Posted On 12th March 2012

The face of employment is changing. This month’s employment figures indicate that the promise of private sector job creation outstripping public sector job losses is now starting to materialise. More people will be working in small and medium enterprises, either social or commercial. Still others of us are creating our own SMEs and the term “microbusiness” is also becoming a firm fixture in the lexicon.

For others, self-employment will take yet another form. Following successful careers a growing number of people are attracted to the flexibility and variety of interim and contract work. Many who take this step find it hugely rewarding and enjoy working in new fields that they may not have experienced working as a permanent employee but, as with everything preparation is all.

Effectively you become your own small business and any business needs some degree of marketing. You might be able to find work through your contacts. You are also likely to sign up to consultancies relevant to your line of work – and if you’ll let me teach grandma to suck eggs for a moment, sign up to as many as you can as you never know where the next call will come from.

When seeking to secure work through consultants, your main calling card will be your CV. Unlike personal contacts, the consultant may not know you and even if they do, they probably won’t have much of a clue about your life’s work and achievements. So you have to tell them and also tell them in a way that can be readily and accurately coded in a database. Assume nothing – except perhaps that the coding is going to be done by someone who is fairly junior who may not fully understand your career unless you explain it clearly. Your CV is critical.

The other thing to bear in mind is that the consultants probably don’t have the exact details of the next assignment in your line of work right there. I know that the folks at Richmond Solutions spend a lot of time coaching candidates for permanent roles to tailor their CVs to individual applications. Similarly, I also know that they, and indeed we at Osborne Thomas as consultants spend a lot of time explaining to our clients who want to work as interims that they need to include everything that may be relevant, promoting their skills, expertise and most of all their achievements in all elements of their professional life. Wouldn’t you feel daft if you missed out on a plum assignment because you’d omitted as irrelevant the evidence of the very experience that the employer was looking for? If you are currently in full time employment then it’s equally as important to list the programmes/projects you have worked on and especially the outcomes.

This is not a license to ramble. You still need to encapsulate your various jobs and assignments so that it is clear what it is you do, the scope and scale on which you work, the reach of your experience and most of all, what you have achieved. Achievements are, after all, what make you different from other candidates for the same role. Don’t fabricate but equally don’t underplay your hand either. You may be more comfortable with your natural modesty but don’t count on the competition (i.e. other interims going after the same assignment) feeling the same way.

Provide full entries for up to the last 10 years of your career – including both permanent and interim positions. Before this, provide a summary of your earlier career with a list of key achievements.

Given all the advice about keeping your CV short, you may think this is a tall order. However, we really don’t mind if the CV is long (by which we mean more than two pages and possibly up to four or five, depending on experience). In fact, we expect a successful interim to have a long CV as it shows they’ve been picking up assignments.

Sometimes it’s also useful to have something more “portable”. “Also” is the operative word here and if you want to know what this is, people tend to go for one page headed with a professional profile and summary of key skills and a simple list of their professional experience. This can be handy as an introduction to send to any new contacts you make when you’re networking.

With the right skills and experience, theres no reason why you shouldn’t make a success of an interim career. But you do need to realise the differences, subtle though some of them are, and ensure your CV (and LinkedIn profile) is adjusted to reflect them.

Julie Osborne

Managing Director, Osborne Thomas [contact-form-7 id="4" title="Contact Page Form"]