Straight from the Horse’s mouth – what it’s like to work as an IC interim. We hear from three IC professionals

03 April 2023

Comma Partners’ second career path session for the first quarter of 2023 was aimed at IC (Internal Communication) specialists either considering a move from perm to interim or are new to interim.

‘Despite changes in IR35 rules’, said Comma’s Andy Macleod, ‘interim roles remain as popular as ever as a career option.’

This topic was brought to life through Comma’s panel of experts – Nadine Dixon, Catherine Inwood and Simon Monger, all of whom have been interims for many years.

Nadine is an employee/change communications senior leader with over fifteen years of expertise in communications. For the last eight years, she has been working as an internal communications interim consultant primarily in the financial services sector for companies including Barclays, the Financial Conduct Authority and Schroders. Her internal communications projects have included business and technology transformations, diversity, equity and inclusion strategies, mergers and acquisitions activity and regulatory reform.  She is currently available for her next project.

Catherine has more than 20 years IC experience in interim and perm roles. Currently in an interim IC role at Knight Frank, the property specialists, her most recent perm role was as Lead Business Partner Colleague Communication at British Airways. She’s also worked for organisations as varied as Nationwide, BP, the National Trust and Vodafone.

Simon Monger is an internal communications, change and engagement consultant, and President of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) UK & Ireland chapter for the 2022/23 Board year. Since 2007, Simon has worked with a diverse range of global and multinational organisations in 19 countries across three continents, including IKEA and Deloitte.

Skill sets, strengths and ‘watchouts’ 

‘As an interim,’ said Virginia Hicks, ‘you should be working inside your comfort zone.  Interim roles are not developmental roles in the traditional sense of the word, where you might be sent on training courses. The stretch should be in terms of getting to grips with the brief, new people and a new business quickly.’  

A specific skill set is not required for interims.   ‘What is different’, says Simon, ‘is the way of thinking.  You need to be able to hit the ground running and be comfortable perpetually being the new person.

‘Being in a team in an interim role is not always easy.  People can be wary of you.  You may be on a day rate, and they may be sceptical of your worth.  A good interim mindset is to make a tactical strike.  Identify something that needs fixing and do it quickly.  Then you earn credibility and can spend more time on the bigger things.’

Pros of interim work 

For Nadine it’s the new opportunities interim work offers and the freedom and flexibility it gives her.  In seven years, she has done eight jobs. ‘While you don’t go into interim work expecting to be sent on courses or formally developed, the “on the job” exposure is great for your personal development.’ 

Cons of interim work 

As Comma’s Andy Macleod said: ‘the ideal is that you walk out of one job and straight into another.  But it often doesn’t work that way’.  As an interim you have to be comfortable with uncertainty and be very flexible.  You also have to be resilient.  Rejections can come quickly but before you know it you have a role, and you might be starting the next day.’  

‘Between projects there is an element of nervousness,’ said Nadine. ‘When is that next job coming? In downtimes, companies will let contractors go before they let their permanent staff go, but if you build in financial buffers you are able to enjoy the downtimes too.  

‘There’s also danger in being an interim that you don’t take time off work because time off means no pay. But you can’t operate like this.  You need to look after your wellbeing and manage your energy and be ready for the next role.’  

How to / whether to move to interim?

For some, going from perm to FTC before moving to interim is an easier transition than moving straight from perm to interim if they have been working in-house for a long time.  

It can also be difficult moving from perm to interim because most perm staff will be on a one to three month notice period.  There is no easy way round this.  You just have to go for it if you think it’s the right move for you.

How to secure an interim role 

‘First of all, said Andy, ‘few day rate assignments are advertised on LinkedIn Jobs.  For those used to scrolling through LinkedIn and finding a job, this isn’t how it works.  It would most likely be through a recruiter or someone you might know in your network.’

‘Every interim needs a short, tailored CV’, says Virginia, ‘because that is the vehicle we use to present candidates to a client.  As somebody who should have excellent writing skills it’s an opportunity to write succinctly and bring to life your personality and style as well as your skills and experience.  

The interview process for an interim role is usually one to two stages.  Usually, a recruiter has a brief – sometimes just a two liner – they shortlist quickly – in two to three days.  The interview is usually virtual and start dates are often in the next few days. ‘ 

Nadine says, ‘Research is your friend.  Talk to friends, talk to existing interims, talk to recruiters, make sure you understand as much about the interim market as possible’.

Practicalities 

Umbrella or limited company?

Catherine explained a little about the differences between the two options and the need to take professional advice – from an accountant and HMRC – before deciding what’s the best option for you. As in many things, flexibility is key so it’s important to know what you need to earn and to understand how the different approaches to contract and payment will affect your income.  

And, finally the top tips condensed:

Top 10 tips

  1. Think about transitioning from Perm to FTC to Interim 
  2. Get an accountant the first time
  3. Don’t leave networking until you need a job – make it a constant
  4. Tailor your CV for each role
  5. Plan in a financial buffer for those times you are not working 
  6. Prepare yourself for the time in between jobs and enjoy down-time
  7. Make a note of the work you’ve done on each interim assignment – it’s easy to forget
  8. Get testimonials – they are handy
  9. Don’t be afraid to be the newbie 
  10. Help others and they will help you

If you’d like to join a future Comma Career Session, contact Louise at [email protected].

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