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While your responsibilities might feel rather narrowly defined at the start of your career in private equity, it’s actually important to demonstrate clear vision and a plan when starting in a new role. Through internal conversations you’ll get a sense of company teams and culture, and what kind of formal milestone methods are in place.
That said, you can always use a 30-60-90 impact plan to create a framework for success.
Before you start planning out job goals, you have to get the job in the first place. Securing a job in private equity is the first step, and it’s a big one, but should you make it in, you want to set yourself up for success. Getting burned can leave your job prospects slim to none in the future.
Make sure that you understand the culture, attitude, and expectations of your new company. Many companies expect 80 hour workweeks, so don’t balk when you see that laid out before you. Take into consideration your overall career goals and the arc that you imagine for yourself.
From there, it’s time for the 30-60-90.
When you’re making goals for your PE career, starting with the 30-60-90 approach is a solid way to proceed. It refers to the timeline in which you want to have achieved each goal: 30, 60, and 90 days. When planning out each milestone, here’s what you want for each set of days.
Each block of your plan should have a specific focus. The first 30 can have an emphasis on learning the requisite skills required to accomplish the job, the second 30 is a focus on contributions to the company, and the final 30 is about executing on what you’ve learned the first 60 days. That 90 day goal is focused around contribution.
In addition to focus, you want to make sure that you’re selecting meaningful goals that are paired with metrics for measuring your success at accomplishing those goals. A helpful way to do this is by breaking down your goals into three categories: growth, performance, and personal.
Remember, every goal needs to be SMART:
While if you’ve been hired, it’s likely that you know what you’re in for, but there are some common pitfalls to avoid when starting out at a PE firm.
The Analyst is the entry level position within a firm. Don’t let the entry-level nature of the job fool you, usually the best students from the best colleges are often shortlisted for this role, and it does carry a significant amount of responsibility. Analyst responsibilities usually revolve around tasks like:
Associates, on the other hand, usually are the next step up from Analyst. Most banks prefer in-house promotion, so if you get on track and meet your benchmarks, you can work your way up. Analysts are often supporting all three verticals of a bank: Mergers & Acquisitions, Equity Capital, and Debt Capital. However, when promoted to Associate level, people at this position are expected to specialize. The tasks are similar to what an Analyst does, but often Associates supervise Analysts, and perform more complex tasks as well. Associates can expect to assist with tasks like:
Because of their enhanced responsibility and position within a firm, an Associate will, generally speaking, make more than an Analyst.
If you’re not aware of the priorities that you have within your organization, you need to make sure those are clarified immediately. One of the biggest problems within any private equity firm (or any other business for that matter) is when a team member does not know what they’re supposed to be prioritizing or working on. Meeting with your lead regularly to make sure that you’re hitting the required benchmarks will help ensure that you stay on track.
Also, priorities for both Analysts and Associates will be remarkably different in the first days of the job, in spite of being similar in what is expected in terms of production. Analysts are usually the greenest of the green in the PE world, meaning that they’ll likely be given more slack and time to learn in the first 90 days. On top of that, Analysts are not expected to take leadership roles yet, even minor ones.
While Associates are not high up on the leadership chain, they will be expected to take more of a leadership role, often managing Analysts and being held accountable for some (but not all) of their performance.
There’s no way around it, the workload in private equity is pretty intense. Analysts can expect to be working 60-80 hour weeks in the first 6-12 months of your new position. Knowing that before you get started will help make it easier when you actually have to buckle down and do the work.
A silver lining to this particular problem is that as you become more proficient with your tasks, they’ll take you less time and energy to complete. The only reward for good work in PE is more work, so getting efficient and focusing on skill building as you go is essential to prevent burnout.
On the other hand, Associates might not have as intense of a workload, but the responsibility increase can result in additional intensity to the job, as they’re expected to perform at a higher level. Now, that intensity can contribute to burnout, so focusing on good leadership and management skill development can be essential in the first few days of a new job.
In the first 30 days of your new PE job, you should be focused on getting a lay of the land. The expectation is that you are an information sponge, absorbing everything you possibly can. By the end of 30 days, you should be able to understand all the operational aspects of your new position, and where everything is located. Learn the tools that are available, be they SourceScrub, Bloomberg, Capital IQ, or Dealogic. It’s likely that you’ll be working in minor roles during this period, but if you want to advance and make an impression you should take the initiative to learn about other roles and aspects of the PE world.
As an Analyst or an Associate, you’re going to need to be proficient at formatting and analysis by the end of your 60th day. You should know where to get the data that’s requested of you and deliver it when it's needed. You’re going to be required to produce slides and decks efficiently, and by this time you should be supporting the stakeholders above you.
At this stage, you’re expected to know what to do, and only to be told to do it once. Set your skill building goals accordingly.
By 90 days, this is when the serious goals kick in.
Establish a basic plan and calendar
It’s essential to have your plan down and a calendar full of appointments by this point. You need to be planning to be nimble beyond day 90 too.
Understand your shareholder base
You’ll need a complete understanding of your shareholder base, including investor types, regional splits, and institutional values. The more information you have on each shareholder’s strategy, the better your analysis will be.
Establish relationships with key internal and external stakeholders
By the end of the first three months, you should have met all management and key internal staff. Full stop. That goes for any customers you have contact with as well. Nail down all of your relationships with brokers, financial, and potentially the media.
Improve on your predecessor
Ask questions about what your predecessor did well and poorly, and make a point to start improving on their shortcomings from day one. This makes you a more likely candidate for promotion as well.
Remember that your first 90 days at any PE shop are going to be high stakes, intense, and probably pretty rewarding. Don’t forget to check in with your superiors to gauge your progress and performance, and make adjustments as necessary. After becoming more acclimated to your new role in PE, you can expect your superiors to work with you to develop a plan for how you can advance the interests of the firm, and your own PE career. SourceScrub offers even more resources for achieving PE success and you can check out our blog for more career insights. Good luck!