Competition between interims is fierce, so how do they position themselves for the assignments they deserve?
The interim management and consultancy landscape is significantly different from the period before the downturn. As budgets are slashed and jobs culled, the market has, naturally, changed. But this is a sector that thrives on change. A recession entails insecurity and even redundancy for some, but may signal good times for independent practitioners. It is a period of upheaval across most sectors, and many organizations do not want to add to their permanent payroll. Bringing in interim capacity is an ideal solution to manage tough changes, without busting a hiring freeze. Demand continues for interim management and consultancy, whatever the economic situation, the recession has simply led to caution. In theory it could be a great time to be an interim, either interim manager or freelance consultant.
But reality rarely lives up to the theory. Apart from the best interims with outstanding portfolio careers and business-critical skills, who are first in line for the jobs that do come up in the economic downturn, it is hard to find much cheery news for either new or established practitioners. Many interims are struggling as a result of the recession; they need to be well prepared to have a period of downtime between assignments. The market is flooded with people made redundant from their permanent jobs, the competition between interims is fierce, and for many areas of specialism fewer assignments are available. The high number of candidates also means that employers can afford to take their time in deciding who they want. There’s almost as much focus on interim hires as on permanent roles. Organizations are reducing their risk by adding in stages, such as second and third interviews.
So, how can interims differentiate themselves to create a shortcut to the interim assignments they deserve? How can interims create more pull than other interims instead of fighting even harder for the work? Given the (structural) changes in the market for independent practitioners, cooperation between interims to satisfy the needs of clients is in everyone's interest. Most independent practitioners are not really part of a team or do not have an identity within an organization. A compelling interim profile under a recognized platform of outstanding interims can outdistance the achievements and reputation of competitors and gain a competitive edge in the job market. Many (in)formal networks exist, but the full potential is not seized and the disadvantages of being self-employed are not removed. The help of a specialized consulting and interim management firm, with a high-quality network of interims with successful track records of assignments, is a solution: an organization for and by independent practitioners offering support and counselling, ranging from positioning for (multidisciplinary) assignments, training and development programs, social network opportunities and a kite mark of quality and best practice.
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