Thoughts on Interim Work as a career choice: Fiona MacCarthy

Posted Jun 03 ,2020

Information for Candidates,General Information

I fell into Interim work by accident some 17 years ago in 2003, and it has been one of my best decisions to stay with it. There have been a couple of times in the earlier half of this journey when I questioned the quality of my decision making and I then re-assessed, considered options and confirmed that it was right for me. I no longer have any such doubts.

Life is too short


Life is too short, not to enjoy what work we do, whether it be for love of role, or love of money, or most likely some personal choice combination of those two at least. A multitude of varying factors will drive our personal career choice and how we pursue the delivery of career choice between the permanent v interim route options.

I trained and qualified as a Chartered Accountant a few decades ago in Ireland after a career assessment by a school-teacher recognising in me, an aptitude for “numbers” whilst an Accounting promotional booklet said to me that Accounting represented a “passport to travel”. Prior to arriving here in the UK in 2002, I had by then worked for a Soap Manufacturing business in Nigeria, Coffee Plantation in Zambia, Wholesale-Retail in Zaire/Congo and a Packaging Manufacturer in South Africa. Lengthy backpacking travels to Asia opened mindset whilst along the way in Africa, I experienced the decline and end of apartheid in South Africa and a coup d’état in Zaire. Inspired by some of the entrepreneurial owner managed businesses I had worked for, I had decided to establish an internet based niche retail business here in the UK when I arrived, which I soon realised needed more cash than my savings and so I took on my first interim role in the north east of England which was and still is my home base. My own business did not succeed but Interim life did.

New Skills


I have acquired new skills here In the UK including Project Management training by IBM with whom I worked and continue to update my skills and knowledge, but as a professional rather than occasional Interim recognise the need to define my own niche in the market place. The trend for some decades in Accounting has been increasing specialisation in sectors driven by legislative and compliance rules. My defined niche reflecting my own experiences has been as a “generalist” where a broad range of skills are required. Clarity on what one’s own personal brand is, in my opinion one of the most important aspects of Interim life, as the market is crowded, and customers seek clarity on our individual potential to resolve their problems.

I operate throughout the UK and for the past few years about half of my work comes from individual Agents with whom I have developed relationships over the years. Some of these individuals will stay with Agencies and some move, but to me the personal relationship is much more important than the Agency-firm. A quarter of my work comes from new Agents finding me via Linked-in or my CV as posted on various Job Boards. The remainder comes from me applying directly in response to adverts. I am interested and hopeful in Simply-Interims as a new route to market, which is in need of modernisation. Its success will come from support by Interims and recognition by Customers as to its benefits.

The advantages of Interim life to me, are in the opportunity to deliver agreed requirements to a Customer, in a narrow time period and with a short settling in phase. The importance of relationship building, stakeholder management and communication are paramount in a fast-paced time period. The challenges and pressures are more than in most comparative roles. Successful assignment / task deliveries and happy customers with feedback and recommendations are major plus points as is higher daily income. There is also the opportunity to use learnings in subsequent roles enhancing one’s own personal brand.

The negatives are primarily the challenges of gaps between contracts with the uncertainty this brings, as well as the increasing negative image created in society nurtured by HMRC that we as contractors are not paying our fair share of taxes and several years of gradual and increasing compliance issues with an evolving IR35 with retrospective tentacles.

Building Resilience


My response to these negatives has been to ensure a few months cash tucked away for the rainy day and not forgetting that if used, it will need to be rebuilt. I recommend taking a professional approach to the IR35 challenges and ensure that you buy in the advice where short on knowledge so that your contracts are compliant. The multi-year retrospective nature of HMRC challenges is a significant risk. Be aware of those who will take advantage of you in dodgy schemes which in my time have included Loan Charge and some dodgy umbrellas. Not everyone is a crook but “keeping wise” is most wise.

Back when I started my career the advice from older folk was get a good job, stable employer and all will be fine. The past few decades of my life have seen that naive model largely obliterated with increasing uncertainty at multiple levels and new challenges. However, I have found these challenges and the rewards of Interim work to be much better than what the conventional world offers.

Always happy to answer questions or comment further.

 Fiona MacCarthy


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