Interim Career Planning – Fail to prepare, prepare to fail!!

Navigating your roadmap to a successful interim career
As the Interim and Contracts manager at Vertical Advantage, one of the things I always get asked is ‘how do you manage an interim career to gain as much career satisfaction or advancement as a permanent career?’

Most people would assume that as an interim you pick up new jobs as they come in so your career history will look haphazard with no direction. With a little planning and foresight, however, it is possible to chart a defined path through your interim career, which will allow you to achieve all your goals you set out from the start.

If you know what you want your interim journey to look like then you should take these important points into account:

What do you want to achieve working as an interim?

This is probably the most important thing to think about. Are you working as an interim for the money, for the challenge, or to allow you to experience several different sectors or disciplines?

Once you identify why you became an interim in the first place, you can decide which opportunities will suit you best. Sometimes it may be a combination of goals, but you may want to change your goals after a couple of assignments. There are no hard-and-fast rules on why you became an interim in the first place, but the most important thing is to know what that reason is and keep it foremost in your mind.

Accepting the first role offered?

The eternal dilemma for an interim is whether to ‘twist or stick’. Do you accept the first role offered, or do you wait a little longer to see if a role better suited to your goals will turn up? This depends on a couple of things: the current state of the job market (whether it is busy or quiet), and how far away from your goal is the job? When the job market is quiet it maybe pertinent to accept the first thing going, but then sometimes the role may be too junior, too far away from your ideal role, or a huge commute. You may have to turn down an offer rather than walking away mid-way through the assignment as that may tarnish you with a bad reputation.

How will the role develop?

The other thing to take into consideration is whether or not your interim role will evolve whilst you are in assignment. Maybe the role is not quite right when you are offered it, but most interim roles evolve over the length of the assignment, and it may add a skillset that your CV otherwise lacked.

Always keep moving forward

Interim careers are sometimes seen as stunted compared to permanent careers, because you may not go in a straight line as you would in a permanent role. It’s fine to move roles when they are not the most logical, but one of the key things is to try and always move forward with each interim role. Have a look at the role and decide whether it is adding to your initial goals. Is it more money? Am I picking up new skills? Am I learning about a new industry? These are some of the questions you need to ask yourself whilst pondering on whether to accept.

Will you go back into the permanent market in the future?

Sometimes an interim career is only a short-term lifestyle change, and you may want to ultimately go back to a permanent role. Picking the right interim role is paramount if that is your aim. The wrong interim roles, whether something too junior, short-term, or an industry change, may jeopardise your future earning potential. On the other hand, picking up the right interim roles may also enhance your career prospects, so you do need to think long term even when accepting something that may be short term!

One step back, two steps forward

Occasionally it might be worth taking a slight step backwards. Maybe you could take on a slightly junior role, or step away from management responsibilities to allow you to take a much bigger leap forward in the future. You may lack big brand or particular industry experience, and so if you take that junior role at a blue chip, it could allow you to rapidly move forward, opening up more avenues for you to explore in the future.

Cutting your losses

You start a new interim role and it isn’t quite what it is cracked up to be; it may have been mis-sold; the role may have changed, or a line manager leaves. When do you cut your losses and leave the role early? I would advise you to do so as soon as it is starts to become detrimental to you / your CV. Ultimately, the longer you stay, the more likely it will affect your future career. In the interim market, your reputation is very important, so being transparent is a key trait to a healthy interim career.

Whether you are looking at interim as a career change or you are a long-time contractor, a plan is key. Sometimes we are so engaged with the day to day job we forget to look at our long term goals. Let me know what you think! Did you have a plan of what you wanted to achieve when you became an interim or do you think having a plan may limit your options?

If you don’t yet have a plan and would like to discuss it please get in contact.