Posts Tagged ‘career planning’

Have Executive Experience – Will Travel: The Interim Executive Phenomenon

December 19th, 2012

Interim management – bringing in heavyweight executives to manage an organization during a period of crisis or transition – is a staffing strategy that began in the Netherlands in the early 80s in response to stringent labour legislation that made it costly to hire and terminate permanent employees. The concept has since been adopted in the UK, Germany, Belgium, and Australia as a strategy for bridging short-term management needs, and is becoming increasingly popular in North America.

I had the chance to talk with Carmen Jeffrey, a Partner with Knightsbridge Human Capital Solutions, about how Interim Executive solutions are evolving in North America. Carmen is responsible for Talent Acquisition in Knightsbridge’s Interim Management Division.


The Interim Executive Phenomenon

Have Executive Experience - Will Travel

 What Drew You to Specialize In this Field?

I’ve been in recruiting for 15 years, and have personally freelanced for almost 70% of the time, so I’ve always been a big believer in corporate freelance-for-hire. Since my early days in recruiting, I’ve seen an impressive increase in the quality of talent that is available for contract positions, and “contractor” no longer has the stigma that it once had, either for companies or for candidates. Interim management is an extension of that model. With the average tenure of permanent executive placements now being less than five years, it’s a solution that’s right for the times, and it is a substantial growth area for recruiters. 

Why the Growth in Interim Executive Solutions?

Interim management really gained traction in the UK and Europe in 2001 following the bust, when companies found it too risky to hire people full-time. North American employers started taking notice, especially when the recession hit in 2008. It took time for the business model to evolve, for Interim Management to gain credibility as a viable recruitment option at the senior levels. Demand is growing now as employers become aware of the model, and as more and more high calibre executives begin to promote themselves in the interim management market.

 What is the Typical Profile of an Interim Executive?

In my experience, great interim executives are full of a little more “spit and vinegar” than average. They are adaptable and agile, and have built a management tool kit over a varied career. Typically, they will have worked for five or six organizations over 20 or more years, and have grown professionally in that time. They have seen a lot of different business landscapes and have successfully addressed complexities and challenges such as merges & acquisitions and boom & bust cycles.

Ageism isn’t a factor in the interim market because companies are looking for experience. I would say the average age of interims is 50 to 55 years. They are senior VPs, Directors, CEOs who are looking to reinvent themselves and have a lot to offer. They can hit the ground running and be effective within the first week. A lot of project managers and program managers do well as Interims – they know how to make things happen.

 Is There a Typical Profile for the Employers?

Companies of all sizes, in all industries, are using interim executives, sometimes as a way of avoiding the cost of the golden handshake when they know they only need somebody for a fixed term. There is always a sense of urgency, maybe a project deadline, or an audit. It could be the sudden departure of the incumbent due to illness. Usually, in my experience, they also have a “skeleton” in the closet, some kind of internal pressure that means filling the positioning internally is not an option.

 How is this Different from Using Consultants or Contractors?

When a company hires on contract, the contractor is given less access to certain repositories of information. Contractors can’t attend certain meetings for confidentiality reasons. Consultants are brought in to provide advice, but don’t have decision-making authority. Senior-level Interims, on the other hand, become members of the executive decision-making team. It’s always clear that the Interim Executive has been hired with a mandate to drive change. The average tenure is about 18 months. They don’t have to partake in the politics, and are expected to be objective. They have permission, and the luxury, to be blunt – to be “outside” insiders – so it is often easier for them to execute the change agenda.

 Are There Risks/Downsides?

I haven’t personally seen any failed Interim assignments, but I’ve heard stories of interim hires that didn’t work out. Usually its because the expectations weren’t well defined by the company. Perhaps the company’s vision was “go go”, but they couldn’t accommodate the necessary horsepower, or didn’t have the infrastructure in place to support the vision.

What Does the Business Relationship Look Like?

The Interim Executive workforce is more sophisticated today than it was in the past. Typically they are incorporated individuals for hire, and we strongly recommend this. At Knightsbridge we can put them on our payroll if they aren’t incorporated, but the tax savings are almost 20% if they incorporate.

For the employer, the Interim is a line item on a budget sheet rather than a headcount. Compensation is calculated based on a per diem or annual compensation package that includes the monetary value of salaries, benefits, bonus and vacation time if they were hired full-time. At Knightsbridge we take a hands-on role in helping with these negotiations.

 How Does Interim Executive Recruitment Work?

