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How NOT to tell your partners you want to go for partnership

By Heather Townsend, guest blogger,

It can be hard to tell your partners that you want to go for partnership. You don’t want to come across as pushy or arrogant, or speak out of turn. However, in my recent interviews with partners, and Jo Larbie, my co-author of ‘How to make partner and still have a life’, I learnt that your journey for partnership generally starts at the point you tell your partners that you want to go for partnership. In this blog post, we examine how to have that conversation with your partners.

We have experts strongly recommending that you tell your partners that you want to go for partnership. So, why do so many professionals recoil from the thought of doing this? I’ve heard people say things like this:

  • that’s not the way it’s done in my firm
  • it’s too early to think about going for partner
  • I don’t want to come across as pushy or arrogant
  • I’m worried they wouldn’t take me seriously
  • I’m worried that they will tell me I’m not good enough
  • I don’t want my peers (or partners) to think I’m getting ideas above my station

If you read through this, most of it is probably in your head. However, you may find this partnership potential self assessment tool (free download) handy to check whether you are probably seen to be partnership potential by your partners. If, after completing this tool, you find that you are probably not yet seen as partnership potential, my recommendation is to work on the gaps identified in the assessment for the next 3-6 months before having any conversation with your partner about wanting to become a partner.

Now, how to have that conversation? It’s probably not advisable to announce in a pub, slightly tipsy (or very tipsy) that you want to become a partner. Neither is telling a room full of your peers that you want to be a partner, the best way to have the conversation. Don’t even think about getting someone else to talk to your partner about your partnership prospects – are you a man/woman or mouse? If you are going to be a successful partner, you must be prepared to have a courageous conversation.

Here is how to have this conversation. Firstly, arrange to have a private conversation with the partner you work with most often, or the partner/director who has been allocated to you as a mentor. If you are asked for a reason for the meeting, say it’s about ‘how you are getting on in the firm (or something like that). In the meeting, after some chit-chat, ask the partner a couple of questions:

  • how do they think you are performing?
  • where could you be improving or strengthening your skill set ready for the future
  • what do you think about my potential for progressing my career in this firm?
  • what skills or capability would I need to gain if I wanted to make partner and this firm?

Questions such as these will underscore that you are keen and committed to progressing to partner – and will also naturally lead onto a natural conversation about whether you want to get to partner.

One word of warning. One of the best ways of having a career limiting conversation with your partners is to tell them you want to be a partner by a certain point in time. Partners normally hate this – they don’t like to be told that you are going to be a partner in the next 24 months…

What’s your experiences of having a conversation similar to this?

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Author Credit

Heather Townsend helps professionals become 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’. Over the last decade she has worked with over 300 partners; coached, trained and mentored over 1000 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

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