J is for…Jobhunt

Image: Dreamstime 2014

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!

Moving mountains…what it’s really like to be an entrepreneur

This weekend I climbed 3 of the highest peaks in Yorkshire. It was part of a charity fundraiser for the White Stuff Foundation, and involved getting up – and down – three mountains in under 12 hours.  Yes…26 miles (41 km) of non-stop hiking across the finest mud, rocks, rain and bogs that the Dales National Park had to offer.  It was physically hard…really, really hard.  It was relentless…the uphill climb felt never-ending at times. It was also fun…Well, it was when we weren’t getting rained or being buffeted by 50 mph winds.

On the journey home, as I sat nursing my dysfunctional knees and wondering if I would ever be able to walk without hobbling, I reflected on the experience.  It reminded me a lot of what it’s like to work for yourself.  Whether your title is ‘self-employed’, ‘small business owner’ or ‘entrepreneur’ – building a successful enterprise does, on occasion, feel a bit like moving mountains. Or wading through a bog, depending on your mindset…

And that got me thinking.  Stepping off the corporate ladder can mean you choose to climb a mountain instead.  But you have to start somewhere.  My 3 Peaks challenge began with the very first step I took as we headed towards Pen-y-ghent (691 m), but the preparation started much earlier.  It was something I wanted to do, so I had to make the decision to sign up, and commit time and effort to fundraising, preparation and travel.  As with life, so in business.  If you dream about working for yourself, there’s no place for the half-hearted. You need to fully commit to your ambition. And you need to take the first step.

Action, not thought, moves you towards your goal.  As I began the long ascent to the top of  Whernside (728 m) I just kept putting one foot in front of the other.  As the wind lashed my face and rain dripped down my neck, I must confess, I longed for a winged chariot to fly me to the summit.  But, I just kept putting one foot in front of the other. Counting my steps. Counting the rocks on the path. When you work for yourself, the hard yards are mandatory, despite what those ‘get rich quick’ schemes on the internet promise you. Wishful thinking will never make you the main contender, just a ‘might-have-been’.  You need to do, more than you need to think.

Even if you work alone, you are never really alone.  The last third of my journey got me to Ingleborough (723 m).  By this time, my knees had stopped working and the only bit of me that didn’t ache were my eyes.  I was facing what looked like a sheer wall of rock, so I stopped for breath and looked around.  Lots of other climbers were huffing and puffing their way to the top. Some were fleet of foot – others, like me, were feeling a bit tired and emotional at this point.  Well, more than a bit… I really wanted to give up and go home, but then I thought of all the family, friends and colleagues who had sponsored me and supported me. I thought of the team of people who were doing the challenge alongside me. And I kept going – all the way to the top.  Success as an entrepreneur is always a collective effort – never forget the people who support you, and don’t be afraid to ask for help and advice. There is always someone who has been there before you. Learn from them.

I realise  this post makes me sound like some sort of mountain masochist. Actually, the 3 Peaks Challenge was a lot of fun. Especially the glass of champagne that was waiting when we finished. And the sense of having accomplished a physical challenge that took me outside my comfort zone. Besides, if  it was easy, it wouldn’t be called a challenge, would it!   You can do anything you set your mind to. In life, as in business.