Caroline Horn offers a practical guide for those starting a career in interim management
Interim management can appear to be a glamorous career choice. The perception of an interim jetting into a company at a moment's notice, heroically crafting an immediate and effective solution to the client's problem, and heading off to the next assignment with a generous cheque in hand, is an attractive one. And with the latest round of redundancies in sectors such as finance and telecoms, a number of experienced directors have been tempted by interim management as an employment option.
But agencies are quick to warn that becoming an interim manager is a long-term career choice - not a quick-fix solution to short-term unemployment - and that while the high points are easy to identify, interim management is by no means an easy career. Julia Meighan, managing director of Interim Performers, says: "People think it's a piece of cake becoming an interim, but it's tough. You might feel isolated during assignments and people's expectations are high - they expect you to understand them, and your role, from day one."
Getting started as an interim manager is a serious challenge too, says Martin Wood, managing director of BIE. "A lot of people aspire to do this work but out of the 18,000 meetings we have, I will only place about 1,000 interims." Dedication and commitment are essential agrees Malcolm Browne, head of Penna Interim (North), who says he will "try to put off" more people than he encourages.
To be a successful interim requires the right tools, from the basics such as professional indemnity insurance and an office, to marketing and networking skills. Browne says that interims should see themselves as a small business selling particular skills. "They have to be clear that there is market demand for their skills set and that their skills are broad and updated on a regular basis through seminars and so on."
Interims will need a track record of five to 10 years in their skills area and a fine touch in self-promotion, says Meighan: "As an interim manager, you might have to sell yourself 10 times a year so you need to be very good at promoting your achievements and skills."
An interim's starting point is his or her CV, which needs to be seen not as a job application, but a 'market statement'. Browne explains, "It has to list their skills set,