As the relationship between employer and employee continues to develop, there is no longer a ‘job for life’. These days many businesses buy in skills they either don’t possess or that they don’t want on the books for a long period of time (which makes sense if it’s for a one-off piece of work such as system implementation, acquisition, or a change programme).
Not only that, interims are often significantly cheaper and much better at implementation than the big 4 consultancies, so they are a much more attractive option for employers.
But what actually is an interim? And can I become one?
Before you take the leap into interim management, it’s worth considering if it is really for you. It may seem glamorous but operating as a sole entity can be lonely at times. Coupled with the pressure of constantly delivering in a project environment and searching for a new assignment a number of times per year, it can be very stressful.
Ahead of going to market, it is worth considering what you do well, what work you enjoy, and if these are the sorts of skills that clients might need to ‘buy in’.
Is it something that organisations might struggle to do successfully? If so, there could be a need for someone with your skillset.
As a guide, typical interim assignments can broadly fall into the following categories:
· Organisational and operational change programmes
· Project implementation and project recovery
“Getting the first gig is always the most challenging. A lot of people who have successfully made the transition have found the first 6 months especially difficult! Don’t let that put you off.”
My advice for getting your first assignment:
Stick with what you know; it can be much easier to get your first assignment with your current employer or with someone you have worked with in the past (for a search partner, this can also gain confidence that you deliver, if you are asked back by a former employer!).
Network extensively; assignments are normally found either through your own network or via an interim management intermediary. It’s important to build a strong network of contacts in both camps – and anticipate to have a blend of work from either side.
Invest in yourself; you need to start thinking of yourself as a business! If you’re looking to become a recognised project manager and don’t have the qualifications, I’d thoroughly recommend investing in your own development. Most employers look for Prince2, MSP or PMP, as well as sound delivery experience in a particular focus area.
Get some professional advice; there are a number of professional bodies such as the IIM or IMA who can give you advice and guidance. Many interim managers are really open to being helpful, so ask their advice – this also helps to build your network.
Create a proposition; successful interims either have a deep specialism in a particular area (which makes them a front runner for assignments and means they can typically charge a premium rate! However, they might be on the bench for a while if that market goes quiet). They may also have a broader skill set and need to take a variety of assignments to keep their experience current (this will allow you to go for more roles but remember, until you’re established, you may find that you’re pipped to the post by professional interims managers.)
And don’t forget you’ll need to set up a Ltd company and get a good accountant! (It may seem like a significant outlay but trust me a good accountant is worth their weight in gold.)
To discuss further, you can email me on James@refind.co.uk.
You can view more about James Cumming our change and business transformation specialist here.