Do you describe yourself as ‘results-orientated’? If so, being an interim could be right for you. Although the word interim means ‘temporary’, interim managers are much more than temps; they’re employed to get fast results and to help organisations effect change, sometimes in turbulent times.
In the finance and accounting world, this could mean project managing a computer system implementation, turning around the performance of an underachieving team or stepping in when a senior person leaves.
The potential rewards are high (with daily rates ranging from £300 to £1,000 for a senior director level interim), but so too are expectations. Interims are expected to hit the ground running and make a difference almost immediately – there is unlikely to be a ‘settling in period’ or any long induction. The expectation is that an interim understands the brief, creates a plan to achieve the desired result and executes it more or less flawlessly before leaving and moving on to the next role. And all this while remaining aloof from the politics and knowing both the end game and date.
This might sound insecure, and it is; interims who don’t get results can be terminated fast. Anyone considering becoming an interim should be confident that they can deliver and be happy to live without the security and benefits that come with a permanent job. Given that even the most seemingly secure permanent jobs aren’t secure in this economy, many finance and accounting professionals won’t see that as a downside. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) are predicting that more than 600,000 people will be made redundant in 2009, so a permanent job doesn’t necessarily provide what it says it will: permanence.
I have worked as an Interim Finance Manager on and off since 2003, and for me, the benefits outweigh any downside. My assignments have included improving the customer service provided by the transaction processing department of a large bank, temporarily managing a payments team for a well-known telecoms company and being a safe pair of hands for a forty-strong finance team in the travel industry. My next role is covering a manager’s maternity leave, and I’m looking forward to learning about a new industry and managing a new set of people and challenges.
If you like meeting new people, enjoy change and appreciate the freedom of leaving once a result has been achieved, then being an interim could be for you. Companies are usually looking for people with specialist knowledge or experience (mine is operational management of payables, receivables and payments teams) or experienced senior managers, usually those commanding a permanent salary of more than £50k. Interims are expected to employ an umbrella company such as Parasol, or to take specialist accountancy advice about setting up a limited company before starting a contract to legally maximise tax benefits.
Being an interim works for me. I enjoyed more than ten weeks off in 2008/9 after a year-long assignment (although it was, of course, unpaid), and I am now refreshed, recharged and looking forward to the next challenge. And when the next contract ends in December 2009, I’ll say thanks, well done, Happy Christmas and gladly move on.
Louise Graham spent five years working for The Walt Disney Company before taking a break to have her two children. Since then she has worked on an interim basis for Abbey National, First Choice and The Carphone Warehouse. She is about to start an interim role with a leading property management company.
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