K is for…KLOUT

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Do you have Klout?   And no, I’m not referring to that meeting where you went 6 rounds with a particularly difficult CEO.  As regular readers of this blog will know, the 21st century Interim has a good grasp of all things social media. So, once you’ve mastered the basics of Twitter, Linked-In and Facebook, it’s time to get really serious about your online presence.

Founded in 2008, KLOUT is a website and mobile app that uses social media analytics to rank it’s users according to their online social influence. Eh? Social Media Analytics?  Yes people, that’s the technical term for the practice of gathering and analyzing the data from those clever algorithms which power search engines like Google. It’s most commonly used by brands to identify customer preference, in order to find out what they like, and then sell more stuff!

Klout uses analytics to measure the size of a user’s social media network.  A social ‘aggregator’, it works by correlating the content created and measuring how other users interact with that content. In other words, how influential you are online. Your ‘Klout Score’ is a number from 1 to 100. In case you think this isn’t really important, here are some other numbers:

  • Over 200,000 businesses use Klout across the globe
  • Each day Klout analyses around 12 billion social signals
  • There are over 620 million ‘scored’ users. That’s the population of China’s top 15 cities!

Klout is rapidly becoming the global standard by which both brands and individuals measure their social influence. So how does this relate to being an interim?  Well, every time you post on Linked-In, enter a search term in Google or tweet, you are creating social media content.  So far, so Google+…However, it’s not just your contribution to social media that matters – increasingly your influence – i.e. your Klout Score – is an important factor in your job search. Creating and sharing content is a means of marketing your brand as an interim.  But, by providing useful content you are effectively increasing your visibility and establishing thought leadership.  And engaging with your online network can put you front of the queue when opportunity comes knocking!

For example, my Klout scores indicate that I am in the top 1.0% of people talking about Consulting, the top 0.2% of people mentioning Management, and the top 1.2% of people whose topic du jour is Leadership.  As an interim specializing in Transformation, it’s important that I’m seen as an expert in the fields that matter.  The app also lets me see which of my tweets and blogs have garnered the most interactions, so I can keep track of the content that is genuinely connecting with people in my network.

Savvy companies are also actively using social media as a means to vet potential candidates. Yes, now really is the time to unfriend your former client on Facebook and restrict all professional connections to Linked-In!   Of course, an arbitrary number isn’t necessarily going to indicate whether you are worthier than another person with similar skills and background, but it can give you the edge.  In life and in business, we all want to know whether the people we interact with (and their digital persona) are credible and can be trusted.

As with all internet based tools, the decision whether to use Klout is entirely up to you. I find it useful, but I’d love to know what you think?  Comments on the blog, please.

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!

I is for…Interim

© Vlue | Dreamstime.com - Rubiks Cube On Open Book PhotoIf you’ve been checking out my twitter feed, you will know that I recently had the extraordinary pleasure of being awarded ‘UK Interim of the Year 2014’.  Apart from abject surprise (I was in a shortlist of 20 accomplished nominees), followed by very real excitement (I won, I won!) it’s now back to reality. Still, I’ve spent the last few days thinking hard about what makes an interim.

I’ve been doing this now for almost 7 years, and while I’m always honoured if clients ask me to go permanent, interim is a deliberate choice. It gives me flexibility, the opportunity to work with multiple organisations and – assignments allowing – a fairly decent income bar the odd tax bill!  However, it’s not for everyone, so if you are considering this as a career path, here’s my advice:

1. Look before you leap!

It can be tempting to think of interim as a ‘stop gap’ when facing redundancy, or a change of scene if you are bored with your current employment. Resist the urge! Interim Management is a well developed discipline and it’s not for dilettantes. It can be very rewarding, but it can also be demanding, demoralising and difficult. Career interims are used to having gaps between assignment, and while such breaks may be necessary – see my post ‘H is for Holiday’  –  you need to be prepared to work hard to secure that elusive first assignment. And the second… and the one after that. You get the picture!  You also need a sufficient financial cushion to allow for bench time, especially if you are trying to establish yourself.

