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Top Pieces of Career Advice from Partner Leaders

Whether you’re entering a career in partnerships for the first time, are curious about partner jobs in general or are ready to advance to a new level as a partner leader, gathering advice from pros in the space is invaluable.

We got to hear from some of the leading channel experts on our podcast, who shared their insights and experiences as partnership professionals. We’ve compiled four key takeaways to help those vying for a career in partnerships set themselves up for success.

4 Key Takeaways About Partnership Career Progression

There is no one-size-fits-all journey into partnerships

Though the world of partnerships is expanding and growing, careers in partnerships are still not as widely broadcast as other professional roles and opportunities. There’s no college degree in partner management, for example, so most leaders who end up in this space get there through diverse, even unconventional paths.

Will Taylor, Head of Partnerships at PartnerHacker, shared on episode 21 that he studied psychology in hopes of becoming a therapist. 

But I fell into doing sales… as, you know, a lot of people do, and either they have a psych degree or they just don’t know where they’re going to go in their career.

Taylor said he enjoyed the human interaction aspect of sales, but after becoming laid off during the COVID-19 pandemic, he shifted gears and came across a partner enablement job.

“Now the piece that was intriguing about that was that I love enablement. I love empowering others to take action and, of course, become successful through that action,” he said. “So, technically this partner piece was really just an interesting, additional thing that I didn’t know much about, but it sounded pretty cool.”


A background in sales is common for professionals who end up in partnership positions, but others might have experience in customer service, marketing or even more creative roles.

The common thread is the ability to connect and form relationships with other human beings, which is what partnerships are all about.

When I was doing a bit of due diligence before I moved into the role, I did a lot of messaging on LinkedIn where I saw people moving from sales to partnerships,” he said. “I was like, ‘Hey, can we have a chat? I’d love to hear about your journey.’ Which I definitely recommend, by the way.

Advancing up the ladder starts with self-reflection

Partner managers who want to move up in their careers to director or VP level should already be doing the jobs to which they aspire. This is the advice Ben Bassett, Senior Manager of Channel and Alliances at Paystand, recommends on episode 24.

 

My strategy starts with a common refrain that we so often hear. I see it on LinkedIn, and I did I hear some trainings: ‘You start doing the job before you have the job.’ That’s a great platitude,

A key piece of this is reflecting on the work you’re currently doing and what you want to accomplish next. Bassett suggests asking yourself, ‘Are my activities effective? Are they generating the results that I need to? Is it [benefiting my] clients and my company?’

Understanding how your role relates to the business can be tricky for a lot of people. Completing a self-QBR can help you pin down all that you’ve accomplished, which you can use as leverage as you work to advance to the next level.

Bassett said when he was reflecting on his role, he considered the goals he had as an individual and for the company at large. He then thought about whom he needed to connect with—from sales to finance to the product team—to accomplish these goals.

“Seeing how I could be a central hub and spoke out from there to the other departments, that’s what the trick was for me,” he said.

Be prepared to progress—even if the timing isn’t right right now

Getting promoted from an individual contributor to senior-level in the partnerships space can happen fast, but only if there is a business need and the timing is right.

Partner managers can carve out the perfect career path, prove themselves time and time again and have data to back up their success, but if the organization isn’t ready, a bit of patience is required.

In the meantime, equipping yourself with results and stellar performance, rather than feeling discouraged and stepping back, will give you a major advantage.

Kyle Schroeder, VP of Global Partnerships at Movable Ink, said on episode 23 that he prefers to hire from within and looks for individuals who are already demonstrating the skills needed to fit a more senior role—even if hiring isn’t happening right now.

The ability to understand the role of first hand [sic] before you move into a more senior level role just goes a long way in your ramp time and your ability to, if you’re going to be a people manager, lead that team underneath you

Schroeder said he pushes his team to document and track their successes so when the organization is ready to hire for their “dream role,” they have the tools they need to back up their qualifications.

“Looking at what you are setting out to do on a quarterly basis and how is that impacting the business, and then taking those things, packaging up the results and starting to share those and circulate those around with your manager, with your peers, so that they can understand what you’ve been working on and the impact you’ve had… all of those things really set the stage to have that conversation about moving up in the organization to a role with greater responsibility,” he said.

Gain Even More Insights from Partnership Pros

From career advice to building out a partner program from scratch, tapping into the expertise of leaders and mentors in the space is not only recommended—it’s encouraged by partnership professionals.

Hear from the pros themselves on The Partner Channel Podcast, where we highlight experts’ experiences, wins and challenges in the partnership space.