Supersize your career: How secondments can help you grow your career

Posted by Laura Brammar on 09-Mar-2016 10:30:00
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Fancy getting some experience in another part of your business?  Curious about what like might be like on the client or in-house side of your industry? Ever considered doing a secondment? 

For many professionals a secondment can be a great way to develop their career whilst still remaining part of their organisation and team.

What exactly is a secondment and who can you learn more about them?

A secondment is essentially a temporary change of role within your organisation or an organisation which you work closely with.  The duration of the change can vary from 3 months to a few years. Eligibility for such secondments will depend on your own context but usually you need to be a permanent rather than a temporary employee.

Are they popular?

And how many people are interested in developing their career in this way? Turns out a lot.

The Careers Group, University of London recently conducted some research into the career development expectation of recent graduate recruits, in this case trainee lawyers.

It is clear from this research that many graduate recruits within organisations have particularly strong expectations about the opportunity to engage in such activity.

See the figure below:



Enhance your CV

A secondment will add value to your CV and provide valuable training.So what exactly are the attractions of such secondment opportunities?

The attractions will vary depending on your preferences and situation but the key thing is that they are all likely to add value to your CV. Here’s a quick checklist to help you think about how a secondment could help your career development:

  • Illustrate your flexibility and adaptability – a secondment can be a great way to demonstrate how you can hit the ground running and work with a diverse workforce.
  • Challenge yourself – if your starting to feel you need a new project to sink your teeth into, a secondment can be a really useful way to learn new skills and approach fresh challenges
  • Dip your toe into another specialism – test your latent interest in a new role or new business in a safe and supported environment. That way, if you discover it’s not for you after all you still have your current role to resume
  • Network like crazy – whether you end up jumping ship entirely after the secondment or return to the fold, use the experience to connect with as many professionals as possible
  • Learn more about yourself – many professionals seek secondments in different locations, either within the UK or abroad. Treat it as a chance to discover how well you deal with changes both work and recreational cultures

Download Career Development Expectations  of Early Career Lawyers survey


Interested? Now what?

It’s fair to say that some sectors, such as the private sector, are traditionally more geared to secondments than others.  This may be because the teams are much larger so the organisation can cope with a reshuffle in a way which a much smaller firm or department may struggle with.

That said, whether you work in the public, not for profit or commercial sector, it’s definitely worth flagging up your interest with your line manager.  It may well be that there is an upcoming project which could provide the right secondment opportunity.

At the same time, don’t be inpatient.  The answer may not be ‘no’ but rather ‘not yet’. Use the time to put together a strong business case why the secondment won’t only be an enriching experience for you personally, but for your team and organisation as a whole.

If you want to talk through the pros and cons of pursuing a secondment, why not talk it through with a professional careers coach, such as our team at The Careers Group Consultancy?

After all, it may be that the best career decision you make it closer to home than you thought.

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Topics: employability skills, career choice, Research

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