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I’ve been a career interim for just over 10 years now (Time, where have you gone!), so I’m often approached for advice on starting out. You will find lots of helpful, practical information at The Interim Hub and Institute of Interim Managers, but here’s my take on the things you need to know as a newbie. Ask yourself:
Q. Can I afford to do this? I launched my interim career at the time of the global Banking Crisis. Hell, Yeah! I like the North Face, but I wouldn’t recommend this as a start-up strategy…
It can take a bit of time to find that first assignment (See my earlier post J is for Jobhunt) so I’d recommend you build up 3-6 months savings to tide you over when you first step into this field. Worrying about the mortgage is not conducive to ace-ing that interview. Building reserves to insulate you from the vagaries of the job market isn’t just sensible, it’s essential.
Q. Am I prepared to be flexible? By my own reckoning I’ve notched up at least 600,000 miles (965,606 kilometres) commuting to and from client assignments in the last decade. Never mind the air miles, that’s enough to take you around the globe approximately 25 times!
Are you prepared to spend weeknights in a crappy hotel away from your friends and family? Are you prepared to get up at 5 a.m. on a Monday and spend 3 hours on the motorway getting to your client? What about those global conference calls that start at 21h00 on a Sunday night? Very often the most interesting assignments are not local – you will have to travel, and far. Make sure this way of life jives with your personal commitments.
Q. Will I be able to start again? I hate to break it to you sweeties, but when you become an interim, you are your own brand. This is not necessarily a bad thing! Yes, it’s super that you have worked at blue-chip branded companies, but when you step into the world of interim, you are not your big-cheese job title + swanky organisation. That stuff becomes irrelevant after two or three assignments.
You are you as an individual, which carries less kudos than you might think. You will – continuously – need to work on building and maintaining your interim brand. And yes, at minimum that means professional looking business cards, a current Linked-In profile, not to mention a polished, coherent CV.
Q. Tell me what you want, what you really, really want? So sang the Spice Girls, but this refrain is relevant because you will get this question in interview. There are many upsides to being an interim, but one thing is for sure – you don’t dabble! Building a credible reputation takes time and more than one successful assignment, so you need to be truly convinced this is the life for you.
Be clear about what you are offering prospective clients – whether that is a skill-set or a particular industry expertise. Providers can spot a generic CV at forty paces, so keep your offer focused. Also, be clear on what you will say yes to – in respect of day rate, type of assignment or location.
Never a dull moment! And finally…If you do take the step to becoming an interim, I can promise you a life of excitement and derring-do. Well, actually no! That last bit wasn’t true. Making it exciting is up to you. Good luck.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever had as an interim? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Comments on the blog, please.