Interims: My next move

Q I have been employed in HR for the past 12 years – the last five as a senior HR business partner for an international organisation. I’d like to move into a role or project to gain experience as an interim while maintaining a global remit. How can I gain an international assignment and what impact will this have on my long-term career?

A The first thing you need to think about is exactly what you have to offer to an organi-sation in terms of international skills – for example, languages and specific country experience. What do you know of overseas employment law or working practice?

Next, to make your CV hold appeal for interim roles, it is generally a good idea to highlight project experience you have gained. Interim assignments typically entail working for a specific client with a particular set of objectives. It is important to demonstrate an ability to quickly appreciate the complexities and sensitivities within the project and the organisation as a whole.

Interim projects sometimes entail working with a different mindset than for permanent roles. It is also important to remember that by working internationally, you will undoubtedly face a different set of challenges than working on a purely UK-focused role.

We have seen various examples of seasoned HR professionals making the move you have described. One HR professional wanted to consolidate his international experience and make better use of his language skills, so he took on some interim assignments to broaden his CV. He secured an assignment in Paris, on the basis of his fluent French and a thorough theoretical knowledge of French employment law.

Specific skills sought after in international assignments include merger and acquisition experience, change management and restructuring. In general, experience gained in a global company based in the UK is a good place to start before working abroad.

Regarding your long-term career, your new-found skills will be transferable from permanent to interim work and vice-versa. To this end, ensure the assignment forms part of a long-term career plan. If you are looking to secure a role back in the UK, whether it be interim or permanent, then you need to make sure you do not exceed two years in an overseas posting, or your UK skills will be rusty. Make sure you keep up to date with employment law and UK HR strategies while you are away to keep your experience relevant and commercially viable in the UK.

Gail Bell, Managing director, Interim Performers

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