This topic comes from two of our newsletter subscribers, who asked us to write an article on "career management for seasoned Interims. How to grow and take on bigger new roles not done before" and "how interims should be proactive to fill their sales funnels".
Interim managers typically combine depth and breadth of expertise in their chosen sectors and discipline. But what happens when you want to work in a new sector, in a different location, or on a different type of project? Or when you just want something new?
Are these opportunities available?
In the end, the most successful career interims at the senior end are good because they have broad experience that makes them more marketable. So how do you ensure the doors to these opportunities are open?
The power of relationships
It all comes down to your network. The personal network you’ve built from people you’ve worked with and connected with throughout your career.
With a saturated market at the senior end, the reality is that landing a new role is much easier through these networks than if you were to apply to a job directly. The chances of finding success that way is like cold-calling; you might be lucky that you make a call and catch somebody just at the right time.
But you’ll be more successful if you have a trusted network of people you have strong relationships with, who will put your name forward when new opportunities arise.
You need people that know you. People that have enough confidence in your ability to stick their head on the line and vouch for you. People who can say they’ve worked with you on a change programme, and you haven’t worked in this particular sector before or on an ERP implementation, but if they’re looking for somebody well-suited to lead the programme, then you are the ideal candidate.
Ultimately, the key is to develop a strong reputation for being highly successful in your approach to work, and to nurture the relationships you build with people you meet along the way.
Networking is a two-way street
Networking isn’t just about what’s in it for me. You need to be prepared to give something back and to give as much as you take. Your voice needs to be heard when others are asking for recommendations and for you to sponsor someone. It’s a simple case of: you get what you give.
Some of the most ferocious networkers are not the best networkers. Building relationships isn’t just about going to every networking event. Aggressive networkers are too obvious, too salesy, too try-hard. You’ve got to be natural and genuinely capable of building decent relationships. Be memorable, but not by forcing a business card or forcing a meeting. Keep in touch with people, offer support and help, and remember it’s a two-way street.
Networking shouldn’t just be about connecting with the most senior people in an organisation either. It’s not uncommon for senior interims to go back and work for people they hired years ago and helped develop. It’s an interesting dynamic - one that shows the power of true, deep relationships.
Connecting with recruiters
By building relationships with recruiters, you increase your chances of being considered for roles in broader industries. If a recruiter knows and trusts you, they’ll be better able to sell you convincingly to the hiring organisation. There is a big added value in that, compared to if you are applying to a role directly with no history or any relationship with the client.
It’s also important to note that recruiters will have long-established networks, and it’s not uncommon that when a role comes in at a senior level, it’s likely that they’ll be making a mental shortlist of candidates before they even step off the call. The message is: you need to be on their radar.
But it’s the personal network that is most critical. It’s simply not enough to rely on recruiters alone if you want to change paths or step into bigger and better opportunities. Besides, if someone hasn’t built strong connections throughout their career, it raises questions about why that is. Are they not easy to work with? Do they not have what it takes to make a difference?
Being a successful interim means being high-impact, independent and time-focused. But it also means being able to connect with people and to nurture those connections.
The reality is that people who have worked hard at maintaining genuine relationships with both colleagues and recruiters will have a much better chance of finding successful interim work. Sometimes being an interim can be quite solitary, so a network of peers is vital. The best interim managers are natural relationship-builders throughout companies and across industries.