Moving from a permanent to interim finance role

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Michael Thiessen was recently placed in a role with a household name electronics company by specialist recruiter, Robert Walters.

He fills us in about working life as an accountant in Canada, New York and the UK, his experiences of working with a recruitment agency, and his transition from a permanent to a contract role.


Laying the groundwork for my career

After studying economics at university in Canada, I was lured into studying for the CMA qualification by the chance to study in the Strategic Leadership Programme and develop my management skills.

After a few years of working in Vancouver and progressing to the level of financial controller I moved to New York City, where I relished the challenge of faster paced work and decision making.

James’ approach was refreshing. He was knowledgeable about the wider market and at ease when discussing my career options, and completely transparent about what he could do for me.

I was hired as a financial controller by an industry-leading fashion photography company where I found myself taking on more responsibilities, supervising a wide range of functions such as compliance and employee benefits to help develop the business further.

My career really transformed when I was promoted to CFO level and hired into an educational institute delivering courses to students across the US. Much of the work combined transactional and operational responsibilities, and I played a key part in managing different divisions and contributing to business strategy.

After over a decade in New York, it was this varied combination of experiences that prepared me for the step up into my next role. 

Moving overseas and meeting Robert Walters

I had maintained a residence in London for a number of years and sensed this was an ideal time to move to the UK. After putting out a few feelers I managed to rekindle a relationship with a New York contact I had met in London several years previously, who put me in touch with James Hambly-Smith at Robert Walters in London.

James’ approach was refreshing. He was knowledgeable about the wider market and at ease when discussing my career options, and completely transparent about what he could do for me. James’ focus was on the roles that suited my ambitions, rather than matching me with something that, on the surface, simply ticked the right boxes.

Becoming a contractor

In the course of our conversations, James demonstrated that I was extremely well placed to become a financial contractor. Besides the usual pay and compensation advantages, he explained how my combination of skills and experiences made me uniquely suited to this market.

So when a role at a multi-national household electronics company came up – a significantly larger company than any I’d previously worked for, in a sector I was mostly unfamiliar with – James knew at once that my skills, qualifications and hands-on business strategy experience would make an ideal fit. His understanding of the client meant he knew their priorities; in this case, bringing in someone with a fresh approach to problem solving, rather than just an accountant with sector experience.

If you are considering becoming a contractor, be versatile towards the roles offered to you, as the experience will prove invaluable in the longer run. While the culture of your new employer may differ from what you are used to, don’t be afraid to challenge with some fresh thinking where necessary. Remember that ultimately they are expecting you to add value, rather than just bridge the gap. 

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