Tips when choosing a career as an interim manager

Demand for interim managers (or specialist contractors) in Australia has increased steadily over the past few years, and it is becoming a more attractive and recognised career option.

Australian businesses are embracing specialist expertise for specific internal projects and restructuring activities (although we lag behind Europe and the US in adopting this trend).

The decision to embark on a career as an interim manager (or specialist contractor) should be a considered choice and, ideally, not dictated by circumstances like redundancy.

Understanding the advantages and disadvantages of a career as an interim manager is vital to success.

Vantage Performance assists organisations in providing a variety of interim staffing solutions.  This could be to strengthen an existing executive team, lead a specific project, manage a crisis, address a short-term need for a specialist skill set, or transform a business. We work with clients from ASX 200, private equity through to SMEs covering a wide range of industries and functional roles.

If a career as an interim manager (or specialist contractor) appeals to you, consider these pros and cons:

Advantages of an interim career

  1. Higher remuneration: Interim pay rates are competitive and often above market equivalent for similar permanent roles.
  2. Fast-track your experience: You’ll have increased scope to work across different industries and varied commercial challenges.
  3. Effective outcome delivery: It’s often easier to get required results by not being a permanent member of staff, as you aren’t drawn into organisational politics and bureaucracy.
  4. Networking: Meeting more people leads to wider networks. Performing well in a role can bring referral work and build your profile (if you actively cultivate your contacts) – especially with specialist recruiters and private equity firms who have similar opportunities requiring proven performers.

Disadvantages of project roles

  1. Lack of acceptance from existing teams: It’s harder to become part of the executive team and be trusted as a leader of the business due to the project nature of the role.
  2. Lower security: There is rarely a guarantee on contract length, although initially there may be a negotiated term on the project. If major projects are shelved or axed, interim managers and contractors are always the first to go.
  3. Inconsistency in income: There can be long gaps between assignments, so it is important to look for the next opportunity as your current assignment nears an end.
  4. Sourcing & winning work: This is a competitive market for lucrative contracts so develop a strong suite of skills and hone your ability to pitch for work.

There have been a lot of different messages over the past few years about the growth of interim management as a real value solution, especially to organisations experiencing major change either through growth or crises. With the multi-speed economy we are currently in, and will be for some time, opportunities for quality interim managers in Australia across a wide range of skill sets and sectors is certainly looking promising.

Richard Dunks was a former managing director of Vantage Performance, a national award winning company specialising in business transformation and turnaround. Richard specialises in delivering the people solutions to complex business challenges.

This blog post first appeared as a column by Richard Dunks for the Weekend Australian’s Weekend Professional section, Tips for Jobseekers.


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