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How can a mentor be your partnership track secret weapon?

I have written a series of articles about the support team you need when you are on partnership track.  One of the key roles in this team is your mentor. This role is different, but complementary to the role played by your sponsoring partner. In this article, I look at how you can get full value from the mentoring relationship.

What does a good mentor do?

flourish 1200pxAny mentor worth their salt should perform the following roles to help you through partnership track. They’ll be:

  • your critical friend – telling you the truth, even if it’s uncomfortable,
  • a sounding board – giving you somewhere to safely try out ideas and approaches,
  • a role model – allowing you to learn from their example,
  • a coach – teaching you new skills and abilities,
  • your network key – helping you develop the connections you need, and
  • a facilitator – supporting you set and achieve objectives.

These are all great, and useful, things for you. However, there are additional ways in which you can get even more value from your mentor and turn him or her into your secret weapon for partnership success.

Grow your profile – particularly in areas where you are less well-known

If you have been reading my advice for a few years, you will already have strong connections right across your firm, because I have always said that you start planning for partnership at least a couple of years before making your move. However, if you are new to the firm, or have been unable to develop really good connections beyond your work area, then your mentor can raise your profile in these outside areas. By being associated with your mentor, your name will become better known, which will be vital when it comes to the partnership vote.

Insider knowledge on who you need to know

Not all partners are created equal. Some will have far more influence than others. Only someone within the partnership will be able to tell you who packs the biggest punch, and therefore who you need to have onside.  They will also be able to tell you how to get this big hitter to support you and how to gain their trust and respect.

One of your best advocates

If things are going really well, you will have several strong supporters for your admittance to partnership – your sponsoring partner, influential members of the firm, and your mentor.  When the conversations about partnership take place, the more advocates you have, the stronger your chances.

How to tackle the challenges of partnership

Becoming partner is one of the hardest transitions you will make in your career. Your mentor has done it and can be a great source of pragmatic advice on how to deal with the many challenges you will face.  Not only have they dealt with the same hurdles that you will, they also have the benefit of hindsight and can tell you how to deal with them better than they did.  They can also advise you how to fit into the partnership and work with your fellow partners: how to make an impression but not a rumpus.  One of my clients was very reassured when her mentor was able to tell her what the partners were looking for her to demonstrate in her business case.

A mentor is a vital member of your support team. If you are canny, you can adjust the relationship to get even more value from it and turn your mentor into a secret weapon for your partnership success.

These tips are taken from my latest book, Poised For Partnership. It includes many more tried and tested strategies to help you negotiate partnership track successfully.

This article originally appeared in a different form on the How to Make Partner website.

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’, Poised for partnership 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. 

Heather blogs regularly at How to make partner and still have a life and works with future and current Big 4 partners and professionals from mid-tier firms all over the world

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