Getting to partner is not a sprint. It’s much more like a marathon, and like any top level endurance athlete, you will need a top level support team behind you. This article is taken from my new book Poised for Partnership, and it sets out why a support team is so important, and who the key members need to be.
What is a support team?
Your Partner Track support team is drawn from all areas of your life: personal, professional, and family networks. They all have important roles to play in helping you make partner, and living to tell the tale! The two most important members of this team are your mentor and your sponsoring partner, and I’ll explain why later.
Why does a support team matter?
As I mention many times, going for partner is like having at least two jobs. You can’t do it on your own. Your support team back up and guide you: cheer you up when things seem to be going wrong, and cheer you on when things are going well. They take some of the strain and help you keep fresh and energised for the road ahead. You can’t do it without them at your side.
Who should be in your support team?
The exact composition will be different for everyone, but there are five key positions that have to be filled. These are:
This is someone in the firm with more experience than you, who can act as an objective sounding board and whom you trust for honest feedback and guidance. They play a vital role in preparing you for partnership and should:
- help you grow your profile in the firm, particularly in areas where you are not so well known,
- give you tips on who to spend time with to strengthen your personal case, and
- be one of your best advocates with the board when they meet to discuss new partners.
Read more about how a mentor helps with your partnership business case.
Your sponsoring partner
Typically, this is the head of your department or practice area. They are the person who will decide if you are ready for partner track and when you are ready for recommendation to be made up to partner. You don’t usually get much say in who your sponsoring partner is, so read my articles on working with unreasonable partners and collaborating with your colleagues, and particularly read how to build a strong relationship with your sponsoring partner!
Your sponsoring partner plays a similar role to the mentor, and may also be the person who writes and pitches your partnership business case. If you are looking at a lateral move into a new partnership, your sponsoring partner will be the person championing your case within the firm.
Your external coach
Having someone supporting you from outside the firm is a very valuable asset. Although the firm may be paying for them, a coach is independent and may be the only professional person to whom you can speak frankly without jeopardising your career. Having an external coach gives you space to think away from the hurly-burly of your work life. He or she will help you work out what’s really important, and make sure that the partner track is really right for you. When you are going for partner, it can be very lonely – in between teams, no longer level with your former peers, but not yet part of the partner team. A coach understands that, and will support you whilst making sure you have the key skills you are going to need.
It goes without saying that having a happy and supportive home life is essential while you are going through the intense pressures of making partner. It is very hard (if not impossible) to concentrate on your progression if there are long term problems at home.
Your friends within work
Going for partner means you are committing at least the next 5 years to this firm. It’s important that you like and trust the people you are going to work with. If you find that you have very few friends at work, think hard how much you want to commit yourself to that particular firm.
Getting through Partner Track is not a solo effort. You need a top quality support team to help you get there. Who do you have in yours?
This article originally appeared in a slightly 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.