At Knightsbridge we work on a contingency model and charge a research fee for sourcing the candidate. However it’s not often that we are competing with another recruitment firm to find an interim candidate. We are working with really short time frames – only two to five days to get the shortlist together, with the expectation that the Interim Executive will begin working within ten days. We have a database of over 6000 Interims, a pipeline that we’ve developed over 7 years and continue to feed through our work Executive Transition, Career Transition, Leadership Development and Talent Acquisition. We also go out to professional associations and headhunt net new talent.

If Somebody Wants to Get Into the Interim Exec Business, How Should They Start?

If somebody is interested in interim management as a career path, I strongly recommend that they research the landscape and become really savvy about how other Interims are marketing themselves. Hang out the shingle and advertise yourself as an Interim Executive for Hire. Have a mission statement that identifies the specific things you can do for a company, the kinds of situations you can handle.

Be proactive in getting incorporated. Two years ago Revenue Canada started audited people who were incorporated to make sure that they stated their books accurately, so it is advisable to work with an accountant to set it up.

Write your resume with Interim Executive opportunities as a target. This is no time to try and hide your age, embrace it. The value that you bring to the table is the depth and diversity of experience you have to offer. Showcase your successes with situational management, where you’ve had to roll things out under duress. Highlight executional accomplishments as opposed to day to day management. As you build a portfolio of interim engagements you can add this experience to your marketing material.

There are a growing number of executive search firms that have an Interim Management group, including Knightsbridge, the Osborne Group, Odgers Berndstson, and Atticus Management in Canada; and FTI Consulting, Boyden Interim Management, and Transition Management Consulting, Inc. in the US.

But Interim Executives should be ready to hunt down their own work. At least one day in five should be spent doing calls. Successful Interims are always networking and promoting themselves, and this has a benefit not only for their own career but for the industry as a whole. As more and more interims advertise themselves, employers are becoming increasingly aware of the interim option, and this is driving growth in demand overall.


Cool Tools for Jobseekers – Self-Assessment

February 22nd, 2012

A little self-awareness can go a long way in helping you get clear on the next best move for your career. There are lots of resources available online to help you with your self-assessment. Some of my favorite free tools include:

A candidate assessment tool that was designed for employers, Clearfit has a module for jobseekers to conduct their own evaluation on how well suited they are for their current position, and what positions might be a better fit for their strengths and skills.

“The better you know yourself, the better you grow yourself.” Reach 360 helps you evaluate your professional reputation by soliciting feedback from your network of contacts. Unlike workplace 360′s, Reach allows you to gather insights from all areas of your life – your suppliers, your clients, your colleagues, your friends, people you volunteer with, industry associates. Armed with this information, you can assess how well you are branding and presenting yourself.

Jung Typology Test
Based on the psychology studies of Carl Jung and Isabel Briggs Myers, the typological test analyzes your strengths and temperament, and identifies your preferred ways of connecting, communicating, analyzing, and problem solving. The results are categorized into one of 16 Personality Types, and provide astute insights into what it takes for you to be able to do your best work.


Fresh Start – Make an Annual Strategic Plan for Your Career

September 6th, 2011

This weekend the temperature in our neck of the woods plummeted, and suddenly it was Autumn. Despite what the calendar says, to me the start of the new year always coincides with the start of the school year. Although it’s been (unspecified number of) years since I was in school full-time, I still get that rush of excitement that comes from preparing for a new year – buying the right supplies, picking out the wardrobe, deciding on courses, preparing to meet old friends and renew summer-lapsed friendships. In fact I spent the last few weeks updating my strategic business plan and refining the services and programs that I will be offering to my clients this year.

Whether you are running your own business, freelancing, looking for a job or in a steady career, September is a great time to take stock and make an annual strategic plan for your career.

