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Building a successful career

Written by: Toni Hall - director, public sector executive Interim, at Penna
Published on: 13 Dec 2018

I’m not a fan of New Year’s resolutions – but the end of another year often triggers some reflection and for many of us, thoughts turn to exciting changes for the New Year ahead. For those of us who work in executive interim recruitment, this is the time of year we see a rise in the number of people asking us what a career as an interim manager is like, and how to get their interim career off to a good start. I can but scratch the surface in this, but hopefully it will provide food for thought, and will either spur you on to make the leap, or the opposite!

Is interim management for you?

Constantly updating your CV and attending many interviews every year; not knowing where your next role is coming from; networking, networking, networking; being the newbie in an organisation every few months; and, potentially living out of a suitcase for months at a time. If those statements fill you with dread, then maybe interim management isn’t for you. Ok – I’ve made it sound worse than it is. But all of that needs to be taken into consideration if you are thinking of a career in interim management. The ambiguity of the lifestyle can be a shock for some. When the market is buoyant as it is now, there is lots of demand for interim expertise, and more roles than there are candidates. There is a severe shortage of interim talent at the moment, particularly in the statutory roles, social care, finance, and regeneration. Times like this can feel very positive for interim managers. But, when the market drops, it can be a very unnerving time. I remember a few years ago when a number of fantastic interim managers didn’t work for some months as there were so few opportunities. Those can be scary moments when you still have to pay the mortgage.

However, if you love change; can get to the nub of problems quickly; want to make a real difference in a short space of time before moving on to the next challenge, interim management can be a hugely rewarding career.

Secrets of success

Passive interim managers see fewer opportunities. Active interim managers are called with new roles all the time. As an interim manager you are running a business and you need to do business development! For many – the first challenge is writing an impactful interim CV. Ideally 3 pages, not more than 4, it should have an opening profile saying exactly what you are, followed by a handful of recent career highlights – achievements that jump off the page. Then in reverse chronological order, your roles should be written in the ‘STAR’ format – situation, task, action, result. Your recruiter will offer a friendly critique if you ask them. Focus on outcomes, don’t write your job description! Some of you will be thinking, how do I fit a 30 year career into 3 pages?! You don’t…the last ten years are the most important in terms of detail. Anything older than that can be limited to place, job title and dates. Keep a master copy of your full CV filed for future reference should you need it.

To ensure you hear about as many interim roles as possible, register with at least 3 leading executive interim recruitment businesses. Get to know your executive interim recruiters. Ensure you meet up with them so they can get to know you and understand your USPs. I’ve often likened executive interim recruitment to a dating agency. Our role as a recruiter is to understand which people will fit each organisation – and which challenges are most suited to which interims. It’s not one size fits all and we have a responsibility to ensure your interim assignment is a success for you and for the organisation that needs support. A good recruiter will take your brand and your career very seriously – if you don’t feel that you are being represented with your best interest at heart, change recruiter.

Keep in touch with your recruiter – the good ones are like your best friend! For many interims, the challenge is the constant networking. Keeping recruiters up to date with availability, meeting up with them when on assignment to keep them updated of your progress (even the ones that haven’t placed you), attending networking events, and of course, updating the CV every few months. The most successful interim managers factor all of this into their week and see it as vital business development.

Know what you are good at, and importantly, know what you are less good at! Some people apply for every interim role advertised – this isn’t helpful! Organisations recruit interim managers because they can hit the ground running – they have done the job many times before and earned that t-shirt. You should only go for the roles you where you have demonstrable evidence of success. It is much better to wait for the right opportunity, than to take on a role where your chances of real success are limited. You are only as good as your last interim assignment, so it’s important you take the ones where you know you can add value. And eking out an assignment for the day rate is very much frowned upon. When taking on a role- know your exit strategy. Be clear with the organisation about the deliverables, offer regular updates on progress, impart your expertise to the permanent team, leave a legacy, and then move on to your next role knowing you’ve made a positive impact on that organisation and the communities it serves.

This is just a taster – I haven’t even mentioned HMRC’s IR35! Interim management is a hugely rewarding career and there is lots of demand for expertise. If you’d like to know more, do get in touch with one of the leading executive interim recruitment businesses who will be more than happy to help you with an exciting new approach to working in 2019.

Toni Hall

Director – Local Government Executive Interim


Toni Hall