Laid Off From Toxic Job

Was laid off today after 8 months on the job at an UMM fund and am feeling defeated. I've worked my butt off the last 7 years to get to where I am today and would appreciate anyones advice as I'm at a bit of an impasse in my career.

The job itself was by far the best learning experience of my career due to all of the exposure I got however, the work environment was incredibly toxic. What I think ultimately went wrong was that I was asked to perform my job at a level that far exceeded my experience level and received no grace despite being an entry level hire. Ideally, I would like to stick it out in finance and continue to be in PE but am worried that I won't be able to find a situation that will allow me to continue to build up my fundamental skills before throwing the kitchen sink at me. I'm leaps and bounds ahead of where I was 8 months ago but still need to make some inroads in terms of adjusting to the pace at which everything is done at.


Graduated in 2019 from a Big 12 School studying Economics (Cincinnati/Houston)

Graduated in 2022 from a MiM at a Semi Target (Cornell/Northwestern)

2 years in Technical Sales Role @ Tech Company

1 year @ Tech focused Boutique PE Firm

8 months @ Tech Focused UMM PE Firm

Firms Culture:

I chose to join an UMM PE firm out of my masters program over several other offers at other funds due to the firms strong training program and my interactions with the investment professionals throughout the interview process (7 rounds of interviews over 2-3 months + final round coffee chat with partners). Given how much I had gotten to know the members of the investment team throughout the process I felt as though culturally I'd found more or less the perfect fit.

Once, I started though things took a turn pretty quickly for the worse. The training program they had promised to put the analysts through was cancelled with no explanation and the culture shifted rapidly for the worst. That led me to being thrown into the fire on my second day before I could even complete all of my onboarding tasks. To make matters worse I was the only other person on the deal with the partner and had no support internally.

While I was comfortable performing the more qualitative aspects of the job I struggled with the technical parts of the deal given I never did banking. So when I went to ask my partner a few questions related to the deal after I had sat with the problem for a while (made sure I couldn't find answers using internal resources or the internet) and walked him through my thought process his response surprised me. He told me "get the fuck out of his office and to never ask him any questions again." After that encounter I shook it off thinking he was just in a bad mood and was ultimately able to figure the problem out but it took some time. That really irked him so he then proceeded to berate and shame me in front of the entire office while threatening to cut my bonus. This experience was pretty consistent with the rest of my time at the firm and after a while I just got used to it. Throughout this all I managed to maintain a good attitude, said yes to whatever was asked of me, and offered to do additional work when I had capacity to do so.

In an effort to move past those early issues, accelerate my learning curve, and show the firm how committed I was I made an effort to go overboard with everything I did. I was always the first person in and last one out of the office (even worked weekends when not required) . I also invested in Wall Street Prep, read textbooks on LBO's, would do an internal memo of key events impacting our portfolio and overall market commentary for our weekly discussions, and would build out full models from scratch in my free time to improve my speed. After a few months of doing this I really started to see drastic and measurable improvements. Unfortunately, these improvements were never good enough for my partner who chose to fixate on my early struggles rather than acknowledge any progress I made. So when I found out today I was being laid off it didn't come as a complete surprise but it didn't make it any less frustrating.

Specific Ex's About Boss (there are about a 12-18 more of these):

Found out at an offsite that his last analyst who came from banking quit 3 months in because he couldn't handle him

Performance reviews (whenever he'd flip out at me he was clearly trying to get a reaction out of me and when I wouldn't give it to him and politely answer back he used it as a chance to say that I'm not passionate about the job in my review)

Got into a serious accident that left me in bad shape physically and covered for him on a deal  (skipped going to the doctor right away to cover for him in the office while concussed, bleeding, and with broken bones). Never asked me if I was okay afterward or said thank you.

Bad mouthed me internally (got good feedback on several projects I did for another partner and once he found out about it passed it off as his own work and told that partner that I'm a headache he doesn't want a part of)

Emotionally abusive towards wife in front of me (on multiple occasions would tell his wife he had no problem leaving her and their kids and without him they'd be nothing)

Comments (18)

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen

To be honest, if you have 20 months of PE experience and you aren't able to complete work quickly, I would start figuring out what your skill set better fits.

Also, as a side note, it sounds like you are complaining. Instead of asking for next steps, you spent a lot of time on a diatribe that no one really cares about. I would just focus on how to move on and landing on your feet.

  • 1
  • 34
PaulTwodoorJones, what's your opinion? Comment below:

"Sounds like you are complaining"

Jesus Christ if you're okay with someone berating you as OP described you're a bitch made pussy with no spine. 

  • 2
Most Helpful
  • Investment Analyst in PE - LBOs

Appreciate your feedback and should have been clearer.

