Who is happy & satisfied with their current role?

When you're in college, everyone acts like as soon as you land an IB offer you'll be happy.

As soon as you hit the IB desk, everyone acts like as soon as you get that PE offers you'll be happy.

As soon as you hit PE, you've got 2 years to figure out MBA or lateral to an LMM or corp dev position and you can be happy.

If you stay the golden course and go to Harvard/Stanford/Wharton, mostly you end up right back in PE or IB in roles you had sought to leave to pursue some unmet satisfaction. From there, most in PE can't really climb to the top and get stuck in the middle somewhere.

I see this dynamic across wall street in which they always convince you that happiness awaits you just one more rung up the ladder, but to me, it seems like it never gets there. I'm about to graduate from undergrad and start in IB at a BB, and I'd like to be the one making my career decisions for myself and not be pressured to race up this ladder of emptiness.

So my question is - who is happy and satisfied with your current position? How did you get there? What about the role makes it a good place to stay and be content? 

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Comments (96)

Most Helpful
Jan 4, 2021 - 12:25pm

I'm not in IB, but I'm now early-mid 30s and at the ED/D level in S&T (maybe 2-3 years from MD ish).  Overall I'd say I'm pretty happy with my current situation.  I'm starting to get senior enough with enough experience that I feel I can print a significant enough P&L on a consistent basis to not worry about RIF, while also getting a decent payout every year.  Hours are pretty good for an IB job, and I feel like I'm not really missing out on most things in life.  THe job itself is still pretty fun on a day-to-day basis, although like everything, it can get boring at points. 

I like money but I'm not gunning to retire with 20mm+, and the job fits well for my personality.  Obviously S&T doesn't have the same sort of track that IB does, and the personalities that are attracted to each are different, but I think you can find happiness in finance jobs.  The big thing is to not give a shit about what other people think about you or your job or you comp.  Do what you want because you like doing it enough to justify the paycheck.  As soon as you start comparing yourself to others, you're on your way to the death spiral.  

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Jan 4, 2021 - 1:41pm

I actually am very satisfied with my current job and have no intention to leave. I am on a healthcare investment banking team and am pretty happy. I was very happy with my bonus, not only financially but because I felt like I was really being valued by the team/firm. I find the work I do interesting and even at a junior level, many of my MDs let me have a ton of direct client interaction and getting to work directly with some really smart people on stuff is cool IMO. I also like my coworkers a lot, not just the analysts but my associates and VP level people are pretty top notch and are really friendly people who I genuinely like. I think people sleep on the need for good young coworkers in IB, and I think this can be a real make-or-break thing for me. Glad it worked out so well. I could gun for PE, but honestly am happy enough in my current situation that I have no desire to try. My team also likes to promote internally and retain people long term, so even at the analyst (moving closer to associate) level, I see a pretty defined pathway up that allows me to have some say in shaping myself as a part of the team and gearing myself towards specific segments and deals that I find interesting. I think positive relationships with seniors help this even more. We have some young, homegrown MDs who turned down pretty good BB offers to stay with us, which I think speaks to the career potential, both regarding financials and stability, on this team. It is really just a place/job I feel comfortable in with teammates from analyst to MD who actually give a fuck about my development, and that helps a lot with a job as grueling as IB.

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  • Analyst 1 in IB - Ind
Jan 4, 2021 - 2:03pm

How many hours do you usually work and how busy / how many projects / how much down time do you usually get. I love finance but not liking IB so want to see if it's firm/group related or just banking related 

Jan 4, 2021 - 6:57pm

Hours are definitely the downside. Usually 80+ a week, with 100+ weeks not being uncommon. I am on usually around 8-10 "deals" at a time that are in varying stages of development and require varying levels of attention. Usually only 2-4 really require energy at any given time. This does not include pitches and whatnot, which I don't like. 

  • Investment Manager in HF - Other
Jan 4, 2021 - 2:43pm

Agree with what some others have said. I'm on the older side (for this forum, I.e. mid/late 30s) and have had ups and downs in my career, but I can say I'm pretty happy with my job/career. My thoughts:

1) don't compare yourself to others: as someone else pointed out, this leads to disaster. There was a time when I did this (who is in what role? what firm? Did someone get a bigger bonus?) and it was distracting and only led to disappointment. I remember sitting around after a (relatively) large bonus and thinking if that was actually enough and then realizing that even if you "win" (which to be clear you never do) the comparison game, what are you going to do? Go tell someone you just crushed the last year? That you got a huge bonus? Great conversation, people will eventually stop being friends with you, it doesn't bring any happiness

