Being an interim has definitely got it’s perks, but there is one inevitable aspect of this lifestyle choice that must be addressed. Job hunting. Unlike those colleagues who reside in the world of permanent work, interims often find themselves in one of two modes: 1) Working like a whirling dervish to deliver on assignment…or …2) not working, but actively looking for the next assignment so you can deliver like a whirling dervish…
Realistically, you should expect to have anything between 3 and 5 months as down time between interim assignments. Of course, if you’ve been following this series you will know that building and maintaining good client relationships is vital if you are to maximise your income potential and avoid prolonged periods on the bench.
In spite of this, there may well be times when the transition from one project to another is protracted and serious searching becomes the requirement if you are to keep yourself in beer money. Here are my top tips:
1. Job-hunting is a job! You wouldn’t dream of showing up late to a client meeting wearing inappropriate clothing. Just because you’re back at home, there is no excuse to show up late to your laptop wearing pyjamas! Schedule time to job-hunt. Decide up-front how much you want to invest in the process, diarise it, and stick to it. It’s far too easy to get distracted by the laundry or the gardening or Candy Crush..that way madness lies!
A sensible rule of thumb is to set aside 4 hours, 3 days per week. This gives you a spare 2 days to schedule meetings or interviews, and sufficient time to make calls, adjust your CV and reach out to your network via email. Of course, if another pattern works for you, then do that!
2. Focus your efforts. A week flies by, especially if you are waiting to find the next piece of work. As time goes on without a contract in the offing, you might increasingly feel pressure to find something, anything. It’s tempting to want to pursue every opportunity you spot, but being discerning pays dividends. Ernest Hemingway urged us ‘never to mistake motion for action’ and he’s right – just because you are doing lots of things, doesn’t mean they are the right things.
Focused activity will yield results, but you must be very clear on what you are looking for, and what you will say yes to. If Enterprise Architecture is your bag, for goodness sake stop applying for jobs as a sous chef! Same things goes for blanket bombing your CV to every interim provider in town. You are a professional interim, not a mailshot. Target your search and build strong relationships with a small number of providers who operate in your field. And be realistic. A very small percentage of the job market for interims is advertised. Using your personal and business network wisely can be a good way to be in the know when the right thing comes along.
3. Practice intense self care. Desperation isn’t a good look on anyone. Extended periods of unemployment can make you feel undervalued and underconfident, so it’s important that you build in ‘me-time’ when you are job searching. Repeated rejection is demoralising, and you need to be strong of mind and heart to persist – and ultimately – to secure the next piece of work. A good support network helps, but using the additional time to do something fun can lift your spirits, help you maintain equilibrium, and make you appear more rounded in interviews. Personally, I relish my down time – in my 7 years as an interim, I’ve been able to renovate a crumbling wreck, pursue my creative hobbies (printmaking and pottery) and begin training for a 10k race. My running ability is totally remedial but at least it gets the blood flowing to my brain while I’m pounding the pavement!
Job hunting can be tough, but it needn’t be tiresome. How do you do it? I’d love to know what your top tips are. Answers on the blog please!
Lisa Bondesio is a career interim. She She delivers common sense and change consultancy to clients in times of transition. When she is not working she can be found on the coastal reaches swinging a sledgehammer!