What I was trying to communicate was that compared to my peers I struggle with the execution part of the job (building models and data entry) but am much better at critical thinking (analysis of those models, reading the tea leaves in the market, subsequent investment strategy, and crafting ideas). I've done a fair amount of research but am still unsure which areas of finance values that skillset. At the senior levels that skill set seems more prevalent but at the entry and mid levels the opposite is most prevalent. Does anyone know of any career paths within the industry that values that kind of skill set?

I should have clarified that I did strategy work for the boutique PE firm so I had no modeling or transaction experience prior to entering the industry. I was open with firms about this during the interview process and knowing that asked for pre work from employees who said that it wasn't necessary due to the training program they had in place (subsequently cancelled). So when I got thrown on a live deal with no support right off the bat and no training I was surprised by the partners attitude given the firm knew all of this about me before they hired me.

In my 8 months on the job I cut my time down building models from scratch from 4 hours to 2 (5 years of annuals and quarters with segment data, KPI's, 3 statements, etc. and trends with analysis). At first I could see how 4 hours for that task is a little long but doing all that in 2 seems reasonable. I don't have any frame of reference point here other than my own. Would you agree? Disagree? 

PommesQT, what's your opinion? Comment below:

As an AN / ASO, you are always going be valued on the work that no one else wants to do - data entry, slides, model building.

You will never be considered good until you prove you are reliable, because in everyone's eyes, that IS your job.

I've seen people get away with being shit at those things, but they just lucked out into having a strong, overprotective senior which is super rare. Or they managed to kiss ass higher up and get enough resources to cover their ass. ie. a shit ASO using a strong AN as cover.

What exactly are you struggling with? If you can do the job but just tend to make errors, figure out some quick checks to prevent that. Also, a lot of errors are easily caught when you have enough experience - one look and you know something is off - so it's telling that you haven't developed that ability yet.

I know of someone who had that issue but was inherently very smart and very good with people. He just went to a lower tier of firms instead, and they were so happy to have him that they promoted him to VP - where he started being judged on those critical thinking and management skills and didn't have to worry as much about attention to detail.

  • 5
  • Associate 1 in PE - Growth

First off, you have a great deal of patience and dedication to be going through that without lashing out and continuously wanting to learn and improve. It seems like you're in a much better spot now technically - given that your skillset is critical thinking, qualitative analysis, research, etc. I would suggest you ditch PE and look into VC or even early-stage growth equity. Modeling and technical is helpful but not as intensive in those two verticals. You can also sell the strategy work you did to a VC / GE firm as they would value that. Good luck and keep learning!

Incoming cfa level 1 charterholder, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Judging someone by the amount of time they are in said role is a dumb take imo. Just because you are in said role X mo ths doesn't mean you are getting the proper experience in all tasks related to a role. 

  • 1
warkerparby, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Sorry to hear that. Some of the examples you mentioned about him seem egregious. It sounds like you got stuck reporting to someone really hard to work for who was not understanding while also starting from behind (your lack of banking experience). Where do you stand with the firm? Are there others that would give you a good reference? If you have good brand name experience on your resume, you should be able to get interviews. You should just be prepared to respond to why you left early. You can point to the toxic work culture but have clear examples of work that you did like deals you worked on and your contribution. And seek out to a reference or two whether from this or another job that can advocate for you. It's an uphill battle but I do know someone who was in a similar spot, was able to get another role and is doing really well in it now.

All that said, it's important to self reflect as well. You could have been model prepping before you started to get yourself up the curve for when you hit the desk. From reading your post, there are several grammatical errors. Do you have enough attention to detail when turning in work products and check your work? How often were you repeating the same mistakes? When you sense such a dramatic shift in senior people's attitudes, it could be because they feel they have given you a lot of feedback but you're making the same mistakes. Anyways, I wouldn't dwell on these items but are things to consider before you start up in another spot.

  • 3
  • Investment Analyst in PE - LBOs

I don't think I'm going to be able to get references from the firm. HR said they discouraged employees from giving them and the only person I worked for was my partner so nobody else could really speak about me in a way that moves the needle.

I sent a standard email thanking him for the opportunity, telling him I learned a lot from him, and want to continue in the business so I would appreciate it if he could speak positively to my work ethic if another firm asked for a reference. I haven't gotten a response which isn't a surprise but am happy I at least made the ask and don't think it was unreasonable/unethical.

I can get good references from the guys I worked for at the boutique PE firm and may be able to do some work for them during my downtime in an effort to continue to improve. While I work on that I'm planning to reach out to the two other funds that I got offers from to see if they'd be receptive to my coming on board. I'm not optimistic in those prospects but in a market like this I know I need to be putting as many shots on goal as I reasonably can.

