If your image of interim managers is that of grey haired men in suits, then think again. There are plenty of opportunities for women interested in pursuing an IM career. By Wilf Altman
The lifestyle and flexibility of an interim manager appeals to more and more women. Gender is irrelevant; age unimportant. It suits women with a professional background and those who want to return to work after a career break to have children.
To be an interim manager you need to be part-consultant, part "doer", implementing your advice. What companies look for are specialist skills that may be needed to cope with corporate change, business pressures or to fill a short-term gap.
"You have to have a skills base and be very specialised," says Victoria Sutton-Atherden, 33, "and you have to like short-term assignments and have a strong degree of self-confidence. Confidence to make a diagnostic assessment fast and learn about the business and move in to action."
Female interim managers - professionals with a strong track record in HR, finance, marketing, production or IT tend to be in their late 30s, 40s or more, with a lot of experience.
Elaine Green, a single parent with a nine year old son, was an HR director for a housing association until 1999. Interim management is ideal for her, she finds, because she can only work part of the week and within reasonable distance of her home where she spends some of the week on consultancy projects. She is currently working on a re-organisation project for Leonard Cheshire Homes.
"The right placement is important," she says. "You have to get to know the organisation and work closely with the internal team. I get a buzz out of that. It's an intellectual and personal challenge. Working on site in the mornings and at home afternoons and evenings fits in with my domestic life. Clients can be very co-operative, but you have to be very competent professionally."
Matching the right candidate to the right assignment is a challenge for the specialist agencies. Leading firms like Russam GMS take trouble to screen candidates and to understand the client's brief. The right chemistry is critical.
"You have to be on several agencies' books and develop a relationship with them," says Carol Harris. "Self marketing and networking are also important." Carol pursues a portfolio