I talk to many people who have enjoyed the interim workstyle. They like the excitement of working in a new situation every three to nine months. The challenge of sorting things out and learning new things suits them. It can be a great kicker to your mid-career. But very often, I am talking to them because they realise that it won’t make their future work.
1. Being an interim no longer makes financial sense
Although, as an interim you were getting a premium day rate, all that did was cover the fact that, like most interims, you’re only working two thirds of the year. Now various tax changes mean that you’ve moved from being a director drawing dividends and charging expenses to pre-tax earnings, to somebody who’s on PAYE paying expenses out of post-tax earning. You’re giving your money to the agency, to the umbrella company providing the PAYE shelter and a lot more of your money to HMRC.
You were doing very well compared to your corporate peers. But now you’re in a situation where it’s actually very difficult for you to get the income and benefits that you had in permanent full time salaried professional employment.
2. As I’ve got older, the gap between interim assignments seems to be getting longer
Like many, when you first started out, you were working from job to job and struggling to find the holiday that you wanted. Now, when one job comes to an end you’re sitting on the bench for longer and longer, scrabbling around for the right kind of role, at the right kind of level with the right kind of rate. You may be faced with accepting work which doesn’t really value your experience, and certainly doesn’t reflect the income that you need.
3. I do not want to be traveling away from home as often or for as long
When you started out being an interim, you relished the opportunity to work in different parts of the country and even to work overseas. You were happy to have a 3-4-5 lifestyle, three nights away, four days on the client site and working from home on day five. With lockdown all the rules of the game changed. But as we’re starting to unlock, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that you will need to work more and more on site. You don’t want to be traveling away from home with the frequency and duration that you used to have.
4. I don’t feel I’m developing anymore
As an interim you get bought for what you can do now. You need to be ‘oven ready’ to go straight into the heat of the situation in which you’ll be looking to make a big difference. Increasingly, you are pigeonholed by the agencies on which you rely and have very few opportunities for learning new stuff, building new skills and growing professionally.
5. I no longer want to work in crisis situations
Most interims are brought into an organisation when there’s a gap in the management structure of the organisation. Sometimes it’s covering maternity leave. Too often, it’s because there’s a role that is ambiguous, undefined, and you are brought in to sort out a mess. Although earlier in your interim career, that could be very exciting and interesting, now you are tired of sorting out other people’s messes. Particularly when the reward for success is that you get sacked because you’ve created a job simple enough for somebody else to do. You know they will be the true beneficiaries of all your hard work.
6. I’m not enjoying the corporate environment
To a certain extent, as an interim you are shielded from the internal politics. You are one step removed from the day-to-day political wrangling. Everybody knows you’re not going to be there indefinitely.
People want you to succeed but, inevitably, you’re coming in to make waves and challenge the status quo. That will mean that you are subjected to corporate politics. Many people I talk to have got to the point where they don’t really care about the corporate politics anymore. They’re tired of fighting them. They want to make a difference elsewhere.
7. I want to work part-time
In practice as the interim, you are working part-time. But part-time is not three or four days a week. Part-time is seven or eight months a year. You’re either full on, or full off.
There are very few opportunities for you to come in and work part-time because you tend to be coming into a crisis environment. They want you full time (and probably you will work overtime). When, I’ve spoken to interims who want who sign up contracts of three or four days a week, they find it ends up stretching into full time.
8. I want to have a future working life that will go beyond my interim workstyle
Because interim roles are seen as demanding and because they rely on agencies to offer you work, it is more and more difficult for you to find new roles as you get beyond 55.
Most agencies are looking to place people who they believe the client wants. Research shows most hiring managers want people who are under 55. It becomes increasingly difficult to continue to find interim roles from your late fifties onwards.
9. I thought being an interim was working for myself but it feels like being employed
In a sense, as an interim, you are working for yourself because you are freelancer But actually, you have very little control over how you do your job and how you build your future. It’s all mediated through an agency and your interim employer. To truly work for yourself, you need to be able to pick your hours, choose your clients, define your proposition and not rely upon expensive intermediaries who ultimately control your every move.
10. I want to have a less demanding role
Most of the interims that I talked to recognise that stepping into an interim role is demanding.
It requires energy. It requires commitment and long hours whether you’re paid on a daily basis or an hourly basis. Most interims are paid on a daily basis without any compensation for overtime. You can end up working extended hours in order to fix whatever you’ve been brought in to sort out. You are ready to move back to a 37½ hour week so you can spend time with your family, develop other interests and perhaps become a trustee, school governor or volunteer.
And two bonus reasons:
I want to work for smaller organisations
Smaller organisations, whether businesses or charities, are less likely to recruit interims into significant and important roles. They may engage consultants. They might engage advisors. Otherwise, they are looking to have people in long term roles. If you’re looking to have the variety, stimulation, interest and dynamism of working in small or medium sized businesses, then it is very difficult to find senior professional interim roles.
I’ve got to a stage where I want to re-evaluate all my working options
You have made the first step from permanent employment into interim roles. Now you are ready to look at all of the other possibilities that are out there. As an interim, it’s very difficult to build an alternative workstyle, without giving up the interim role. You end up on a rollercoaster ride of full time in work or full time looking for work. It’s hard to create the space for other possibilities. Being an interim is not enough for you anymore and you’re ready to go and explore what other possibilities there are.
Becoming an interim will often provide a great short term career fix when you want a change from the corporate employment ladder. However, if you are finding that interim no longer gives you everything you want, then consider the benefits of a Portfolio Executive Workstyle at PortfolioExecutive.biz .
Charles McLachlan is the founder of FuturePerfect and on a mission to transform the future of work and business. The Portfolio Executive programme is a new initiative to help executives build a sustainable and impactful second-half-career. Creating an alternative future takes imagination, design, organisation and many other thinking skills. Charles is happy to lend them to you.