7 Steps to Becoming a Partner at a Consulting Firm

Having coached Partner ‘hopefuls’ at Big 4 Consulting Firms to become Partners, I’d like to share some learnings which the Consulting Firms and the hopefuls may find worthwhile to explore.

1. Start Early

Once someone becomes a ‘hopeful’, there is normally a period of 1-2 years before the Partner panel interviews happen. Often people are asked to see a coach or participate in a 360-degree assessment when troubles surface. Instead of waiting till the 11th hour, the hopefuls can start their development journey by seeking help and feedback, if required, from internal and external sources, at the earliest.

2. Use current assessment reports

Most Consulting Firms invest in their hopefuls by getting detailed assessment/Individual development (IDP) reports made. Besides highlighting strengths, these reports also highlight the potential derailing behaviours which the hopefuls need to work on. The baseline data from these reports can be used to start the developmental process. Depending on the goals, additional tools may be deployed during the development journey to get specific data and generate insights for the hopeful.

3. Work on the mindset shift required to become a Partner

Becoming a Partner at a Consulting Firm is the ultimate goal of most Consultants. Not only does it tell the world that you have ‘arrived’, it actually opens up many more doors for you and provides a platform to bring in more business for the Firm. Typically hopefuls need to step back from what they usually do – delivery and execution – and take up a business development role more actively. They need to let go off the linear growth path and adopt the mindset of shifting their behaviour towards greater accountability and ownership. As a Partner, you become an ambassador of the Firm and do things beyond the call of duty.

4. Network more easily – externally and internally

This is one area which does not come naturally to most but is increasingly becoming important to not just becoming a Partner but also thriving as one. Cultivating the habit of Strategic’ Networking as against merely ‘Operational’ or ‘Personal’ Networking is an art and a science that is never too late to start. As a Partner you need to be more visible at industry forums and also groom your subordinates at work. So if you have been doing that in some measure as a hopeful, you stand a better chance of becoming a Partner.

5. Provide Thought Leadership

Becoming a Partner also requires a shift in your perspective – from seeing just the current picture to be able to see beyond tomorrow – making use of economy and industry reports to connect the dots and be able to see what it could mean for your current and potential clients. What this means for a hopeful is to be able to talk to current clients about business in general rather than just their account and also be able to cross-sell different verticals of the Firm, if it is in the client’s best interest.

6. Figure out your learning style

Being a thought leader means you have to be on top of your game. That means you need to have sufficient knowledge. Most newly minted Partners are hard pressed for time even if they have the intention to stock up on their knowledge. As a hopeful, how do you like to learn? Can you read during your commute to and from work? Do you watch videos on You Tube to catch up on the latest trends? Are you a morning or evening person when it comes to learning?

7. Prepare for the D-Day

Facing a Partner panel interview can be unnerving. As with any other interview, hopefuls can make sure they rehearse enough and sound natural, are well read to think on their feet and are aware of their body language. They need to think like an Ambassador of the firm, be aware of the linkages between various verticals and display conviction in what the Firm stands for. Doing all this will boost their confidence so that they can be themselves at the time of the interview. After all, a ‘Partner’ tag in a Consulting Firm does not come easy!!

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