2. Be in the know!

It’s worth talking to interim providers, and those in the know. Here in the UK,  providers such as Alium Partners  and industry bodies like the Institute of Interim Management (IMA) offer courses on how to market yourself and what to consider when becoming an interim. Remember, when you become self employed, you will need an accountant to help you navigate the IR35 legislation, you will most certainly need professional indemnity insurance, and you definitely need marketing or web expertise.  Unless you are a super human with high capability in all these areas, you will have to invest in outside help. Getting your teenager to help you with twitter doesn’t count!

3. Expect the unexpected!

As an interim, the only constant is change.  Be prepared for client briefs to be vague.  For golden opportunities to be less than shiny close-up. For the assignment of your dreams to vanish because the sponsor leaves the organisation or they get bought by someone else who doesn’t see the need for interim. You will be expected to be problem solver, multi-tasker, and therapist on the Monday you start.  Tuesday you will be expected to make and take the decisions that no one else wants to… Hours can be long and clients can be fractious. You will have to meet organisational resistance with persistence, stakeholder cynicism with compassion. And you will always need to know when to exit the building.  I know, it’s sounding like the North Face already!

However, like many interims out there, for me the positive aspects almost always outweigh the negative. Being an interim means you can be an objective guide, helping management navigate knotty organisational problems. You bring experience of multiple organisations and specialist skills to companies who genuinely need your help.  And you get the satisfaction of knowing you’ve made a real difference.

 

 

G is for…Gorilla-sized goals

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If you can answer the question: ‘Where does a gorilla sit?’ then you probably get the reference in the title of this blog.  More on primate hierarchy later, but first things first...

This blog is about goals.  Gorilla-sized goals to be precise.  Big. Hairy. And a little bit scary.  Well, as an interim, if you don’t have a goal, how will you set direction for your business and set yourself up for success.   You may no longer work in a conventional sense within an organisation, but that doesn’t mean you should chuck out sound planning principles when you are no longer a corporate wage slave.

And that is exactly my point.  Goal setting helps you to plan for a number of eventualities.  Unbridled success (yes, it has been known to happen), a period of down-time, a sudden shift in your industry or working abroad.  Having a goal and working towards it means you are more likely to succeed because every decision you make, and every assignment you take should move you closer to the realisation of that goal.  More importantly it helps you to stay in charge of your own destiny, which is, after all one of the reasons you became an interim, isn’t it?

So here are my top tips for goal setting:

Focus feeds success.  Interim is your livelihood, so be clear and precise about what you want.  Yes, it seems obvious, but if you don’t set goals, how on earth are you going to know how to succeed and whether you have when you get there.

 Big it up, banana!  Yes, really!  It’s perfectly possible to super-size your goal.  Whether that is to earn a six figure salary within twelve months, or to grow your client base by 50%, or network 10 times a month.  The type of goal (animal, mineral, vegetable) isn’t really important, the fact that it takes you outside your comfort zone is.  As the late Steve Jobs, Apple CEO once said: ‘I want to put a ding in the universe’.  That’s a pretty ambitious goal by anyone’s standards, but if your own goals run to something a little more modest, that’s fine too.  It’s the stretch that matters.

Feed and water regularly.  The one thing I know for sure about goals is that they change over time.  What you might aspire to at the start of an interim career, can look and feel very different when you are more established. So it’s important to take your goals out of their cage periodically and examine them.  Are they still relevant to your industry, client base, life-style?  If not, there’s no shame in retiring them for a shiny new set.  Personally, I review my goals about once a quarter.  Extended plane or train time usually works best for me.

And finally…for those of you wanting to know where a gorilla sits?  Exactly where it likes!  So, if you’d like to be king of the interim jungle, get busy with those goals.

Lisa Bondesio is the founder of Chiridion Consulting. An interim and consultant she provides common sense to corporate clients in times of transition. Her personal gorilla sized goal is to be able to run a marathon by the end of the summer!

F is for…Facebook

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Apparently the optimum number of Facebook friends is around 150.  This research is based on an anthropological study that suggests outside of a core group of 5 ‘insiders’, you are unable to maintain a high level of personal contact with the other 1,145 people you play Farmville with!