Make an Annual Strategic Plan for Your Career

Make an Annual Strategic Plan for Your Career

  • Do an annual retrospective: what worked for you, career-wise, over the past year?  What accomplishments are you particularly proud of? What obstacles were you able to overcome? What kudos did you receive? What didn’t work so well? What feedback did you receive that made you sit up and take notice? What parts of your career feel stagnant, or worse, toxic? What steps do you need to take to further the successes, overcome the obstacles, and ensure that professional development needs are addressed?
  • Define career goals for the coming year: What do you want to accomplish professionally over the next 12 months? What can you do, and should you do at work to move your career ahead? What can you do, and should you do, outside of work hours to move your career ahead?  Is it time to make a move, and if so, do you have a clear idea of your most logical next career step?
  • Update your career marketing material: If somebody asked you for a copy of your resume, would you be able to give them one? Do you know which of your accomplishments make you most marketable in today’s job market?
  • Update your industry knowledge: Do you know the emerging trends and industry dynamics that are most likely to impact your company, your clients and your career this year? Do you know who the thought leaders are in your field, and where to find them?
  • Refresh your network: Do you have a database of contact information for your network? Are you keeping it up to date? When was the last time you exercised your networking muscles (they go stale pretty quickly if you don’t use them on a regular basis)? do you have lapsed contacts that need to be renewed? Which five to ten people would you like to catch up with, and what is the best time/place to get this done? Are you a member in name only of your professional association? What industry and professional events are coming up this year that you should make a point of attending?
  • Review your IRL image: Do a wardrobe check – are there missing buttons, frayed seams? Are there favourite pieces that really should retire to the great donation heap in the sky?  Does your makeup and hairstyle make you look tired or dated? Have somebody take a picture of you from behind – are you comfortable with what you see? Are you a member of a gym in name only?
  • Review your online image: What about your online image? If somebody searches your name online, will they get an up-to-date impression of who you are and what you have to offer? Do you have a profile in ZoomInfo, Pipl, Does your LinkedIn profile reflect where you are today in your career?

Create an Annual Strategic Plan for Your Career

Using the above information, define specific goals and action items for the coming year. Formalize them in your calendar with reminders, deadlines and deliverables. Pace yourself and prioritize, you don’t have to tackle everything at once. If you are having trouble getting started, consider working with a career coach who can help to get you on the right track.

    Whether it’s time for radical change or incremental progress, creating an annual strategic plan for your career can help to ensure that you don’t get stuck in a rut and continue to have the knowledge, skills, networking connections and professional reputation to keep you marketable and in demand.


    Interview-on-Demand™ Using VerbalSummary™ Technology – How Cool Is That?

    May 20th, 2011

    I’m excited! Over the next couple of months, I’m going to be putting together some new coaching and career marketing packages that I know will take my clients’ job searches to a whole new level. Sure, it will still involve creating killer resumes that get noticed, but this is just one tool in the arsenal. It will also involve providing state-of-the-art options to reach recruiters and hiring managers where they are at – on their smartphones, through social media, and at in-real-life networking events and business functions.

    verbal_summary_logoOne of the innovations that I will be offering is Interview-on-Demand™ using VerbalSummary technology, a tool developed by recruiter Jerry Albright to present candidates to hiring managers.  Using Interview-on-Demand™, we will create a two to four minute audio clip with a link imbedded in your resume, in which you respond to some typical interview questions about your particular area of expertise.

    Why is this so powerful? My goal has always been to create documents that capture my client’s voice. Interview-on-Demand does that, and even more.  By pressing the play button on your resume, recruiters and hiring managers will get authentic insights into your strengths, your personality, your approach to work, in a way that can’t be conveyed on paper. Jerry’s been using it for a couple of years now, and not only has it helped to grow his business exponentially, but it’s shortened the time to hire and substantially reduced the effort it takes to present his candidates. Using VerbalSummary technology, the candidates literally present themselves.

    Isn’t This Just the Same as Video Resumes? Not even close. Video resumes have numerous downsides. Aside from obvious production quality issues, they create an opening for discrimination claims, they don’t work on all platforms, and they don’t easily fit within existing candidate screening and recruiting processes. Interview-on-Demand™ will be built right into your resume, so it will work in conventional resume distribution models.

    Interview-on-Demand™ won’t just be limited to resumes. We can use it in your LinkedIn profile, QRcode it in your business cards, embed it in your blog, or add it your email signature – any way that you use to communicate.  And that’s not even the best part (although it is pretty good), the best part is that, using VerbalSummary dashboard, we’ll be able to track in real time how many times your Interview-on-Demand™ has been listened to, so that we can gauge how well your job search strategy is working.  Pretty cool, huh?

    When Will Interview-on-Demand Be Available? In the next few weeks Jerry and I will be working out the nuances of adapting a recruiter-focused tool to the needs of a career coach (really, the tool is so well designed that it won’t take much), and I will be putting myself through  VerbalSummary™ bootcamp to master the technology.

    If you would be interested in being a test pilot for Interview-on-Demand™, then let me know.

    Career Coaches and Resume Writers who may be interested in adding this to their service offerings, let me know.

    In the meantime, here’s a sample of VerbalSummary in action, so that you can get a taste of how this whole thing will work.


    The Passion Myth

    June 10th, 2010

    If you google “find your passion” you will get 39,000,000 hits. Go to the self-help section of any bookstore and you will see 50 or more volumes on finding your passion, following your passion, living your passion. Every other twitter bio or LinkedIn bio has a reference to “passionate about.” Passion, as they say, is the new black.

