· 2 min read · Features

HR professionals and gigging

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Two experienced HR 'giggers' explain how to make interim working work for you

Craig McCoy admits he pretty much fell into HR interim work when he lost his job at Aegis Media in 2009. But, having now done interim assignments with organisations including Jersey Telecom Group, The Crown Estate, the MoJ and – at present – Brandon Trust, he’s never looked back and would highly recommend it.

“There are loads of benefits,” he says. “You get a lot of variety in the type of roles and you can move across sectors pretty seamlessly. The selection process tends to be much quicker too. It also gives you immediate credibility because people are paying you on a day-by-day basis.”

No wonder that more are going down this route then. “The numbers are definitely increasing,” confirms Keith Robson, who decided last year to go solo and has so far worked on an interim basis with Aviva and Rolls-Royce.

“I think because of the pace at which businesses are moving these days, to leave a key HR role, particularly in the talent space, open for anything more than a couple of months, the business will start to fall behind.”

“The age at which HR people are starting to do this is getting younger. I’ve met interims who’ve been doing this since their early 30s,” reports McCoy, adding that opportunity particularly exists in the reward and HR systems and technology spaces, where there are skills shortages.

Opportunity also resides in the rising number of cloud platforms portioning out remotely-undertaken knowledge work. HR-related tasks, such as employment contracts, posted on PeoplePerHour are growing 50% year-on-year according to the platform. These can make nice simple filler jobs in between high-level projects, says McCoy

However, HR gig working won’t be for everyone, he warns: “You have to be challenging and assertive; you have to be a bit of a chameleon. You can’t just rely on HR best practice; you have to be comfortable with ambiguity. And you’ve got to be able to cope with downtime.”

Having decided they definitely fit this bill, a prospective HR interim will also need to heed the following tips:

  • Keep proactive between assignments. “The periods of time I have off I set myself a goal of doing something work-related every day,” says Robson. “That might be just reading the Harvard Business Review or meeting someone for coffee. Otherwise how can you stay connected?”
  • “Try and also get light bread and butter work you can do for just a few hours a week,” he adds. “That pays the bills and frees you up for more interesting things.”
  • Don’t write off the experience too soon. “My old boss advised me to wait until the fourth or fifth assignment to see if I liked it. Because at first it can be stressful and tiring.”
  • Consider the question of whether you need to set yourself up as a limited company. And build a website.
  • Do your research. “Before I began I asked a few agencies: what’s the best approach? What’s the worst approach?” says Robson.
  • Source a mentor or two. “I wouldn’t cast the net too wide,” Robson advises. “And make sure obviously that you’re not in competition.”