2) find work you love: this is hard to know when just coming out of college, but the "standard" track is one of MANY paths and it isn't for everyone. Yes, it is tried and true and gives you the best probability to land in PE, but there are so many ways to make money and so many careers that are ignored because they aren't the "sexy" IB path. I'm not saying go be a ski bum (although I would enjoy that) but try to take some time to independently research roles, careers, etc and try to picture yourself in these jobs. And if it doesn't work straight out of school don't beat yourself up, you might take a nonstandard path to your ideal job (just think of 10-15 yrs ago if "data scientists" said they were going to be managing hundreds of millions to billions of dollars, that path didn't even exist)

3) join a team and people not just a name/brand: the culture and people you work with are so important, not just for happiness (whether you are friends with them or not is less important) but for your sanity and career development. Find people who care about their team, who are invested in their people, and chances are you'll really enjoy working with them and end up with good friends. At a minimum you need to trust that these people are looking out for you (even if you can't get along with them). But I have to say I'm great friends with many of my coworkers and families and that is a huge help. 

4) have something else: I've found that balance is important (at least for me), and having hobbies, friends, and activities outside of work help with happiness. At a minimum it helps offset hard days at work ("well at least I have X..") and so you aren't 100% focused on the outcome of your work. But I've also found it makes me more productive at work and an overall better employee. Your mind needs exercise and needs different ways of thinking so I have hobbies (exercise and mental) that help keep me balanced. 

Anyway, this is also much easier to say with over a decade of experience, after many hard years and having "made it" (at least to where I want to be). 

Jan 6, 2021 - 1:02am

Can't agree enough with #3. I came into banking believing it was all about the content and the work because that's what I had to say in interviews. And I thought it was complete horse shit when bankers said "it's about the people." Well, now I couldn't care less what kind of company we're selling or the pages we're putting together, I just genuinely like working with my VP and MD. Great guys, give a fuck about passing on knowledge, and allow me room to grow but not die. Thanks for the rest of the post too!

  • Associate 1 in IB - Gen
Jan 6, 2021 - 10:48am

Great post.

I came into my MBA thinking all banks were the same, go for the best brand, etc. During recruiting I had my "come to Jesus" moment and realized how ridiculous that was, because it was always about the next potential step and outside perception. In the end I picked based on people/location and middle market despite having offers from "better" banks.

I totally underestimated how crucial the people you work with internally day in/day out are. Second is the middle market--getting to reward genuine entrepreneurs and founders for their work and the passion they have for their businesses...it sounds corny but it's real. Getting to be the sole advisor on deals, watching a company grow and mature through your interactions--it can be pretty cool.

Jan 6, 2021 - 9:48am

I can't believe you battled through six years of not enjoying banking. That takes a lot of willpower! I did MM banking for three years. Definitely understand the satisfaction of working with middle market clients and the genuine relationships you build. I just couldn't stand the incessant focus on inconsequential formatting, creating useless slides, etc. 

Jan 4, 2021 - 8:53pm

Tbh there a few who are in it for the long haul I'd say that's where I am, it's probably the second or third most common thing. The most common I definitely see is lateraling either to other banks usually or if they were pretty well liked, internally, I most commonly see whatever industry coverage group they have the most experience in. I've heard of one unicorn who go into a pretty good PE fund from my position. A few have gone to Corp dev, but been told that's pretty rare too. MBA is also another common route after Associate or some have gone into AM from Analyst or Associate. IR has been a thing but also not very common. People don't choose to stay as often because there aren't many exits and it can be risky and grueling to climb the bank latter. Even if I work from 8-9 on most weeks I'm still gonna have some god awful hell weeks were I'm in then office at 2 am some nights, and some don't see the appeal

  • Summer Associate in IB - Ind
Jan 4, 2021 - 9:12pm

Are you based in NYC? I am interested in capital markets but not sure that I want to be in NYC long-term. Unfortunately, it seems like most of these roles are there.

Jan 5, 2021 - 1:16am

Your options are pretty open , NYC has the most, Chicago has actually a few like WB, BMO, and citi all have Chicago ecm I believe. Someone else said it, but LA has some ECM as well. Haven't heard of ECM in SF, but I wouldn't be surprised if there's some banks with a team there for tech stuff. I know Truist is in Atlanta and RJ i believe is in Florida with a team. Really where the bank is hq will have an ecm if they are big enough.

Jan 4, 2021 - 9:07pm

I think this video sums up most experiences with happiness:

Just had my trade dispute rejected by Schwab for a loss of 35k. This single issue alone should be a gigantic red flag to anyone who trades on their platform.

If they have a system error, and you do not video record your trading (they actually said this), they will not honour their fuck up. Switching everything away from them. Fuck this company.