    So I was hardly surprised when a young friend came to me for career advice, and started the conversation by saying “My job sucks, I’m bored to tears. I just can’t figure out what my passion is”. She spoke as if somewhere, out there, is a single career-related purpose that, if she could but find it, would lead to eternal fulfillment. This was her fifth “it sucks” job in three years, and it was clear that she had fallen for the passion myth.

    Myth # 1: I’m not making enough money, so clearly I’m not on the right path.

    Reality Bite – Passion does not equate with income.
    If you are lucky, you have a passionate interest that feeds your soul and gives lightness to your day. But if you look outside yourself for affirmation or compensation for your passion, you may be in for disappointment. Don’t believe me? Watch the auditions for American and Idol or So You Think You Can Dance, and you’ll see thousands of people hoping that their talents will make them a star. For all but a handful, that dream will be crushed. Many of those crushed enthusiasts will be too embarrassed to ever sing or dance again and that, to me, is tragic. If you are passionate about singing, then sing. If you are passionate about dancing, then dance. But do it because you love to sing and dance. Not because you crave the applause.

    Nearly every self-help book or website mentions turning your hobby into a career. Stories abound of people who did exactly that and made millions. Less often told, but exponentially more numerous, are the stories of people who tried to turn their hobbies into an income stream and things didn’t work out the way they expected. The woodworker who stopped getting any joy out of his art because all of his commissions were boring pieces for clients with no imagination. The cooking enthusiast who never got to do any cooking because they spent 95% of their time dealing with the mundane business details involved in running a restaurant.

    More practical advice would be to “Find a Job that Pays Reasonably Well So That You Can Afford to Follow Your Passions Outside of Work – but that wouldn’t be a very sexy book title.

    Myth #2: ‘Following Your Passion’ is doing work that has meaning instead of being a mindless worker ant.

    Reality Bite – All work has meaning – even the boring stuff.
    Stop approaching passion as if it were something that you can “find”, like the perfect lifestyle accessory, or something that you “do”, like saving the world. Start thinking of passion as a way of being, a quality that you can and must cultivate.

    When it comes to our work, we choose to be passionate. Or not. We choose to be actively engaged. Or not. We choose to be conscientious. Or not. We choose to treat customers and colleagues with courtesy and consideration. Or not. We choose to give more than is expected. Or not. We choose to see ourselves as part of the big picture. Or not.

    People who can manage to be engaged, conscientious, courteous, considerate, giving and enthusiastic even while slinging hashbrowns or counting widgets *have* passion. And that passion gets noticed. And that notice results in new opportunities to do something more challenging and interesting. You are only a mindless worker ant if that is how you choose to see yourself.

    Does That Mean I Shouldn’t Leave My Horrible Job?!??!

    Of course not. But take the time to honestly figure out what makes the job horrible. If the problem is your attitude, your expectations, your need for applause, your passion myths, then chances are good that the next job you find isn’t going to be any less horrible than this one, and you are not going to be one inch closer to finding your passion.


    Helping Johnny Find a Job – Career Advice for Johnny’s Parents

    November 23rd, 2009

    jonnyOver the past five years, I have helped more than two hundred new graduates prepare to market themselves for their first job, and I can tell you that some of them are woefully unprepared for the job search. It isn’t just that they don’t know how to write a resume or how to behave in an interview. It’s that they lack basic work skills and life experiences, and this puts them at a huge disadvantage over others in their peer group, especially in today’s job market.

    Before I go on, I want to set the record straight. I’m not normally one for ‘shoulding’ on parents. Child rearing is hard enough without having a whole lot of experts tell us everything we are doing wrong. I know from personal experience that we are doing the best we can while mostly flying by the seat of our pants.

    But several incidents over the past two months have put me into full-blown “what were your parents thinking” mode:

    • The following question was posted on Careerealism’s Twitter Advice Project: “Q# 367 I’ve taken all the tests and can’t find a single job I’m excited about. I can’t imagine a job I would find interesting and no amount of money will drive me to do work that I hate. How does one turn around their complete distaste for work?” (My response: Try going hungry for a while. It can turn around your complete distaste for work pretty fast. )
    • I had a consultation with a soon-to-be university graduate who has absolutely no work experience. I mean zero. Never worked a day in his life, either for pay or in a volunteer capacity. “My parents told me getting an education was my job.” He (and they) can’t understand why recruiters aren’t beating a path to his door.
    • I came to the startling realization that by the age of twelve I was riding the Toronto subway system on my own, while my soon-to-be-twelve year old son is still not allowed off our street alone (granted, our street is a dead-end country lane that connects to an 80 k/ph road with no sidewalks, and the nearest town is 5 kms away, but still).
    • I witnessed the completely avoidable failure of a business venture that was launched by a young woman who, at the age of 32, has been rescued by her father from every single roadblock in her life, and has never discovered the need to negotiate, compromise, or develop a business plan.
    • I read an article about the negative impact that helicopter parents are having on their children’s job prospects, which included an anecdote about a father who hired a PR firm to complete his nine year old’s school project.

