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Exporting UK talent is a boom market

Posted: 17th April 2012

The British interim manager is becoming an increasingly popular UK export, according to the new International Interim Market 2012 survey.

The report, from Interim management provider Russam GMS, showed that although international assignments make up only around 11% of the overall interim market, out of the 460 interims who responded to the survey 8 out of 10 had completed assignments overseas.

Almost 70% of them had clocked up between five to 10 years of international interim experience, 9 out of 10 were men aged between 45 and 60 and only 10% were women.

Nearly 80% said that demand for interims overseas is strong because international firms need specialist skills on a temporary basis when they can't resource projects locally. Half of them also said that UK qualifications and the ‘British’ interim manager 'brand' was prized highly abroad.

Jason Atkinson, managing director - Russam Interim, said: "The report highlights a significant amount of international projects being undertaken by British interims, particularly in Europe.

"However, just like in the UK, international firms are recruiting based on competence and experience. They want people with proven international business experience, and a 'global outlook' who can integrate into their business and culture and deliver the goods. This is the key to a successful assignment in the UK or overseas."

Project management is the most popular kind of international assignment according to 55%, followed by general management and business development.  One in five interims had worked on financial projects.  In terms of industry sectors, half of interims had worked in manufacturing or engineering firms, 31% in professional services firms and 27% in banking or financial services companies.

The top 10 international destinations for British interims are: 

  1. Western Europe
  2. Eastern Europe
  3. USA and Canada
  4. Africa
  5. Middle East
  6. South East Asia
  7. Australia and New Zealand
  8. BRIC countries
  9. India
  10. China

In terms of future growth, Asia was considered the number one market, followed by the BRIC countries and then Western Europe.

International projects tend to be shorter than UK ones. Almost a half of interims (48%) said they have worked on short 'fix it' projects lasting six months or less whereas in the UK, a typical project tends to a minimum of eight months on average.

The interims stated that the top benefits of international work were the challenging and stimulating nature of working abroad, being paid more highly and the greater number of jobs. Surprisingly, the excitement of living in a foreign country and learning a new language were considered less important.

But working overseas is not without challenges. 40% admitted that leaving family and friends was difficult, 17% said that it was very intensive experience with little downtime and 13% claimed the cultural differences were challenging.

Overseas working is also a man’s world, with the majority admitting they rarely encounter women in similar positions when abroad. They cited several barriers hindering women’s progress including security issues, cultural differences in many Middle Eastern countries and a 'macho mentality' in Southern European countries. They also said it is easier for men to live in hotels and more ‘acceptable’ for men to dine in restaurants alone.

Jason Atkinson said: "Clearly, the international interim market is less evolved than the UK. Many firms don’t hire women in senior positions. We hope this will change over time and it will be easier for women to work overseas. Notably too, many Asian countries currently don’t tend to hire interims, but this market may also evolve - Asia and BRIC were cited as the big areas of future growth."

Here are top ten tips for international interim success: 

  1. Learn the language, smile, make friends and adapt to the cultural dynamics
  2. Establish a good relationship with the client quickly but keep in regular contact with your home and office
  3. Keep an open mind; the UK is not the be-all and end-all
  4. Make sure your contract covers all eventualities – remember you will be travelling in your own time often and much of it will be unpaid
  5. Hit the ground running, do what has to be done, don’t put on any airs. You are one of the workers, not a colonial officer
  6. Your personality is as important as your skills
  7. Don’t go native and don’t expect the locals to like you – you have taken one of their jobs
  8. Integrate and don’t be too ‘British’
  9. Be prepared for things to take longer than in the UK
  10. Treat it as an adventure. Enjoy the differences, relish the can do environment and get on and deliver
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