By Andy Montgomery. Published on 16 March 2017
Today’s job market is a challenging one, so it’s no surprise job seekers are increasingly leaving themselves open to both permanent and interim options for their next move, particularly those in more senior roles. For some job seekers, the switch can be seamless, but this isn’t always the case.
For many, the move can bring a new lease of life to their career: flexibility, increased income and greater variety of work. For others, it can equally be an opportunity to produce tangible deliverables to a client on a short-term basis, rather than committing to another permanent corporate role.
That said, it’s not all a bed of roses. With an increase in the number of interim managers, gaps between assignments have increased. Equally, those thinking of interim as a temporary switch need to consider their own personal brand in the eyes of both corporate headhunters and interim providers.
Here are my top five tips to help optimise your successful transition from a permanent role to landing your first interim assignment:
1 – Respect your personal brand
Once you have made the decision to become an interim, it is key is to understand where you best add value, and more importantly, what your USP is. As an interim provider, we are generally asked for specialists of the ‘inch wide, mile deep in expertise’ type. For example, I’ve met many HR Directors who have felt that they could lead a COE function. But the reality is, most clients I work with are going to engage a specialist with a wealth of experience over someone who has ‘overseen’ a team. Understanding strategic priorities is one thing, tactical delivery of them is often another.
The other important thing to consider is the element of risk prevention on behalf of the client. Clients pay me to reduce risk on their behalf, through providing carefully selected experts to introduce to their businesses. After ten years operating in this field, I feel it should almost go without saying that all the people who make my shortlist can do the job, it is just a case of whether one candidate is more suitable than another. My job is to find the best in the market.
Remember: it is better to be called first about two roles, rather than tenth for ten roles, because we rarely get that far down the list. So, do take the time to think about what you want to be known for.
2 – Show resilience and adaptability
One of the many things that puts executives off swapping the corporate world for life as an interim is the level of uncertainty. Two things are important here: resilience, and adaptability. Firstly, when you first make your move into the interim world, it is important to remember you will be seen as the outside bet. The one without the track record at going in and hitting the ground running. I’ve heard “but my ten years with ‘client x’ was like a series of interim assignments because I swapped jobs regularly”. Maybe, but the reality is, influencing in an organisation where you are a known entity with a good track record, is very different to one where you are an unknown. Making a difference in 100 hours rather than 100 days is very much harder than it sounds.
You need to be prepared; your first role will nearly always take longer to find. To start off with, you will be seen as the person potentially between permanent jobs. From a client’s perspective, no one gets fired for making the obvious choice, and that’s usually the career interim who has the proven track record. It doesn’t mean you won’t find a role, it just might take a little longer, and you’ll drink a lot of coffees networking along the way.
When it comes to adaptability, part of this conundrum is the mental mindset that you may have previously had around your career and advancement. Ultimately, no one recruits an interim for their longer-term potential. They recruit for ‘been there, seen it, still got the scars’ experience. For many, this is the hardest transition. One where there is minimal stretch as you are doing something you may have done before. The key here is to rationalise your thought processes around the task in hand. The value you are adding is to the client in delivering a piece of work within a set timescale.
3 – Updating your CV and LinkedIn profile
This may seem obvious, but essentially LinkedIn is a live CV database. Any recruiter you have spoken with previously will instantly check this for an update on your current situation. Use this to your advantage. Many of the key points here have been covered by my colleague Tamara Harrison’s excellent blog here, however to add to this, as an interim or prospective interim manager, use the headline to say you are ‘Available Immediately’. I typically search on ‘Available’ or ‘Immediately’ to narrow down my search criteria if the search is too large.
When writing your CV, my advice would always be to focus on your achievements rather than your responsibilities. This helps ensure you are talking about key deliverables. Ultimately what any prospective hirer of interim managers is looking for is what the outcome was and what you achieved on assignment.
Please click here to read our latest blog on ‘CV Writing’ including tips and reminders to help write or update your CV.
4 – Commit and make an impact
Your reputation is vital to your success as a contractor, so put 100% into every role you take on, no matter its duration. As previously mentioned, when a permanent employee has 100 days to make an impact, a contractor may only have 100 hours, so you’ll need to make an impression quickly. Work out swiftly who the key influencers are and the key priorities.
5 – Use your network and be honest with recruiters
Your network will be key to finding future work, and, in particular, your first one when you lack a track record as an interim. Remember to reconnect with previous colleagues, employees, friends and industry contacts, all of whom could be sources for the next role and will know your strengths rather than having to be persuaded of them.
And don’t forget the recruiters! Remember honesty is key. It’s understandable you may want to keep your options open as a contractor – whether by assessing different interim opportunities or pursuing both permanent and interim roles at the same time, but please be open with us about your plans. Like any business professional, recruiters live or die on their reputation, so we always want to be acting ethically and honestly, and anything less than that, damages our relationships with our clients. Likewise, if we place you into a six month assignment and you leave after 3 without good reason or sensible discussion, it is highly likely that this will equally affect our relationship.
The final part about networking, is quite simple. Networking is not a tap that you switch on when you are out of assignment, and off when you secure one. The best interims stay in work because they are remembered. Equally, those I work with as clients are often the ones that I immediately think of when I am sourcing which puts them high up my list. Those that disappear off my radar more than likely are the ones I’ll forget or certainly won’t be top of my list next time round.
Don’t be disheartened if you don’t land a role immediately. But do seek advice from those that have good experience in the industry. Recently, we have spoken to interim managers with many years of interim management to get an insight into how they have developed their careers and their initial ‘leap into the unknown world of interim management’.
Please do get in touch with me, Andy Montgomery, should you wish to seek any further advice on interim management roles and how you can position yourself in the market.
I specialise in interim management opportunities within human resources with a particular focus on supporting clients through a period of transition or change. My network of senior level HR professionals has enabled me to deliver on assignments in areas such has talent, reward, ER/ IR, change and transformation, as well as senior HR leadership roles. I work with a diverse range of clients across sectors including telco’s, healthcare, manufacturing, hi-tech and FMCG.