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Jan 4, 2021 - 11:21pm

I'm happy with my current role. I work in consulting. Here are the reasons:

- I work 40-50 hours/week on average

- No face time, no work for the sake of work. Work from home was normal even before covid.

- If I need to go anywhere during the day, like a doctor appointment, it's all super chill, I just let people know that I need to do something and I'll pick up the work later in the evening, and nobody minds

- The team is great: very nice and supportive

- No stress at work. I know that my Partner values me, and I won't get fired

- Very nice pay. I was paid $100k/year right out of school

- Fast and transparent growth

- The work is interesting and pretty simple

- Work experience is valuable. I get headhunters reaching out to me with IB, PE, corporate development roles

- Geographic mobility. I can live and work in any major city in the world.

Jan 6, 2021 - 2:33pm

How does a job like this actually exist lol when I was in consulting I was traveling every week and working crazy hours. Wish I knew what firm you are at!

Jan 6, 2021 - 7:28pm

I think it varies on the team as well. There are people in my company who burn out and leave cause their manager and/or partner keep them up at night on weekends. The secret is to find a good team and work with them.

Jan 5, 2021 - 8:23am

I'm happy with my current role, for which I am incredibly lucky to be in. I work part-time as an infrastructure developer.

- I work 15-25 hours per week

- Lean team of only 4 people

- Team is very experienced except for me (all in their 40s, I'm only 2 years out of UG)

- Every team member has a unique skill set that complements the other

- I own equity in the company

- Base is $84K (+ extra $36K per year for every deal under term sheet / in our portfolio) + 1-3 bonuses per year each 125% - 300% of base (at close of deal and depending on size of deal)

- I am given a large amount of responsibility to work independently with our engineering, private equity, and operations partners

- I can work from anywhere (I have never met two of the partners in-person)

Jan 7, 2021 - 2:08pm

Sure! I think the best way to think about it is as a search fund.

We start by working with relevant stakeholders: the city, engineer, contractor, operator, off-taker, lawyers, etc. Each of the relevant stakeholders helps us build a profile of the deal at a high level as well as to gain an understanding of the key deal metrics. These key deal metrics typically have market comps so we work with each relevant stakeholder until we are able to get each key deal metric in the market range. Once we have pushed all relevant metrics within the right range, and when we have LOIs from 1/2 of the key stakeholders (typically the city and the off-taker), we present it to PE firms.

If the PE firm says it needs some work, we go back and move it to where they want it. If it is suitable, we sign a term sheet. Typically the deal is 50-75% complete at that point. After that is finished, we then work on operating agreements with each key stakeholder. We work side-by-side with the PE firm to get through these operating agreements as well as beginning discussions with lenders. We work as part of the equity sponsor group until the operating agreements are signed and the debt is closed. Once that happens, shovels go into the ground. One of our team members is an experienced engineer and project manager so he supervises the build. Once the build is finished, we continue doing active portfolio management on the project until the PE firm decides to sell.

As you can imagine, once you figure out what one PE firm expects for the key deal metrics, the strength of LOIs & operating agreements, we can rinse and repeat.

Jan 5, 2021 - 10:45am

Glad to see many experienced folks here talking about not comparing yourself to others and how it leads to being unhappy. 

I think too often we see people evaluating their current role/situation, not on the merits, but on how "shitty" the other guy has it. (ie IB vs S&T or ECM, etc). People that are content with their job and current situation don't spend time looking to put other people down.

To answer the question, I would say i'm comfortable with my job but not necessarily happy. I would like to gradually move to spending time on my investments/business rather than those of a multi-billion dollar corporation. I want to live with no regrets career-wise. 

Jan 5, 2021 - 11:32am

Not in IB, but did 2+yrs IB before moving to PE. I'm a bit unorthodox in that I never had the dream of wanting to work in or around finance. I almost wound up here accidentally out of equal parts background and right place/right time, so offering what may be a unique perspective on a potentially common 'view' of work-related happiness. Take it with salt.

Happy v. Satisfied

I'm not happy but I would say I am satisfied. Pay is very good, team is lean and close-knit with no jerks whatsoever, experience has been pretty good and looks impressive on resume. I just don't love finance. I don't know what I would truly 'love' to move to, so here I stay collecting my dividend and padding my resume.

How I got here

Got here by networking my way into an IB internship at a not-so-elite boutique after graduating without a job in my field of study (not finance). I was desperate for a 'good job', and was honestly kind of ignorant about finance/IBD. Then took a chance on a PE process run by a recruiting firm I'd built rapport with at the end of my analyst stint and have been there a few years.

