A partner at a consulting firm typically starts post-MBA as an Associate. At this point, you work with teams at existing clients – through this process builds relationships with clients.
After a few years, you have some decent relationships and a growing area of expertise (basically an area you’ve had a few reps in.) You start getting calls to write proposals, or to serve as a subject matter expert for other teams or the occasional random RFP. Once you’ve proven yourself at a few different clients – basically you demonstrate an ability to build trusted relationships and understand the client’s needs well enough to sell work – you are promoted to partner.
So by the time someone becomes a partner, they have found clients through a few channels: walking into established relationships created by more senior partners, developing relationships through working with clients, and creating new clients by winning RFPs.
Not nearly as entrepreneurial as some might think, nor as “blue blooded” as belonging to the right social circles.
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