The pros and cons of a secondment at work

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If you’re frustrated with your current role and are exploring your options, a secondment should be something definitely worth considering if the opportunity presents itself. 

A secondment can be a great way of gaining experience that you need to develop in a role that interests you or obtain new skills that will eventually move your career forward, but what is a secondment and if you’re considering applying for one in your current employment, what are the pros and cons you should consider first?

lady at her desk on computer - taking a secondment at work

What is a secondment?

A secondment is a transfer of an employee to another department with the same employer or within the same group of companies.

A secondment might also be taking up a temporary position with a different employer, closing connected to your employer. 

How does a secondment work?

Depending on your employer there are several ways that a secondment might happen.

Firstly, you might be approached directly to enquire whether you would be interested in taking on the opportunity, secondly, it might be advertised on an internal jobs board, thirdly, it might be advertised externally as and be open to employees as a secondment opportunity.

Can a secondment become permanent?

If there’s an appetite to make your secondment permanent, the host might seek to make you permanent.

The process that this follows might depend on the relationship between your employer and the host and how you were seconded to post.

If you got the secondment as a result of a competitive process, and so long as HR is consulted to ensure that everything is done by the book then you could be slotted into the permanent role, if it wasn’t your host might decide to go through the competitive recruitment process.

When you have been made permanent, you will need a new contract of employment.

Can you end a secondment early?

Secondments will usually last for an agreed period, though with the agreement between the departments, could be extended.

If there is a business need, the employer can end the secondment early and you can end it If you feel that it’s not working for whatever reason.

The notice period that you or the employer have to give should have been pre-written in the agreement before the commencement of the secondment.

Should you get a new contract of employment?

At the end of the secondment, it is expected that you return to your substantive post so you’ll still be under contract, you should receive a secondment agreement though as this will set out what is expected from you while in the post together with your start date and end date, pay, holidays and details of the termination notice.

What are the pros of going on a secondment?

Learn new skills

One of the main reasons for taking on secondment is to learn new skills or build on those skills that you already have but are underutilised in your current role.

Ability to update your CV

In learning new skills and building on those that you already have, you can update your CV and potentially find a role offering either more fulfilment than your current role or more money.

More money

There are occasions where a secondment might result in an increase in pay.

This doesn’t necessarily mean an increase in the wages from the secondment, but it could, but a long-term increase when you have updated your CV with your new experience and skills.

Get to meet new people

We can get comfortable in our roles and those people around us.

There’s nothing wrong with this of course, but if you have an ambition to progress, learning how to deal with different people is going to be very important.

Experience of interviews (if it is a competitive secondment)

A secondment isn’t necessarily going to be offered to you on a plate as there might be a few people in your department that would like to take up the opportunity, therefore you might be drawn into an interview process.

This isn’t something that you should worry about as this provides the perfect opportunity to get some interview experience and feedback if you’re unsuccessful to take into your next interview. 

What are the cons of going on a secondment?

It can be challenging to return to your old post

If you know that your secondment is coming to an end with no chance of an extension, knowing that you’re going to have to return to your department can be demotivational, especially if you’ve enjoyed the role, met some fantastic people and feel that there are more opportunities within it.

If you’ve been paid more, you’ll revert to your substantive pay

While being paid more is a pro of a secondment, it is also a con if you have to go back to your substantive post and revert back to what you were paid before the move.

You might feel that you’re out of the loop with the ongoings of your substantive employee

As someone on secondment, it can feel that you’re out of the loop with the goings on in your department, especially if you do not have regular catchups with the manager of the department.

If your department is one of rapid change, this might make you feel that you need to learn a lot of new processes, which will not only take you away from doing your work but also mean that someone else is being taken off their work to show you the ropes.

Please remember this isn’t advice and I’m only writing based on my experience of the secondment process. If you’re unsure always consult a professional

Conclusion 

A secondment is a fantastic way of developing new skills, challenging yourself, meeting new people and maybe making more money, but some cons need to be weighed up before making a decision, will you be okay to go back to your old post once the secondment is over, would you be able to cope should your pay decrease, if you were paid more and would you be able to fit in with your old team seamlessly.

I took a secondment in December 2021 and can honestly say that it was the best decision that I made, I’ve met some fantastic people, learnt new skills and been able to add these to my CV.  

This has resulted in being approached by recruiters offering the potential to go for jobs that pay 40% more than I currently make, though feel that I need to develop my confidence in the role before I go for these.

If you’ve ever been on secondment at work, what was your experience? Was it the best decision that you’ve made or were you happy to get back to your employer?

David

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