Uncovering the Partnerships Career Path
Updated: May 11
Partnerships is still a relatively new function. Unlike sales or advertising, there aren’t decades of role models to reference. However, it is a role increasing in popularity. More and more, professionals are making their way into partnerships from other functions like business development, customer success, and marketing.
In other functions, there tends to be a fairly clear path. Going into the early stages of a marketing career, you can set your end sights on a CMO role, knowing you’ll have to work your way through individual contributor, management, and strategy roles before you can get there. But what are partnerships professionals working towards and how can they get there?
We interviewed over a dozen industry professionals to find out.
Thanks to Allbound for sponsoring this quarter’s spotlight series!
Allbound is a SaaS Partner Relationship Management (PRM) platform that gives its customers visibility into predictable channel revenue, indirect and direct pipeline, and insight into partner engagement and adoption. With Allbound, you have the ability to monitor, understand, and track partner behavior so you can measure, iterate, and improve.
It’s common to end up in partnerships “on accident”.
Most individuals we spoke with shared they weren’t vying for a position in partnerships when they graduated. Professionals came from many different roles, often having partnerships as an informal or hybrid part of their responsibilities. From there, they may have landed in a more formal partnerships role accidentally, or intentionally sought out the position based on enjoying their exposure to partnerships.
Partnership roles take a little bit of everything.
Professionals highlighted how beneficial their past experiences in other functions have been to their current success in partnerships. Many specifically noted the partnerships career function as being a “Jack-of-all-trades” role. While specifics vary by company, there tend to be elements of many different functions incorporated into partnership responsibilities. From building relationships internally and externally to refining a value proposition, developing partnered go-to-market strategies, and collaborating with product teams, partnerships touches almost every aspect of the business. Having spent time in individual contributor roles in those functions, or collaborating closely with other teams is a significant advantage in partnerships.
There’s a role for everyone.
Since partnership roles are often a hybrid of many functions, you have the opportunity to do a little bit of everything. However, at larger organizations, there are increasing opportunities to specialize by function and industry. If you don’t like certain elements of a partnership role you’re in today, seek out other opportunities that focus on the elements you do enjoy. There really is a role for everyone, no matter your interests or background.
Your network is powerful.
As with in sales, knowing the right people is valuable. Interestingly, partnerships is a very well-connected industry. If you spend time in a given function or niche, you’ll likely start running into many of the same professionals — and organizations. Building out your network and staying in touch can be powerful. You never know who you’ll partner with next, or where you’ll find your next role.
It’s all about relationships.
Many of our interviewees either highlighted empathy as an important trait they have or one they look for when building out their teams. We also often heard partnerships equated to sales with a longer-term focus on relationships. Instead of closing a deal and handing it off, many shared they enjoy getting to celebrate wins with partners, continuing a relationship, and growing together.
Stay curious & learn from others.
While there may not be decades of examples to look at, there is a growing presence of partnerships professionals in the industry. There’s an enormous benefit in learning from others who have worked through the same problems and challenges you may be facing.
For the next few months, we’ll be taking a closer look at the career paths of various professionals in the industry across roles, experience levels, and more. Be sure to follow us on LinkedIn to find out when we share new interviews.
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