of people like that. Their investments succeed in part not because there are genius but because they have money to hire different specialists and advisory groups to do the work for them. PE is not a rocket science and it always impresses me how PE guys elevate it.

**"in my day' mentality" This is just absolutely retarded. If you claim to be smart, you should be smart to recognize that today is a different time and new generation has a different mentality. Technology helps us be more efficient, internet makes us more connected... I literally don't need to sit on my ass all day in the office waiting for you to go home because you are some old school guy who hates his wife and children and gets only satisfaction from work (thats just creepy). As long as you are responsive and work gets done it shouldn't matter where are you.

**''80+ is a norm" Megafunds sure. The problem is that a lot of HH market lower and MM shops as a sweet spot - investing experience + balanced life. But in reality it could be worse than mega fund because you have literally no one to cover for you.

Now let's switch to "my immature perspective".
**'Entitled" 15 days is really bad when you work 24/7 including the weekends. The banks do give you 15 days off, sick days and personal days and I took them all with zero issues. Employers don't recognize a concept of "burn out". How much you can work like that? I have been put on a deal and it has been really busy. All I do is wake up, go straight to work, go sleep after midnight at best and wake up again. Some of you were saying that I should go to the gym in the morning not after 7pm. But how you can possible do that when you get 5-6h of sleep and you literally get squeezed like a lemon during the day. If you are a human this is not possible.

**"Nebbish" I do try to mange up. But it is not working. HR told me that we expect you to be connected and working no matter what. How the heck you can manage it?

**"It's inconvenient to find you out the door at 7:00 for 90 minutes when they want to spend 15 minutes walking you through something before heading to a dinner they have to be at." This 15min of walk through means I am not going home that night. Thats why sometimes it is better to just leave before they come with some other useless analysis. You said "they have to be at the dinner". What about us juniors? Do they think we don't have a life? No dinners? No dates? This is absolutely barbaric to think this way. You pay me money to do the work but it doesn't mean I become you 24/7 slave.

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Jul 30, 2018

I think you are both in agreement in that if it's not possible to fix, you have to leave. It seems like it's impossible to fix. It sucks, but that's the way it goes. Just think about when you think it would be worth it to go.

May 14, 2019

amen

Jul 20, 2018

Just to reiterate, it is always best to leave AFTER your seniors. Some call it facetime but I call it common sense. Whether in banking, PE, or (I assume) corporate America, an extra hour staying in your seat can make you look like a harder worker without much actual time spent.

Obviously this dynamic changes if the senior professionals are staying until midnight, but if they are then I assume you have bigger problems.

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Jul 19, 2018

Monkeey_Brah -- ten years ago I would agree with you but not these days. People should be judged by their productivity, efficiency and quality of work. The number of hours spent in the office is not a good indicator of how well you do your job. Maybe I could agree with it if it is a 9-5 or 9-6 job...than sure an extra hour would matter but if it is 8-9 or later thats just absurd.

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Jul 20, 2018

Agreed it should 100%, but it's all optics and things aren't always rational. This is why I've always preferred sports, school subjects, etc. that can be quantified - because then it gets closer to rational. But even with super-smart colleagues, they will still judge you on butt-in-seat time per APAE's point.

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Jul 25, 2018
Pantera:

Monkeey_Brah -- ten years ago I would agree with you but not these days. People should be judged by their productivity, efficiency and quality of work. The number of hours spent in the office is not a good indicator of how well you do your job. Maybe I could agree with it if it is a 9-5 or 9-6 job...than sure an extra hour would matter but if it is 8-9 or later thats just absurd.

This is honestly why sales > high finance. My best friends cousin does sales for Cisco and makes over a million a year. I'm sure she works a a decent amount, perhaps 50-60 hours a week tops, but she has way more control over her schedule than the high finance people.

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Jul 21, 2018

What is your relationship with your prior IB? Did you leave on good terms? You could potentially see if they would be willing to re-hire you.

Jul 21, 2018

Your hours are reasonable and consistent with my PE fund ($10B AUM).

Your firm's culture is terrible. Sounds like your complaint isn't the hours but the way you seem to be micro-managed.

If you're a strong performer, there is a level of autonomy you're granted within a mult-person deal team.

Is the behavior you described coming from all levels and each person (from the partner through to the VP level) or is it specific to only certain individuals? If the former, the culture is very much embedded long-term. It would only get worse if one of your portfolio companies turns for the worst.

Where have past associates gone on to do?

If I were you I would start recruiting to other funds immediately.

Try Audax, they're recruiting for PE associates in their Boston office. My friend is out there, but I'm happy where I am.

When recruiting with less than a years' experience, use geography as a motivation to leave from your NYC-based PE fund.

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Jul 19, 2018

Hi Jonny.Quest!

I am disappointed two things:
- #1: Micromanagement: It is specific two one individual who I work with on multiple projects. I never dealt with this before and this is nuts to me. I know what I have to do and I will do it on time. It pisses me off because I cant go to bathroom for more than an minute...I had multiple occasions where that person would be freaking out "Where are YOU?" when I literally stepped out for less than 5 minutes and I spoke with that person 10 minutes ago. Plus I think it is an invasion of personal life and crossing the boundaries...I dont need anyone to tell what I should do after work or asking me all the time what business you have to do after work.
- #2: I would shut up and say nothing if I was paid accordingly. I dont get paid like at UMM or MF. I make less than 1st year IB associate. So it is wild that people expect you to live in the office.
I heard some left to corp dev and some to grad school. VP who left moved to another smaller shop.

