Is interim management still a valid career choice?

Written by
Changeboard Team

16 Mar 2014

16 Mar 2014 • by Changeboard Team

Tough times for interim managers

These are tough times for interim managers. Both career interims and those considering interim work as a temporary career option are finding the pickings slight. And, at the same time, their numbers are growing remorselessly with the uncertain economic climate.
Clients once saw interim managers as a distress purchase, a requirement for expertise, needed quickly usually for a limited period. The same clients now prefer to cover short-term roles internally, seconding employees to projects as they arise. The benefits of this approach are obvious: employers develop the skills of their workforce, keep high-potential high-performers engaged with the organisation and save money. The trend has inevitably had a big impact on the projects put out to the interim market.

Day rates - fallen

With more people available for less work, interims are becoming more pragmatic. Two years ago if you asked a career interim whether they would consider a permanent role if the right thing came up, 95% would have said no. Now you would be hard pushed to find one who would not look seriously at a salaried job.
Day rates have fallen and, in many cases, even halved. It is a long time since a candidate broke through the £1000 a day barrier. Many of those who, two years ago, we could easily place on a £600 day rate now command just £300-£350 a day. I do speak to interims who are holding out for a high day rate. Too often I speak to them a couple of months later when they return with their expectations revised downwards.

Why become an interim?

Factor in the costs of working as an interim, the lack of security, sickness and holiday pay, and it is no wonder that some are leaving when they can for something more certain and secure.
So given this rather gloomy picture, why would anyone want to become an interim? There are still plenty of compelling answers to that question.

Working as an interim manager offers real freedom and flexibility. The interim is beholden to the project he or she is working on, is focused on delivery and as an external resource rarely has to become involved in office politics.

Feel good factor

Most people can relate to the ‘new job feel-good factor’, the honeymoon period where you get to learn about a new organisation and find out what makes it tick. That is what you get every time you move into a new contract as an interim.

The work may be straightforward, as clients pay a premium for a resource that has a proven track record in delivering specific work, but the challenges come from working with new people and achieving objectives against tight deadlines.

What sets you apart from your competitors?

There will always be a need for interims and rates can only drop so far. The level of competition will always fluctuate as will the number of roles available. Before making the leap, speak to those who have been there and done it as well as to the recruiters who supply the market. They are close to their clients so their insight is invaluable.

Self-marketing is essential to beat the competition for the best projects. Interims enjoy the benefits of being set up as individual companies and as such need to consider what makes a successful business as they try to drum up opportunities. How do you market your company? What sets you apart? Is your expertise unique? What specific experience and contacts do you have that will prove invaluable to your client?