A guide to executive level interim jobs

Published: 23 Jan 2015

You are an experienced professional, an expert in your field, and well respected within your chosen industry. You have enjoyed a productive and successful career to date, and are looking for a new challenge. If this sounds like you, an executive level interim position could be a perfect next step.

Interim positions are becoming increasingly popular. They are sometimes also known as 'portfolio careers' - jobs on a flexible, consulting or interim basis. It's not unusual for an individual to hold down more than one such position at any one time, running a series of projects and devoting a couple of days a week to each. This requires superb time management, planning and commitment: it's not for everyone, of course, but the benefits of working with a certain amount of freedom - the relationship you may have with the companies you work with is less employee, more client - and the varied nature of your work can be very satisfying and rewarding.

Interim executives are typically called in to fill an existing position with a company - often one that has become vacant suddenly. Highly-polished shoes need filling, and quickly. A presence might be needed to fill a gap in the company workforce - perhaps caused by an abrupt resignation, dismissal or illness. But an interim appointment might also be needed because the company in question is about to launch a new project, and needs a new manager to oversee it. Or it may have secured a significant new contract which lasts six months and doesn't have the in-house resource to lead it effectively.

This is where you come into the picture. As an interim appointment you will be expected to step into that situation and manage affairs. An interim appointment in this scenario can be the ideal solution for both parties. For the company, it has an experienced and skilled set of hands at precisely the right time, and the confidence that an individual of expertise and confidence is handling something very important. When the contract expires and the project has completed, the company no longer has the interim executive on the payroll.

For the person who has been brought in, it's the opportunity to shine in a role for which they are well suited. The dream scenario outcome sees the project run completely smoothly, finished on time and within budget; job done, the interim exec departs having earned a lucrative salary in that time and with a glowing endorsement from his or her latest clients to add to a growing CV.

In another situation, the interim executive is a fire-fighting appointment, installed to ready the ship during a difficult period. That's a different challenge. You'll be required to hit the ground running, will need to quickly adapt to the culture of the company which has hired you, and must gain the trust of employees and peers.
You might also be asked to advise on the recruitment of a permanent replacement, or even take part in the interview process itself, before ensuring a flawless handover.

There are plenty of factors to consider before embarking on a career as an interim executive. There are advantages, not least ever-changing roles which provide challenges and maintain interest and enthusiasm. Such positions can command high rates of pay as companies value expertise and experience, and recognise the need to offer generous terms. On the other hand, there is no long-term job security and an individual going down this route must constantly be looking for opportunities - like the ones advertised here - as well as networking fantastically and maintaining contact with key influencers. If you don't have the drive and tenacity to continue securing new positions every few months, think carefully.

Remember, reputation in the world of interim jobs is everything. A poorly-executed campaign or badly managed project will damage yours and could hurt your chances of securing further work. With this in mind, when applying for positions be clear on your qualities and what you have to offer - don't take a role out of your comfort zone of knowledge and expertise, don't bite off more you can chew. You'll be expected to be an almost instant success and must carry an air of confidence and authority at all times.

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