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10 top tips to help you get the most out of your secondment

Are you thinking about the next step in your career? Are you looking to boost your CV by adding to your skillset? Maybe you’re just feeling restless in your current role and want a new challenge altogether. If so, going on a secondment could be the answer.

A secondment is the temporary transfer to another role or business area. It’s a brilliant way to learn new skills, build capability and open yourself up to new experiences that might not be available to you in your current role. You might see a new side of your profession, or take on a role with more responsibility. And if you’re looking to move into a different area or role, it’s a good way to test the waters and see if it’s the right move for you. Whatever your reason for going on a secondment, you’ll open yourself to potential pathways for your career – and it’s a great addition to your CV too.

So what makes for a successful secondment? We’ve put together a list of top tips to make sure you get the most out of your secondment.

1: Do your research

Before you throw your hat in the ring, you need to do your homework. Talk to your line manager about what secondment opportunities are available, and whether they’ll aid your development. Some may sound interesting or appealing, but might offer fewer long-term career benefits, so think about your priorities. Once you’ve decided on the right secondment, do your research on the department you’ll be moving to. What will you be doing? Who will you be working with? What kind of workload can you expect? And what motivates you about the role? Having the answers to these questions will help you feel more prepared for what’s to come.

2: Prepare!

Preparation is key to a successful secondment. If you’re moving to a different area, you’ll probably be learning an entirely new set of skills, so studying any new tools or programmes to a basic level will really help you to the hit the ground running. Try to speak to some of your new colleagues too, whether it’s face-to-face or by connecting on LinkedIn or Workplace. The earlier you open a dialogue with your future team, the easier you’ll find it to settle in once you move into your new role. Ask them about their team culture and working style, so you can put a mental flag next to any ways of working that you might need to adapt to.

3: Plan your time

By planning what you hope to get out of your secondment, you’re more likely to achieve it. Write down your career goals and think about what you can do to work towards them during your placement. What skills are you looking to develop? Are there any projects that could help you in doing this? And who will you need support from? Remember, you don’t need to plan every minute of your secondment, but having some key objectives will help you to stay on track. Just make sure you let your new host manager know what you want to achieve (ideally before starting your secondment) so they can do their best to support you.

4: Track your progress

Book time in your diary for regular catch-up’s with your host manager. Depending on the duration of your secondment, these could range from being weekly, fortnightly or monthly – whatever you feel is best. Doing this will help you to review your progress, keeping you on track to meet your goals. If you’re not progressing as you’d expected, think about why this might be, and if you need to do something differently.

5: Ask for help

Secondments place you in situations where the only way forward is to learn, adapt and deliver. You’ll be going to new places, interacting with new people and facing problems you’ve never encountered. But don’t be afraid to ask for help. Asking questions about how to manage a situation or use a piece of software won’t make you look stupid; it will show your willingness to learn and your commitment to delivering quality work.

6: Grow your network

Secondments aren’t just an opportunity to build your business knowledge – they’re a chance to build your professional network too. Do your best to follow up with everyone you connect with. If you meet someone new, drop them an email to let them know it was a pleasure to meet them. Or if someone helps you with a query, send an email thanking them for their help. You can learn a huge amount from the people you work with, so having people in your professional network who have experience and expertise can help you to extend your skillset and advance in your career.

7: Stay in touch

It’s important that you stay in contact with your home line manager and your colleagues during your time away from your original role. It’s likely that you’ll have to return to your old role at the end of your secondment, so it’s important that you stay up to speed on their work so that you’re able to slip back smoothly into your old job.

8: Gather plenty of feedback

Asking for feedback is an essential part of learning. It doesn’t just have to come from your host manager; it’s the people you work alongside who can give you a better insight into how you can improve. So, when you’re looking for feedback, turn to your colleagues and your stakeholders too. Don’t leave it until the end of your secondment to gather your feedback either – ask for it sooner rather than later. That way you can act on it and demonstrate your ability to take feedback on-board.

9: Finish off with a debrief

When you come to the end of your secondment, schedule time for a debrief meeting with your host manager. Use this time to talk about what you think went well, what could have gone better and any areas to focus on in the future. You should come out of your debrief with a good understanding of what you’ve achieved during your placement, and a clear sense of direction in terms of what you need to work on.

10: Put your new skills into practise

Just because your secondment’s over, it doesn’t mean your learning experience has come to an end! It’s important to revisit your career plan and make sure that everything you learned on your secondment is not lost. Talk to your manager about how can you use incorporate your new skills into your original role, to continue your learning.

Climbing the ladder

If you’re interested in working for a company that takes its people’s development seriously, take a look at our current opportunities.

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