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Jul 21, 2018

OK. If it's just one person, then this issue can be assuaged by working with other people and proving yourself with other people at the firm.

I honestly have never heard of this level of micro-management. It's almost to the level of harassment, if you're saying they won't leave you alone even when going to the bathroom). Never heard of this.

How senior or tenured is that person - partner or a VP?

Jul 22, 2018

Try audax? Aren't they also one of the biggest sweatshops.

Jul 21, 2018

Yes. Most reputable PE firms are. I'm not sure why that's a surprise for people here on this forum, especially when that particular fund is actively investing. Long hours come with the territory of PE.

If the fund isn't actively investing, their LPs won't be pleased and their is negative carry associated with an under-invested fund.

Btw, the OP's main complaints were excessive mircromanagement, bad culture and being underpaid relative to her expectations.

Jul 22, 2018

I just skimmed through this post so I might have missed it, but firm specific culture and micromanagement aside, do you like the work you're doing more on the buy side vs. your work in banking? @APAE covered it already, but they are two different roles and perceived greener pastures is for the nature of the work.

So if the cultural elements and people factor improve at the hypothetical new place (and let's say you're focused on tech, or maybe you move to more of a growth equity shop), would you like it more than your stint in banking? Or, if you can head back to your old IB, would it be something you'd consider?

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Jul 23, 2018

it would be very interesting to find out who this company is, hopefully after you leave, so that others dont fall into the same trap.

Jul 25, 2018

Sounds like you just didn't do your diligence on the fund. The headhunter didn't fool you, you just didn't ask about culture, comp, benefits, etc. There are better PE funds out there.

Jul 19, 2018

I joined a firm where I was told I'd be doing mainly direct investing, but as it turns out most of my responsibilities revolve around portfolio management. I think that plenty of times people can do reasonable diligence on a fund (ask headhunter, employees, etc.), but still not get the truth. Unless you know someone at the fund, the headhunter/firm could be selling you on a much rosier picture of the role in order to get you to take it. Everyone knows that there is a large amount of secrecy at PE funds and they definitely take advantage of that fact (I've had funds that refused to tell me a range of how invested they are out of their latest fund since it's "proprietary" for example). I do agree that a high level of diligence should be done, but it can still be difficult to get the real story.

Jul 19, 2018

I completely agree with you. The best you can do is a high level diligence. There is not much reviews on these funds available compared to corp jobs (glassdoor can be a good source). HH care about placement and their check.

Jul 20, 2018

I agree that PE firms love to stay under the radar and headhunters are generally not on your side. However, there are tactics you can use to gain more information on a fund during the interview process. I left this comment in reply to someone asking about how to judge the performance of a PE fund. I've copied the relevant parts below.

  • If fundraising for a new fund is on the horizon (within 2 years), ask a senior partner who he expects to invest in the new fund. Are they LP's that invested in previous fund(s) or completely new LP's. If it's new LP's, the previous fund(s) likely did not perform well, and the fundraise will be arduous at best and fail at worst. Most existing LP's would re-up in a decently performing fund (doesn't necessarily have to be top quartile). Read their body language and facial expressions when you ask. You can lead the conversation here; e.g. Where in the country / world do you expect to travel to for fundraising? Did you go to that area frequently to fundraise for the previous fund? etc
  • Ask which portfolio companies have taken up the most resources of the group. When they give an answer, ask why. There's two main reasons a portfolio company will take up the majority of a PE team's man hours - it's growing quickly and needs support (roll up strategy, growth capital injection, refinancing debt, div recap, analysis for C-suite etc etc), or the investment is doing poorly and they're trying to rescue it. Try to glean which one it is and get a sense of the size of the investment. A large investment that is turning into an albatross is tough for a PE fund to overcome especially this day and age when returns are being bid down in competitive processes.
  • Ask how large they expect the next fund to be. They can lie about this, but if they come out and say that it's smaller than the last fund then they're basically admitting performance has been an issue.
  • Look out for professionals, particularly mid-level (VP, Principal), that toss in snide remarks about their team. Huge red flag if they insult the performance, caliber of their colleagues, or their experience in general.
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Jul 25, 2018

It never ceases to amaze me how horrible some people in "high finance" are at managing people.

As long as the work gets done by a reasonable deadline, who gives a fuck if you only worked 6 hours that day.

The micromanaging is detrimental and so unnecessary.

My old boss in IB was like what you described as your PE exp. I didn't work as much as you, but they legit didn't want people having girlfriends as they were "distractions". I ran the fck away.

I work in CB now and my boss is soooo chill.... life is good. Get the hell out of that hell hole man.

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Jul 19, 2018

I was flying to a meeting a few days ago and my VP literally came to my cubicle and said "Make sure your computer has battery so you can keep working on the plane." Things like this absolutely shocks me. Give me a freaking break I know what i have to do. As more time goes by I realize that I work with total PSYCHO NUTS. One principle screams when he can't find his associate at his desk. We have an intern and he is literally at convulsion stage when partner come by. You literally have those guys on your ass 24/7.

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Jul 25, 2018

Sounds awful... I couldn't do it. Micromanaging is a disease

Jul 21, 2018

The level of micro-management you describe is absolutely ridiculous. It's shocking. I'm speechless.

Jul 30, 2018
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