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Are you ready to become an interim manager?

Published on 25/07/06 at 05:04pm

The last few years have seen both dramatic and rapid changes in the adoption of interim management in the life sciences industries.

Company managers are now embracing with enthusiasm the many ways in which flexible resourcing can add value to their businesses and, in response, there are corresponding changes in the typical profiles of interim managers available to provide solutions to clients.

Could it be you?

Interim management started in the UK in the mid 1980s, but for many years, interim managers were people in the over-50 age group, whose work normally only covered gap-filling assignments in finance or human resources. Now, we are increasingly seeing successful professionals in their 30s and 40s making a career out of these short-term assignments.

The range of work on offer has also changed extensively. There are now interim opportunities available for almost every function across the life science value chain from initial discovery right through to sales and marketing.

So, becoming an interim manager no longer depends on your age, but it does still depend upon your knowledge and experience. You must be confident in your ability to do the job and you must also be experienced, with a proven track record.

What are the skills required?

Bear in mind, that an employer is looking for someone who is usually over-qualified to do the work required. This is because you are expected to hit the ground running with little or no lead-in time. However, this should not pose a problem as by the time you reach the age of 40 you will probably have accumulated more than 15 years of industry experience and be well on the way to a senior management position and will probably have gained valuable specialist expertise.

Although skill requirements change from job to job, one universal requirement is an ability to be confident and socially adept. You will need to be highly motivated and committed with a 'can do' attitude. You will thrive on change and new challenges and will possess excellent time management skills and be a good team player. You should also be flexible and able to motivate and manage with energy and professionalism.

The rewards can be very worthwhile, not only in monetary terms, but, also in the quality of life. With this style of working, you can be more in control of balancing your work to your life style and family commitments, and you can tailor your jobs to suit your interests with a variety of stimulating new projects and, perhaps, places as well.

And if you fancy broadening your horizons, interim management could see you working  right across the UK, Europe or the US, and there could even be occasional requirements to appear in more exotic locations. But the key here is that you are in control  no one can tell you that you have to travel, or to where. It's down to you decide.

Depending upon what you are looking for, you may conclude that you want to take on work that requires only three or four days per week. Some roles can be flexible enough to work from a home-based office and, indeed, with the advent of low-cost airlines, there are several examples of interim managers from the UK who live in Spain, France or similar locations and commute to wherever they need to be for work during the week.

But interim management is not for everyone. You still have to find your assignments and this can be hardest in the early days. The more assignments you have under your belt, the more your reputation will grow and your track record as an interim will become easy to demonstrate.   Finding your first interim job can be just as difficult as finding a new, permanent job.

Make sure you do your preparation fully, preferably while you are still in a permanent position. Take time to establish a network of contacts  these could be potential clients, interim management providers and even other interim managers.

Establishing relationships with a good interim management provider is a must and it is best to look out for accredited businesses, such as those who are members of the Interim Management Association (IMA), the industry body.

Pick interim management providers that you think are best suited to your needs and then call them to discuss opportunities that would interest you. And don't simply fire off emails to every provider you can find; instead, choose a small number of companies, build a relationship with them, and then keep in touch with them on a regular basis.

A step in the right direction

If you are still wondering if it's for you, the IMA offers a well-established and inexpensive workshop that is designed specifically for executives and managers considering interim management as a career choice. Full details can be found at the IMA website (www.interimmanagement.uk.com).

To be a professional interim manager, you will need to establish your own limited company. A good interim management provider will not only give you contacts with companies offering this service, but can also provide all the information you need to make an informed decision.

So, if you like the idea of taking control of your working life, combined with a greater degree of independence and variety, then  becoming an interim manager could be the best career move you ever make.

Keith Hobson is the chief operating officer of RSA and deputy chairman of the Interim Management Association.

For more information email: Keith.Hobson@theRSAgroup.com, tel: 01707 282028 or visit www.theRSAgroup.com

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