Why the role is good 

Good experience mix of transaction focused work and day-to-day portco operational work, good comradery on a close-knit team, partner exposure, high pay, and good exposure to our target industry make the role a good place to stay. I genuinely like all the folks I work directly with, which I think is pretty rare - not uncommon for us to do dinner at eachothers houses/apts with spouses and get loaded. We're also at a big inflection point in the firm right now, which will either pave the way to a new dynasty or crumbling empire.

If I liked finance, I'd be content to stay here for good and retire early. I've been guided to expect promo but not sure that I really want it (or that it'll even happen, who knows) because I view VP+ as being much a 'stickier' role. I understand that this is a bit of a champagne problem and I don't want anyone to get the wrong idea - I am incredibly fortunate and grateful to be in such a position. I'm just very introspective lately and don't think I want to continue in high finance, or at least within this firm/sector/focus/strategy/etc. Not sure what else to do though, and I'm the stereotypical risk-averse, insecure+overachieving PE archetype so I'm sticking around for now.

  • Associate 1 in PE - LBOs
Jan 6, 2021 - 1:05pm

Not sure what else to do though, and I'm the stereotypical risk-averse, insecure+overachieving PE archetype so I'm sticking around for now.

you and me and everyone else on here

life is truly a fresh hell daily when you are trapped by yourself into living a life you do not love, but cannot object to for any specific reason

Jan 8, 2021 - 6:12pm

Sure but will keep it vague.

Somewhere between LMM and MM. Ideally cutting low 9 figure equity cheques but we've gone way lower. $10bn+, global focus with $2bn+ AUM across a handful of funds in my focus area.

My hours have been pretty bad lately and I didn't get much of a holiday. Not as bad as many of the IB analysts posting on the board lately, but as an example this week I've done about 70-75 and its going to be at least another 10 this weekend. I've had 40 hour weeks and I've had 100 hour weeks. No all nighters but many 2-4AM late nights. Before COVID, 60hrs a week was pretty normal. I've worked more weekends than I've had completely off since I got here.

I'm a bit burnt out at the moment so I'm negatively biased lately, but all things considered its a good place to be.

  • Analyst 3+ in RE - Comm
Jan 5, 2021 - 7:00pm

I Do work that's not fulfilling. I realized that I'll never be happy at any job unfortunately.

Jan 5, 2021 - 7:32pm

I am happy with my current job. It's 100% my dream job but just not in a city I like unfortunately.
I work in PE as a senior associate, growth equity with a sector focus that I genuinely love. Took me 5 years to get to this "peaceful" point in my career.

What I like:
- no clients = no one to report to. The deals we do are generally not in competitive processes so honestly we almost always control the hours
- I work about 40-50h a week
- Small tight knit team that feels like friends. No office bullying which unfortunately I've experienced in the past
- full responsibility in deal processes and I get to decide who I wanna hire for outsourced DD and I get to sit on boards
- love sourcing and meeting entrepreneurs

What I don't like:
- that I don't work in London but in another European city
- i also earn less $ than I used to working in IB in London

Now question is do I stay or try to find the same job in London 😅. Hours and culture definitely won't be as good

Jan 5, 2021 - 9:08pm

I'm in my early thirties now and I've always been very happy with the roles I've had. I started off in m&a, moved to S&t, briefly left to start a fund, got bought/merged into a larger fund, now run money as a pm. My goal was always to run money in alpha strategies and I took each step as an amazing learning opportunity.

I did not mind the 80-100 hour work week (I kind of thrived in that setting) because I constantly engaged myself. When other analysts would twiddle their thumbs and scroll dating apps (I did too just less), I'd spend my time meeting other people within the firm, learning as much as possible, and building social capital. I even managed to have a decent social life (figured out I could run into a party, say hi, have fun, get it done, and go back to the office with minimal damage). 

Some tips:

- surround yourself with positive people

- there is no good reason why you can't do a lot of what you want - just cut out the wasted time (sitting around in between things)

- go running/cycling/30min workout every day

- make sure to make friends outside of banking

- don't fall into a serious relationship too quickly, or find someone who can keep up and understands your situation / has a similar mindset 

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Ind
Jan 5, 2021 - 9:56pm

That's the thing tho most of us went from senior year of college to being locked in our bedroom. Surprised I made it 6 months tbh 

Jan 6, 2021 - 1:04am

I can't tell you how much I relate to "make sure to have friends outside of banking". Being a junior in banking means spending a lot of time in office and this translates to you spending a lot of time with the same sort of people, more often than not. Having close friends outside of finance/banking helps to remind you that there's plenty more outside the often myopic world of M&A and capital markets etc. It also helps to broaden your worldview, puts your life/experiences in perspective and I find that it keeps me grounded and empathetic. Most of all, I think its a refreshing breath of fresh air - conversations are more diverse and sometimes I get reminded also about how fortunate I am because people generally will always find fault or something to complain about regardless or which field they are in.

