Interim Management as a Career

Interim Management can be a highly rewarding and satisfying career choice. But what skills do you need to become an interim manager? This blog explores some key questions you need to ask yourself if you are considering becoming an interim manager.

Where is your depth of expertise? It is absolutely vital as an interim that you understand where your depth of expertise lies. And by this I do not mean a list of job titles. Clients do not care what you were, only what problems you can solve for them, where you have ‘been there and done it before’. Make sure you have a clear understanding of this before you launch yourself as an interim.

Do you have the self-confidence to be an interim?

As an interim you get very little feedback; clients bring you in as an expert and when you meet their high expectations it rarely occurs to them to congratulate you. You also have to make some fundamental decisions within the first 2 or 3 weeks and that takes confidence. So you have to believe in yourself and know that you are doing a good job.

Have you really good influencing skills both up and down?

Individuals are naturally wary of change and, when you start a new assignment, there is likely to be some level of mistrust regarding why you are there and questions as to what your real remit is. You will need to be able to dispel these feelings quickly and win people over so that they co-operate with and help you achieve the assignment aims.

You often go into an assignment with ambiguous titles and with most people in the organisation wanting to know why you are really there. You need to dispel the fear, uncertainty and sob and win people over very quickly.

Can you assess situations, and people, quickly?

Cast your mind back to when you were thrown into a completely new situation. How quickly did you understand the issues and, as importantly, how quickly did you “suss the people out"? You need to work out other people agendas very quickly, otherwise the decisions you make on the first few weeks may be based on incorrect assumptions. If it takes time for you to get to know people and understand their motivations, then an interim career is not for you.

Do you have a practical approach to the work that you do?

As an interim, you do not always have the infrastructure and teams to help you and you will often find yourself doing things you haven’t done for years. However, if you don’t do them, the assignment will not progress. Therefore, you need to be able to roll your sleeves up and do whatever the assignment requires.

Do you have the commitment?

Sometimes individuals come to me and explain they are considering becoming an interim because they want a better work/life balance. My answer is: go and do something else.! Being an interim is an interesting, challenging career path but a lot is expected of you and so the assignments are often ‘full on’. You do get time off between assignments but you cannot always plan when they will be.

Will you mind being the outsider looking in?

The reason interims are effective is that they have clarity of vision because they are not involved with the day-to-day details of how the organisation operates. Also, they do not know the individuals involved and can, therefore, be more objective. The best way of keeping this clarity is to remain an “objective outside”; when you start to get involved either in politics or office camaraderie you know, as an interim, it is time to move on.

Are you prepared to market yourself?

As your assignment draws to a close, you need to start marketing yourself again. This involves focus and discipline in order to let not just the providers, but also your networks, know that you are available again.

How will you handle the gaps between assignments?

There are likely to be gaps between assignments and you need to be able to handle these gaps both financially and mentally. You will need some sort of financial cushion, how big that cushion is depends upon your attitude to risk (and your commitments). But you also need to enjoy the downtime and do some of those things you don’t normally get time to do. Don’t forget the marketing though!

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