So, is Facebook relevant for today’s modern interim? Well, the answer really depends on what type of interim you do for a living.  Ever since Facebook started advertising, many corporations have jumped on the ‘friend-me’ bandwagon – seeing this social network as a way to engage customers and build brand loyalty by connecting with them in their leisure time.  I don’t know about you, but I really don’t want to be BFFs with my broadband provider or energy supplier.  I just want the 24 MB speed I’ve been promised and a tariff that reduces my monthly utility bills!

That’s not to say that Facebook isn’t a useful medium.  It’s informality and ‘like’ features mean that FMCG brands like Marmite and Innocent can build a huge following. They can also use the information about their followers to shape future marketing campaigns and identify consumer trends, so… exercise some care when you press that ‘like’ button.  Global consulting firms such as Deloitte and KPMG also have presence on Facebook – they do it because it connects them with a talent pool they might not otherwise reach.  Again, there is a brand building element here – targeting the Gen Y workforce of the future means you must catch them where they play.

This is all good stuff, but does that mean you should do it?  I’ll go back to the first question. It depends.  Personally, I don’t and won’t have a Facebook page that represents my business. Why?  Well, I have a web-site, business blog and twitter feed (@lisa_bondesio) for that purpose. I raise my profile by being a guest writer on the Interim Hub.  I keep my personal life extremely separate from my professional one for good reason – and I’m not talking about the photos from my last summer holiday here – but you get the point.  This is also the reason that I don’t ‘friend’ my clients – I connect via an appropriate business channel such as Linked-in.

I’m not an FMCG brand and I am not in the business of recruiting graduates from top tier universities.  I’ve made a conscious decision not to use Facebook, instead of blindly following the herd. I am definitely not a fan of ‘Me-too’ Marketing! I have colleagues who have taken a different tack, but they are photographers, designers, therapists, coaches  – what they do is an intimate part of who they are, and therefore Facebook is appropriate as a way of marketing  their business.  It’s also a great place to post pictures of your work, so can be a boon to those of you who earn a creative living.

Still, like any online medium, consistency and content are key dimensions.  If you are going to utilise Facebook, then be sure that you are updating your page regularly, and that any content is relevant.  Also, don’t bombard your real friends (you do have those, don’t you?) with requests to become fans of your business page, or to ‘like’ your content.  It’s a sure fire way to become Billy-no-mates overnight.  My advice, keep your friends close and your clients elsewhere.

Lisa Bondesio is the founder of Chiridion Consulting. She provides common sense to corporate clients in times of transition and specialises in business change, strategy and stakeholder engagement. She does post her holiday snaps on Facebook, but only the flattering ones! 

E is for…E-mail

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Remember the days when carrier pigeons – and the odd postman – would carry correspondence?  Nope, me neither! These days e-mail is ubiquitous.  Even my 90 year old grandmother is online and tweeting.  E-mail is an instant way of getting your message across, and for the savvy interim – a powerful business tool and marketing channel.

Caveat sender, though.  Email can also be your downfall.  We’ve all heard those stories about the emails that go to the person they weren’t intended for because someone pressed the ‘send all’ button when they should have pressed ‘delete’…e-mail is an informal medium, but do your colleagues really need sight of your nudist holiday snaps?  Unless you work for a naturist magazine, I think you know the answer to that one! At a more prosaic level, e-mail etiquette – like giving good meetings and firm handshakes – is a necessary part of business life in the 21st century.  Best you understand the ground rules.

Rule #1: Tend before you send. E-mail is an instant medium, so think carefully before you press send on that all important pitch letter. There is nothing more annoying to busy people than individuals who feel it necessary to press send all when this isn’t necessary.  If it’s appropriate, do it. If not, direct your correspondence to the person who needs to see it, not the entire department!  E-mail is also far more casual in nature than formal business correspondence, but that does not mean that you need to throw spelling and good grammar out of the window.  I am amazed by the amount of text speak that passes for email these days.  ‘Mt you l8tr’ is appropriate for texting your teenage daughter, not confirming timings with the new CEO. And for goodness sake, proof-read any important emails – don’t rely on spell-checker.