    Motivated by these incidents and my experience as a career coach, psychotherapist and parent, I have created my very own
    Top-ten ‘should’ list for parents who want to prepare their children for career success.

    1. Networking & Communicating: By the time your child is 3, stop answering on their behalf in social situations. Too many mothers (and fathers) are tempted to jump in when an adult asks their child a question. Don’t. Good communication skills – the ability to hold a conversation, respond intelligently to questions, ask for customer service, stand up for one’s thoughts and ideas, actively listen while others are speaking – are invaluable life skills that should be learned almost as soon as we can talk. They are the foundations of good networking, and are essential to landing a job.
    2. Dreaming & Planning: Don’t squash every enthusiastic but impractical idea that your child comes up with. Encourage them to think it through, and help them work out solutions to potential obstacles. As in the adult world, much of the fun is in the dreaming rather than the doing, and in the process of exploring an idea your child will learn for themselves what is practical, what is improbable, and what is possible if you have the right tools, information and attitude.
    3. Money & Financial Management: It is never too early to start teaching children the basics of money management and the power of delayed gratification over impulse spending. Understanding how money works is essential no matter which career path you choose.
    4. Fail. Learn. Grow: Don’t try to shelter your child from every painful experience, or rescue them from every mistake. One of the most valuable gifts you can give your child is the knowledge that there are consequences for their decisions, and that from our failures we are given the chance to learn, develop inner fortitude, and survive, overcome, move on.
    5. Contribute to the Community: By the age of 13, your child should be volunteering somewhere. Whether its in an animal shelter, a church, or a service organization, your child needs to have the awareness that “it’s not all about me.”
    6. Start Early to Develop Work Skills: Nobody should hit the double digits without knowing how to prepare a basic meal or do a load of laundry. By the age of 15, your child should have a part-time job. If they can’t find a job with somebody else, they can start their own business – babysitting services, tutoring, yardwork, dog walking. Yes, your child’s priority is their education, but some of the most important lessons in life can only be learned outside of the classroom (the correlation between hard work and income ranking high among them). Your child is less than enthusiastic about the idea? Think about cutting them off financially. At a minimum they should be paying for all or part of their entertainment costs, their cell phone fees, their gonna-die-if-I-don’t-get-it-right-now toys and accessories. Ideally, they should be saving for the future.
    7. Experience Sweat-Inducing Hard Work: At some point between grade 9 and university graduation, steer your child (and especially your daughter) toward a summer job that requires physical stamina – planting trees in backwoods Canada, swilling manure out of barns, painting houses. Why? They will discover that they are stronger than they think, and they will learn why tenacity matters. They will acquire personal stories that are the stuff of legends. And (from my personal experience), every job they get after that will seem like a breeze by comparison.
    8. Take a High School Victory Lap: If your high school graduate is vague about their university/college goals, don’t push them. One in six university students will drop out before they start their second year. With tuition fees of $10k+ annually, you both can afford to give them an extra year so that they can get clear on their goals. But make sure the year is spent productively. Use it to work, contribute in the community, learn a new skill, travel.
    9. Study Business Fundamentals: Regardless of one’s major or ultimate career objective, every student will benefit from taking at least one business-related course. Ideally, it should involve a practical project that requires team work and is based on a real-world case study. Even artists and writers need to understand business fundamentals, if they don’t want to be at the mercy of unscrupulous agents.
    10. Learn Another Language: We live in a multicultural world, and jobs in the future will require the agility to navigate a multicultural business environment. Those who can think in more than one language will have a distinct advantage. Notice that I say think, not speak. Ask anybody who speaks more than one language, and they will tell you that they think differently, depending on which language they use. There are some thoughts, some ideas, some concepts, that can’t be expressed as well in English as in, say, French, or Spanish. Even if English continues to predominate as the language of business, learning how to think from another cultural perspective will be critical for building bridges to international clients and developing global business partnerships.

    Meet Karen Siwak

    An award-winning Certified Résumé Strategist, Karen has crafted top calibre career transition packages for thousands of clients. Her specialty is helping people identify and articulate their unique brands and value propositions, and she is passionate about empowering clients with the tools, strategies and confidence to take control of their career search. Read more...

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