Permanent fixture? No thanks.  IMD talks to John Todd about what makes interim an exciting career option.

1. How did you become an interim?
After I retired from the NHS and a few months recharging the batteries a friend put me in touch with his contact at an agency - 1 week later I was back working.

2. What makes being an interim an exciting career option and why do you think it was the right option for you?
I didn’t want a permanent position but felt that I still had a lot of knowledge and experience - potentially valuable to the NHS. Interim roles require rapid assessment and to take control quickly, providing me with the opportunity to use my knowledge, skills and experience. The client benefits because they don’t have a long induction process and get an interim with a much wider range of knowledge than the job demands. Interim roles generally have a clear objective and you’re not expected to get too involved with other issues in the organisation.

3. What are the key challenges of being an interim?

  • Working in different organisations.
  • Being clear about the client's expectations.
  • Demonstrating to the client's staff you’re capability and that you’ll achieve your objectives.
  • Developing the staff and/or role so that the team and the client are in a better position when you leave than when you arrived.
  • Providing extra value because the depth and range of past experience.

4. How has the interim industry changed in the last 5 years?
I feel there’s been a move away from blue sky thinking and much more emphasis on cost control.

5. What advice would you give to someone looking to begin their interim career?

  • Be clear about your own skills and capabilities
  • Learn how to market your attributes and get advice if necessary; talk to as many consultancy/interim resourcing companies as you can and get on to their books
  • You’ll be expected to just get on with the job with often little input from the client so be prepared to act on your own judgement
  • Quickly assess the people you’ll be working with (the permanent staff); they may see you as a threat, albeit temporary, or may want to learn from your greater experience
  • Be clear about the client's expectations before you accept the role and be sure you’re capable of delivery
  • Be clear about fees and expenses etc and do not undervalue yourself.

6. What three key attributes do you think make a good interim manager and why?

  1. Experience of working at a higher level than the interim role - you can see how the role fits within the organisation and you’ll be able to have a frank discussion with the client with both sides knowing you have "been there"
  2. Be nice to the staff you‘re working with, you need them as much as they need you, and generally you’ll have more time to work with them than their full time manager so they’re more receptive to guidance
  3. Delivering the objectives on time because the client is spending money on the interim and needs to demonstrate value for money; this is possibly the key to an extension of the contract and a good reference.

7. How do interims bring real value to the organisations where they work?
Real value comes from the extra experience and knowledge obtained in different organisations. They’re adaptable and don’t adopt a "this is how it is always done" approach. They contribute a new view on a problem that’s not constrained by having worked in the client organisation.

8. If you could review your interim career again, what one thing would you change or do differently?
Maintain a network of the people I’ve worked with and be more proactive at keeping in touch with them.

9. What do you find most rewarding about being an interim?
The new challenge of each assignment and helping others to develop their role within their own organisation.

10. How important is the value of your network in finding interim opportunities?
My personal network is marginally effective. The key for me is working with an organisation who are much more effective at developing contacts at senior management levels within the NHS and thereby opening opportunities for people like myself.