What to Look for in Your First Partnerships Role

Cass Polzin
Cass Polzin13 Oct, 2021

So you’ve decided to make the leap into partnerships: congrats! We’re excited to have you here. While partnerships is an incredibly exciting function, much of your experience — including your goals, resources, and success you can drive — depends on the organization you’re supporting. 

We asked our community of hundreds of partnerships professionals what they wish they had known to look for in their first role, so you can benefit from their insights and find a great position to start your career in.

Alliance-focused Company Culture

Just because an organization has decided to build its Partnerships team, doesn’t mean they’re truly focused on building a strong partnerships function. For many companies, partnerships can turn out to be just a supporting arm of another function of the organization, like Sales or Marketing. While these are still valid partnerships motions, as a first-time partnerships pro, you might struggle to get the resources and support you need to succeed in a role like that.

Sarah Jackson, Senior Partner Manager at Contentsquare, has over two decades of experience in direct sales, sales leadership, and partnerships. She explained, “I think the most important aspect is to find a company that is partnership/alliance focused. While building out partner programs can be very rewarding, it is also a huge challenge. Most partnership roles now align with sales/revenue targets/quotas. If an individual is not as interested in the sales motion then looking for partner development, partner success and support roles will be critical.”

Commitment to Building a World-class Ecosystem

There are many reasons an organization chooses to partner. This can include expanding to new territories, developing broader co-marketing campaigns, or forging a partner-first ecosystem. Allan Adler, a Managing Partner at Digital Bridge Partners, feels it’s essential to look for organizations committed to the latter. Allan shared, “My number one recommendation to look for is a C-Suite understanding and commitment to building a world-class ecosystem.”

As part of building a world-class ecosystem, your organization needs to value win-win-win partnerships. The alliances you forge shouldn’t just be about increasing your sales or broadening your reach, but should more holistically support your partners’ and customers’ goals.

Investment in Your Growth

Whether you’ll be the first partnerships hire or will join a team of partner pros, it’s important that the organization is invested in your ongoing growth. Look for opportunities that include professional development resources. These can include:

  • Mentor programs
  • Access to industry events
  • Partnership Leaders membership

There aren’t always a surplus of resources available for partnerships professionals. It’s so important to have access to other individuals in the industry to bounce ideas off of, share experiences, and ask questions.

Growth Opportunities

With an alliance-focused culture, commitment to building a world-class ecosystem, and investment in your growth, you’ll be poised to advance in your career as a partnerships professional. This brings up the value of providing growth opportunities. While the organization may not have a week-by-week game plan for the future of partnerships, being invested in building an ecosystem and advancing your skills support your ability to grow with the organization.

As the first partnerships hire, you might get to grow the partnerships team from scratch. If you’re joining a partnerships team as a Partner Manager, you may have the opportunity to advance through the ranks of partnerships roles.

Budding & Experienced Partnership Professionals Alike Rely on Partnership Leaders

Partnership Leaders brings together hundreds of partnership professionals at varying stages in their careers. From Partner Managers just cutting their teeth to Chief Business Officers coordinating alliances at an executive level, members are able to connect with each other to share best practices and resources, ask questions, and network.

Anyone can explore our broad library of partnerships resources, while members benefit from our exclusive Slack community. Membership is by application only — when you land your first partnerships role, apply to join or ask your organization about investing in a team membership.

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