What’s your particular interim superpower? Mine happens to be working with CEOs and their teams to help them navigate change successfully. Of course, I wasn’t bitten by a radioactive spider – so while some of this ability might be innate, my skill in this area comes from a combination of graft and experience – a.k.a. hard work and multiple client engagements over more than a decade!
Although I make my living from change, I also am in the process of changing countries – swapping home life in the UK for wedded bliss in Bruges, Belgium. To help in this adjustment, I’ve spent the last 6 months formally studying Dutch. I’m pleased to say that I’m now about 80% fluent (give or take the odd verb) but this prolonged period of self improvement has made me think deeply about keeping current as an interim. Is it really necessary?
The short answer is ‘Yes’.
Clearly, there is no substitute for experience, but in today’s interim market, it’s wise to remember that ‘old ways, do not open new doors’. Here are my top tips for staying skilful and staying ahead:
Be relevant. Do your skills still matter in today’s gig economy? Are you au fait with developments in your industry or discipline? Once on assignment, it can be hard to make time to bone up on the latest trends – but it’s vital if you need to keep up with more than the Kardashians. I usually read the business section of a quality newspaper at least once a week, with a focus on the articles that relate to transformation and business change. Another option is to attend conferences or industry events. And if you really are short on time, why not use your commute to listen to a TED talk or podcast which speaks to your area of expertise.
Be portable. Just because robots are taking over the world doesn’t mean the future workplace won’t need people with super-powers. I’m not talking X-Ray vision here! However, if your skill set is limited to an industry with a shortening shelf-life, you might need to re-evaluate. Where best could you use your ability? What do you do that could be applied elsewhere? What value could different experience bring to a prospective new client? Wherever you are at, its important to package your know-how in a way that fits more than one square peg.
Invest. The best thing about being an interim is that you really are in charge of your own destiny. The worst thing about being an interim is that you really are in charge of your own destiny! If you are not investing in yourself, how are you adding value to your clients? Outdated ways of thinking and doing are not going to build your credibility as a proficient professional. So, spend the time to read. Spend the money to learn more. Spend the effort to sharpen your skills – it could be the difference between being left behind and leading the way in the interim olympics.
Stay Curious. When I was young, I was interested in everything. My biggest worry was that all the mysteries of the world would have been solved by the time I became a grown up. Obviously we still haven’t found the location of Atlantis, but we have found life on Mars,so maybe wanting to know isn’t such a bad strategy after all. The point is, ask questions, be interested in what’s going on around you. You might just learn more than you think you already know.
I’m curious! What do you think the top skills are in today’s interim market? Do you think it’s necessary to reinvent yourself every so often? Answers on the blog, please!