If I took the Relationship Manager role...

What would the next step be…?
I have a background in management – I’ve run (in order) my own successful business, a national retail chain (90 branches) and most recently had national (profit and loss) responsibility for running finance products through a major bank’s branch network.

At 45, I recently took a redundancy and am close to being offered a relationship manager role with a very large, and very well known, accounting firm.

I like the firm, I like the people I’ve met, I like the way sheer professionalism with which these guys do business, but the role is a departure from the kind of career I’ve built for myself so far.

I‘m happy for the career change (I really like change), but I can’t figure out what the next step in my career would be if I took this role. And having experienced the narrow focus of recruiters recently, I feel that if I walk away from the “I’ve managed 20 direct reports and grown the business by 42%” space, I might not get back there again on the strength of relationship management experience.

So my question: does anyone have an understanding of what relationship managers/account managers/business development managers in top tier professional services do as a next step in their careers?

Thanks

M

Make partner, probably. I’m guessing we have folks here more qualified than I to speak to this. My experience is second-hand, from dealing with Accenture in the IT space, which is not quite where you’re at. That said, if the role in accounting pro services is similar to IT pro services, the next step from managing one relationship is to manage multiple relationships or larger ones. There is usually a “grow the business” aspect to it as well, which will fit well with your sales background.

Have you talked to the person you’d be reporting to about what the career path is like?

I have another interview next week where I will bring it up, but I’m reluctant to push it too hard as I don’t want to convey the impression that, “I’m enthusiastic about job A because I’ve really got my eyes on job B”. This is a top tier firm and during one of the interviews they were talking about their cultural renewall program and their plan to move the average age of admission to partner down to the low 30 yo mark. Made me feel a little like a dinosaur, and a little unsure about how I would integrate into their longer term view.

Really appreciate your input though Braniac.

Cheers

M

As a hiring manager (although not at the level where I hire people like you – my folks are analysts, specialists and people managers), I think the “what is the career path like” question is appropriate. Our annual review process is called the “performance and development” process, and part of it is specifically devoted to talking about what the employee does next in their career and what their long-term goals are.

You definitely don’t want to give the person hiring you the impression that you’re only interested in the job as a stepping-stone, but when you talk about things like “where would my career go at this company” you’re having a discussion about making a long-term commitment to the company, and that is usually a good thing.