  • Intern in IB - Gen
Jan 8, 2021 - 9:27pm

Upperclassman at a target school and I feel this already, I tell it to every freshman/soph I talk to. I love my roommates but we're all finance hardo af and some times when most of the convos revolve around finance or recruiting in some way it gets kinda old.

Jan 6, 2021 - 10:24am

It's like that saying "comparison is the thief of joy". 

Most people aren't happy with their job or what they have because they are always comparing themselves to others. Its the reason there are people who make $10M+ a year who consider themselves middle class because they know people who make $100M a year. In reality, there are actually a lot of jobs that pay pretty well, and are way less stressful than some banking jobs. It's kind of like a P/E ratio, with price being your time and earnings being your salary. Some people stay in jobs they hate though for a number of reasons, or keep searching for a perfect job that doesn't exist. It's basically a chase for something unobtainable. 

Its sort of a paradox right; people spend a lot of time working at a job that doesn't make them happy, to afford things they think will make them happy, when in reality neither does it. 

Jan 6, 2021 - 10:30pm

I'm on a step of that rat race you described, but wanted to take a step back and comment that your view is pretty mature for an undergrad. I guess the real answer would have been to start on a job / career that you enjoyed from the beginning and can imagine yourself doing until you retire... Looking back I would have experimented with more internships in college, though understand that to even get an IB job now you need to have basically gunned for it from freshman year onward..

Jan 7, 2021 - 5:47pm

thank you i appreciate you saying that. i double majored in finance & engineering and spent a good amount of time looking at engineering opportunities. imo IB was miles better than any starting engineering role in terms of learning opportunities, culture, pay, networking, etc. i think it's easy for us to complain about IB, but it is genuinely far better than the alternatives available right out of a 4 yr degree. i'm super happy & excited to be starting as an analyst but obviously nobody is an analyst forever so wanted to make sure that i'll be just as happy & excited for future roles down the line.

Jan 7, 2021 - 11:52pm

I'm learning to be content with my lot in life even though I haven't fully reached my goal yet. The more I've explored careers and the more I've talked to people across various fields, the more I'm realizing that you can pretty much choose any of these two at the same time, but not all three:

  • Interesting work
  • Great Pay
  • Work-Life Balance

For example, if you work in high-finance, you are potentially doing interesting work and almost certainly getting paid really well, but your work-life balance is usually pretty bad. Similarly, if you choose the corporate finance/accounting route, you'll likely have solid to excellent pay (outside of hardos that think $150K outside of finance hubs like NYC/SF is a laughable salary) and great work-life balance, but the work you do is relatively less impactful and probably less interesting day-to-day on average. Finally, if you choose a really interesting vocation that isn't demanding, it's unlikely to pay well (the people who come to my mind are the artists, social workers, etc. I know that are genuinely pursuing something they enjoy/believe in).

The other problem, which others have commented on, is that we're constantly comparing ourselves to our peers, which always makes us unhappy. For example, look at the previous paragraph where I had to qualify that $150K for the typical 45-50 hour week is considered by most to be really good pay. On this forum, that's chump change because in high finance, everyone is making that starting out. Realistically though, making even $100K at age 30 puts you in the top 10% of earners, which most people would consider doing "very well" career-wise. This is doubly true if you live outside of NYC/SF/LA. I've moved back to my hometown during the pandemic, since my firm is virtual, which is about as far from a finance hub as a major city can possibly be. It's been a real eye-opener for me to realize how well I'm doing relative to most people as a "lowly" CPA when I'm not comparing myself against my friends who are IB, MBB, or in Medicine/FAANG.

Therefore, I think career satisfaction comes down to the right combination of being able to fund a lifestyle you can tolerate and being content once you reach that number, even if others are doing better or got there more quickly. The calculus is different for everyone (i.e. I would rather make $150K and work 45 hours a week than make $300K and work 65 hours a week while most people on WSO would do the opposite), but I think it's important to do that calculation and then be prepared mentally to part with the aforementioned factor you give up once you've decided what makes you happiest.

It's like the old saying goes, "you can have anything you want, but not everything you want".

Jan 8, 2021 - 2:33pm

Truth my man. It's hilarious how so many of these kids turn out to be with a ton of titles and experience and just average in 15/20 years down the road. Too easy to smell through these people when I am allocating capital.

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