There's a delicate line that needs to be walked between coming across as logical vs. bitter and I'm not exactly sure how exactly to walk that line at the moment. How would you navigate commenting on leaving and the firms toxic environment without it reflecting back poorly on me?

On the self reflection piece I'm not making the same mistakes twice but my attention to detail does still need to continue to improve. I never made egregious errors (balance sheet not balancing) but I'm prone to making 1-2 small mistakes on tasks (not making a title bold in column 7,000 on the 5th tab in our file) especially when working under a time crunch which is when those small mistakes start to compound. 

  • Associate 1 in PE - LBOs

You have a lot more patience and are willing to put up with a lot worse than I could, and I think you would do fine at another firm that moves a bit slower and frankly is a little nicer to its junior investment professionals. I would keep networking with LMM and MM firms (a lot of tech funds out there these days) and like other posters mentioned, try to connect with the people at your old firm that gave you good feedback and see if they could be a reference in the future.

  • 1
  • Investment Analyst in HF - Other

I literally don't know how to process some of this stuff. I took the typical IB>PE>HF route and worked a respected MM/UMM in PE and there's a lot there that's just luck of the draw (staffed with shitty partners) and other that's just absurd (having an analyst training program and then just scrapping it out of the blue?). But my biggest question - why were you staffed directly with a partner from the jump? Did you interview with them specifically? As an associate you should have at least 1 and prob 2 layers between you and the partner, is that not typical for your shop? And you silo juniors with partners?

  • Investment Analyst in PE - LBOs

There was never a clear reason I was given as to why the training program got cancelled (found out on first day) and why I was staffed directly with a partner from the jump. I felt blindsided in a lot of ways when this happened given I asked targeted questions when evaluating offers. Had I known any of this I never would have taken the job in the first place.

What I gleaned during my time there was that my staffing was attributed to a sizable exodus in the firm. Prior to my joining about a third of the investment professionals left the firm to start their own shop after losing a power struggle. The source of the power struggle was essentially two competing ideologies that weren't willing to work together and created a ton of friction internally.

It is not the norm for them to silo juniors with partners so my situation was atypical. Our other office had a much better system in place with a bullpen type environment and a support layer in place for juniors. I unfortunately never got that support layer because my partner ran the associate out after 3 months (came over from a top group at GS/EVR) prior to me staring and the firm wasn't willing to replace him (making me the only junior employee in our office).

The frustrating part of this is I'm feeling paralyzed as to where I go from here. On the one hand, I can see how in some respects I got dealt a bad hand and on the other I'm not so sure that if I went elsewhere my experience would be radically different given the abrasive personalities of many within the industry. Therefore, I'm at somewhat of a loss as to whether I should continue to go down this path given the sacrifices I made to get here. 

  • Principal in PE - LBOs

"What I was trying to communicate was that compared to my peers I struggle with the execution part of the job (building models and data entry) but am much better at critical thinking (analysis of those models, reading the tea leaves in the market, subsequent investment strategy, and crafting ideas)..."


you have the wrong expectation of the job. your title is what, associate? if you can't execute, you were fired for being incompetent.

  • Associate 2 in PE - LBOs

You sound like a loser just trying to let it out when you can be anonymous 

  • 3
  • Associate 1 in IB-M&A

I can resonate with you as I'm in a similar spot.

To be honest, despite there are a lot of reasons that things may not work out, I'd strong encourage you think about what you could have done better. Put yourself in the other person's shoes - if you were him, what would you want to see / receive?

Finance is a hierarchy; and you have to have the service attitude to seniors to succeed. I was less so and hence struggling as well. There are things that I could have done better for sure, but I strongly suggest you to understand what is the expectation of the role, and just do what they want you to do extremely well.

  • 2

Sorry, but what is comical is you still believe there is a permutation this would have ended well. You seem to think if training was never scrapped this partner would act differently. Instead of seeing right away what it was, leveraging the big name and partners success path, you tried to remedy the situation. For someone who has strong "critical thinking" skills that is pretty bad drinking of the koolaid. So let's be real here, you had a chip on your shoulder and wanted the "big name" glitz got into your eyes. Guess what the partner knows that as others mentioned your job is to execute and gets his deals done you get paid. Showing up first to the office? You think someone like this has any inclination in the morning that you exist, no its their world and you are apart of. You were let go on their timeline not yours, as soon as deals/work-flow slowed he sent you packing.

I suggest in the future in any professional setting, you lead with "I am someone with experience in PE, mainly focused around critical thinking and strategy work etc.." vs "I clawed my way for 7 years and went to a big12 school". 

  • Associate 3 in IB - Gen

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