Is life really better when you leave Goldman Sachs?

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Is life really better when you leave Goldman Sachs?

Last summer, as I left my job as an investment banking Associate, I was thrilled to make the coveted jump over to the buy-side. After three years as a banker, I was finally moving onto a private equity job. Unfortunately, as I settled into my new seat, I quickly began to realize that the opportunity might not be what I had expected.

Seven months later, I had decided to quit.

During the three years that I worked as an investment banker, the grass always seemed greener on the buy-side of the fence. But it took me a trip over that fence to realize that a private equity associate's job looked surprisingly like the experience I thought I was leaving behind. The hours certainly didn't get any better. If anything, they got worse. Even my day-to-day job function looked, in many ways, like the mirror image of what I'd been doing for three years as an investment banker.

Over the last six months, I've spent considerable time reflecting on what I learned through that process. Hopefully, this reflection helps shed some light on the misconceptions I had along the way and what I would have done differently if I had the opportunity to do it all over again.

  1. Question your motives: Question what it is precisely that you're hoping to get out of your next job. Prestige? Learning? Money? Network? It's also worth questioning how much of a sacrifice you're willing to make to secure some combination of those (and other) benefits.
  2. Understand the expectations: Develop a good sense of the firm's culture to understand how you'll be treated when you step into the job. What's expected of junior employees? The most honest answers you'll get are from other junior employees who are already at the firm.
  3. Don't rush it: Fight the feeling that you need to leave your investment banking job just because your peers do so. Most Analysts in any investment banking class will inevitably be gone within two years. That doesn't mean that you must do the same.

One of the biggest challenges involved in private equity recruiting today is the elongated timeline. I accepted my private equity job eighteen months before starting it. During the time between taking and starting the job, my priorities had changed.

Unfortunately, that recruiting timeline is increasingly becoming the industry norm. And so, I wouldn't be surprised if stories like mine become increasingly common in the years to come.

Adam Cotterill is a former Goldman Sachs associate. He writes The Plug, a weekly newsletter on energy issues. 

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