Secondments – The pros and cons

Thinking about packing your bags and taking that secondment opportunity? Here are three pros and cons from someone who’s done it before to help you decide if this route is for you.

Secondment Pros:

New skills: The main professional development opportunity to be gained from a secondment is to either, gain new skills, or develop skills you already have in a new context. The secondment could mean working in a completely different business area to your main career path, or in a specialist area within your wider business area. Either way they offer a great opportunity to boost your professional skill set.

New perspective: Seeing a different way of working, can often help in working out which processes; team dynamics; IT systems; and a whole range of other enabling factors work well, and which don’t. This exposure can give you the experience to help make good decisions when you enter a leadership role later in your career.

Sense of adventure: You may just feel like doing something new in your professional life, but don’t want to completely and dramatically change career path. Secondments offer a way to develop in a new area of the business. When you return to your home department you will have more of the skills and knowledge needed to steer your own career towards your ideal role.

Secondment Cons:

Personal upheaval: While secondments can be seen as an opportunity to try something new, this can also have a downside. Embarking on a secondment often means having to travel or live away from your home – sometimes even abroad. How much of a downside this is depends on your own personal circumstances and personality. Some people may find the disruption to their lives to be too high a cost, while others may be excited by the prospect.

Uncertainty of role: Sometimes the role of a secondment is well defined, but often this isn’t the case. The uncertainty can be an opportunity to steer the secondment towards areas of professional development you want, but can also be challenging especially if there is a difference of expectation between your ‘home’ department or company and the department you are seconded to.

Fitting in upon return: When your secondment ends, while you will almost certainly have a job to come back to, you may not have much choice about the exact role you will return to. You may have to return to the group or project where there is a resourcing need rather than your preferred area. It is important to keep regular contact with your functional management back at your home company to try and mitigate this.

Ultimately secondments aren’t for everyone, and there are plenty of other ways to develop the skills.

This post was written by Martin Suitters