In this article, Heather Townsend, co-author of How To Make Partner And Still Have A Life and The Go-To Expert, shares 5 tips based on her recent experiences of helping her client successfully get appointed to a partnership position in a top 5 firm in the UK.
1. Use them for interview practice
Every partnership admissions process is different. However most of them will involve an interview of some form or other. If you have been in a firm for a long time, when was the last time you had an interview? Could you be a little ‘out of practice’ with handling interview questions? There is a skill involved! As our client found it was incredibly helpful to have practice interviews with his sponsoring partner before he went into the interview. As a result he was literally word perfect when it came to the interview.
2. They can ‘pull strings’ on your behalf
When I asked our client about the probing his business case received from the partners in his panel interview, he told me very little. This is not my normal experience for a panel interview. What it suggests, and my client agreed with me, that his sponsoring partner had done a great PR campaign and influenced the firm’s partners about the need for his business case. With the ground work which his sponsoring partner had put in, my client had very little justification to do to prove his business case.
3. They can be 100% honest with you
In my experience, the really difficult conversations often don’t happen in professional service firms. Or get dumbed down so much that the real message which needed to be said never quite gets said or understood. I’ve been there in a post assessment centre debrief with a sponsoring partner and his potential partner, only to find the sponsoring partner say to me,
We didn’t think he would get through as he was rated 3 (performing as expected) in his current role.
As you can expect this potential partner crashed and burned at the assessment centre. It severely damaged his career and confidence by doing so badly at the assessment centre. The role of his sponsoring partner needed to have been to manage this person’s expectations so they knew that they were not ready for the assessment centre. Having an honest and critical friend in the form of your mentor of sponsoring partner is vital to help you truly understand your strengths and weaknesses, plus whether you are ready for partnership track. It is better to have someone honestly tell you that you are not ready – or may not ever be ready – than put yourself through a tough ordeal and deal with the damage to your self esteem and confidence afterwards.
As well as telling you whether you are ready or not, what they can also do is give you good guidance about how to sell yourself to the partnership in a way which will help them want you as part of the club.
If you are not getting this level of insight from your mentor AND sponsoring partner, then you need to be asking them these sorts of detailed questions.
4. They can help you put together your business case
Your mentor and/or sponsoring partner is not responsible for writing your business case. However your sponsoring partner is often responsible for signing off on your business case. This means that they are often putting their reputation on the line to say that they support your business case. Therefore, make sure you tap into their expertise to ensure that you have added the correct phrases and ‘hot buttons’ to your business case which will make the other partners consider you a good choice for partner. The best businesses cases that I have read clearly have been heavily influenced by partners within the firm.
Download our free step-by-step guide from our career kitbag to writing your business case for partnership (or promotion) to help you justify your business case (email required)
5. They can connect you to the key influencers in the partnership
In other articles within this blog I have talked about consulting with other partners across the firm to get their views on your business and personal case for partnership. Your mentor and sponsoring partner should be able to introduce you to the key partners who you need to get on side to make you a sure bet for partnership.
Heather Townsend helps professionals become the The Go-To Expert. She is the author of the award winning and best-selling book on business networking, the ‘FT Guide To Business Networking’ and the co-author of ‘How to make partner and still have a life’, and ‘The Go-To Expert’. Over the last decade she has worked with over 300 partners; coached, trained and mentored over 2000 professionals at every level of the UK’s most ambitious professional practices.