Entering the Interim HR Market – Elinor Brett’s story
Have you ever considered working for yourself but never taken the leap? Hear Elinor’s story about setting up as an Interim after many years in global tech businesses working with SLT’s as their strategic HR Business Partner.
1) Talk us through the story behind the motivations of moving away from the permanent market and into the Interim World?
This is an easy one – it was something I’d always wanted to do and talking honestly; I’d stopped enjoying corporate life. I considered it 3 years earlier but concluded I wasn’t ready and wanted to continue with the corporate/permanent world – 18 months in, I realised I needed to try something different and find the fun again!
2) What would be the top considerations for someone hoping to make the same move as you?
Great question – and I had to really think about the impact it would have not only on me but my home life too. Having a little nest egg does really help as the first few years can be financially challenging whilst you get up and running – you’re walking away from having the comfort of the monthly salary. You also must be ready to ‘seek’ work and that’s the hardest part – it requires a mindset change. I’ve worn a few different hats – be that marketing, business development and finance!
3) What was the biggest challenge you faced?
Networking. I’m pretty outgoing but I find ‘selling myself’ rather difficult. I’ve concluded its best to network ‘simply’ and not try to ‘sell’ to people (certainly in the first instance). I prefer to give them a feel for what I do and who I am – I find the rest takes care of itself.
4) In hindsight, what was the most valuable piece of advice you were given before you set up?
I set up on a whim (not sure I should admit that!), but I decided one weekend after a particularly difficult week at work – I didn’t plan it. This is the first time I have done anything without planning to within an inch of my life – it was scary and liberating and so far I’ve not looked back. One thing I had help with was my CV for the consulting/interim market – I was told ‘spend the time on it, it will pay dividends’… and it has.
5) Given what you know now, what would you do differently?
6) What are your thoughts around the impending IR35 changes and how do you think it will impact the HR interim market?
I think IR35 is about as clear cut as Brexit! I’m keeping an eye on it but I’m not overly concerned. It’s not designed to impact people doing short term interim or consultancy work. I believe if I continue with multiple clients and working varying patterns it’s unlikely to affect me personally. It’s more likely to impact interims who take on full-time contracts that last 12 months plus (which is what the legislation was designed for).
7) For someone about to take the same journey, what do you see as being the real benefits of being an HR Interim?
Being my own boss is really refreshing and I’ve been lucky, early on, to work pretty flexibly (which was part of my long-term strategy). It’s also provided opportunities to work in new sectors which I’m thoroughly enjoying – I’m living proof that you can do HR anywhere having gone from software to agriculture. I feel more empowered and engaged with my work than I have done for many years – I would go as far as saying I’m having great fun.
HRLife’s thoughts for those considering Interim…
As recruiters, we frequently get asked about the realities of making the break from a permanent world into the Interim space and there are a few considerations we often share:
- Having a degree of financial stability is important – there will likely be periods of downtime between assignments and getting up and running doesn’t always happen instantly.
- Network…network…network… it’s key! You never know where that next assignment will come from. The most successful interims that we meet typically are strong networkers and will continue networking through assignments rather than picking activity back up as each assignment ends.
- It is unlikely you’ll be engaged 52 weeks of the year, but often this suits interims as they have other interests to pursue such as holidays, house renovations, family time and a whole myriad of other activities.
- There is a definite shift in mindset required and often we hear from interims (much to their relief) that they can stay away from the day to day politics however they often miss seeing the outcome and impact on the business of the project they’ve been working on. On the positive side, interims get involved in projects that they’ve perhaps not even considered before, but what a great opportunity to expand the skillset and toolkit – all good for the CV.
- This leads us to our final point – the CV! For those who have met with us, you’ll have heard us say there is never just 1 CV – tweak and tailor the CV for each assignment. There is definitely a different format for an interim CV!