Rule #2: Your signature is an advert. Yes, really.  It’s a perfect place to drive traffic to your website, put links to your latest blogs and invite people to connect with you via social media.  You don’t need to put your physical address, but an accurate contact number and mobile details are pre-requisite.  I know, this seem obvious, but I’ve lost count of people whose phone numbers are inaccurate. Even if you aren’t particularly IT-minded, it’s also very easy to add hyper-linked buttons for Twitter and Linked-in, or connect people to your social media pages.  Just check out the FAQ sections on their web pages.

Rule #3: Do what it says on the tin! If you are starting out as an interim – at least get yourself a domain name and an email address that sounds professional.  Greg-the-gator85@hotmail.com isn’t terribly impressive, unless you are wrestling reptile in a Circus.  It is perfectly acceptable to use your first and last name, as in http://www.greg-roberts.com or greg@robertsinterim.co.uk. It also makes it easier for people to find you when they type your name into Google.  The suffix ‘.com’ or ‘.co.uk’ doesn’t matter that much – the main thing is that clients and prospects can reach you if they need to.

Rule #4. SPAM is a four-letter word.  This is a no-brainer. By all means reach out to contacts and prospects with an email or e-newsletter.  However, be absolutely sure that your contacts want to receive this.  Make it easy for people to ‘opt-in’ to your regular email marketing using free services like ‘Constant Contact’ or ‘Mailchimp’.

Stick to the rules, and you might find e-mail becomes an ally, not the enemy!

Lisa Bondesio is an independent consultant and interim.  She prefers short, spell-checked emails, but is far fonder of face to face contact with her clients and contemporaries.

 

B is for…Business Development

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Sometimes as an interim, finding the next assignment can be akin to climbing Kilimanjaro in flip-flops!  You get cold feet and there are easier things to do with one’s time.

Any seasoned interim will tell you business development matters.  When you are immersed in a live assignment, it’s difficult to make time for sleeping and eating, never mind schmoozing clients and service providers to secure the next piece of work.  But this is exactly where you should be focusing your efforts.  Always helpful to know where the next revenue stream is coming from in inclement economic times! 

At its core, business development is simply a way of growing your business – whether that’s by increasing market awareness with Interim Service Providers (ISPs) growing the number of clients you have, or putting yourself in pole position for a contract extension.

Business development isn’t rocket science.  I’m not saying securing that elusive next role or project opportunity is a cake walk – it does require focus and effort, but it’s not complicated. Here are a few simple principles that can make the difference between time in the boardroom and time on the bench:

Rule #1: Don’t be a one-hit wonder! Business development isn’t something you do just once.  It should be a consistent and constant activity – if it isn’t already a part of your business plan, stop reading this blog straight away and write out the names of 10 clients you want to target!

Rule #2: You are only ever as good as your last assignment. Business development happens as much when you are on assignment as it does when you are between assignments.   It’s far easier (and potentially cheaper) to secure work with a client who can see first-hand how you deliver.  Keep your wits about you and stay primed for the next opportunity – and don’t forget to get some decent recommendations when you move from one project to another.

Rule #3: Visibility matters.  Even if you are not working, it’s really important to stay visible – whether you do this via marketing, social media, actual networking, speaking engagements or a round of phone calls with former clients and contacts – unless you are changing career to become a Buddhist monk, it’s wise to let people know you haven’t gone into hibernation.

Rule #4: Focus, Focus, Focus.  Clients and providers are much more likely to place you if they are crystal about what you offer and why you differ from the competition.  I’m always slightly amused by twitter and linked-in profiles that seem to be a series of random adjectives strung together.  Unless you are selling to a pack of cards, there is no point in being a jack of all trades.

If this all sounds a bit daunting, take heart – there is plenty of help available out there.  In the UK, organisations like Business Link, Interim-Hub and the Institute of Directors provide plenty of courses and resources to support individuals who don’t view themselves as natural business developers.  Practice makes perfect!

Lisa Bondesio is the founder of Chiridion Consulting. She provides common sense to corporate clients in times of transition and specialises in business change, strategy and stakeholder engagement. She has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, but thinks business development may be easier!