Have you always wanted to explore the world of interim work, but felt it was like temping at management level? Or maybe you just weren't sure how to make the switch from a permanent position? Being an interim executive does require a specific set of skills and a particular temperament, but for those who actively choose it and who suit the ups and downs of the job, it can be an extremely fulfilling career – and lifestyle.
I recently sat down with a couple of BIE consultants to discuss what they felt were the key points you should understand if becoming an interim is a career you’d like to explore. It’s a unique role, and there are some things you should know and do to prepare yourself for it.
1. Successful interims have common behavioural traits
The best interims have the ability to cope with flexibility, change and variety, and are sometimes akin to adrenaline-junkies, enjoying the thrill of the new and the high-pressure challenges they’ll be responding to. Perhaps for this reason, they’re also happy to be their own boss, with all the responsibility that entails. They’re able to start a new role, and immediately engage with their tasks and ask the right questions that will improve the organisation. It’s about arriving in a new office, learning about their environment on the fly, and getting down to their job straight away.
2. They embody adaptability and preparedness
The next role could be anywhere, for any length of time, with the likelihood of long hours. On the other hand, interims may have down-time without any assignments for several months – the best interims thrive under that uncertainty and opportunity. A decent financial cushion can mitigate some of this risk – six months is the minimum usually recommended. Interims also have the option of ‘portfolio working’, where they work for several different clients at once, bringing their specialist expertise to a range of companies rather than just focusing on one.
3. They understand the value they bring to a client
Interims offer specialised expertise for specific projects, usually around crisis management, turnaround or major organisational transformation. They can be stand-ins while a senior team member has stepped away from the company, but more and more interims are managing short-to-medium length projects on tight timelines, and leaving once their task has been completed. They bring an independent, expert eye to the project, and deliver a strong return on investment for their work – they have to, since a good track record is their stepping-stone to further roles.
4. Networking is a key skill
A successful interim makes networking an ongoing habit, not something recently started as a process to find a new role. The best interim executives thrive on genuine connections, and not only maintain existing relationships but continue to build more wherever they are, at every level of the company and across industries. They give as much as they take, too: they have a history of supporting others in their network, and of connecting with recruiters, throughout their previous careers and beyond.
5. Interims understand what they are ‘famous’ for
They know exactly what it is they can offer, and what it is that makes them stand out from the crowd. As well as their experience and expertise, great interims have a credibility and authority in leading departments and organisations – successful management experience is essential. They are highly specialised, too: they bring experience in problem-solving and meeting targets for organisations, and have full understanding of how to leverage their specific services for each client’s role.
Life as an interim can be complex, uncertain and challenging, but can also offer great rewards to those who understand and seek out that career path. So, are you ready?