We take a look at how secondments can give careers a welcome shot in the arm. Alex Miller reports
The benefits of an overseas placement are numerous, including presenting the opportunity to travel and develop your career simultaneously.
But that is not all. Both domestic and overseas secondments offer the chance of a fast track to responsibility in some of the world's largest companies, plus flexible contracts and all with near guaranteed placements afterwards.
A secondment typically lasts anywhere between three months and two years and provides a unique learning environment where trainees will be stretched to develop or enhance communication skills, cultural awareness and often leadership and influencing skills.
It is best to communicate your desire for a secondment early in your work with an employer. Some employers actively encourage trainees to do a two-year 'cycle of experience', which is usually working within the company network.
Ellis King, manager, Accountancy and Finance Contract at Morgan McKinley, says: ‘It is vital to be adaptable in order to meet the constantly changing demands of the finance world. A secondment gives you six to 12 months' experience of another department, where you can broaden your skills set while staying with the company.’
Secondments can give you the opportunity to expand your skills and experience in an area outside your usual day-to-day role, building both a depth and breadth of knowledge.
Karen Young, director at Hays Senior Finance, adds: ‘Making new contacts and building relationship with different departments within or outside your organisation can help you further your career and raise your profile within the industry or your organisation – for now and for your future career.’
In the current economic climate it has become more common for employers to offer secondments where people work in different departments in the same office building or be seconded to work on projects, rather than abroad on longer-term stints.
This has made secondments more affordable and practical for employers when resources are tight – but that is not to suggest that overseas secondments are not possible.
Robert Half managing director Phil Sheridan says: ‘According to UK financial services chief financial officers, nearly four in 10 (38%) offer secondment opportunities to all employees and another 45% will do so depending on the individual or business situation.
‘For those employees working for an international organisation, secondment opportunities offer the chance to move abroad for a period of time, learn about new business climates and bring these skills back to the employer. It is therefore a win-win for both employee and employer.’
Sharing of best practices is another benefit to be drawn from the exercise. Despite the world becoming a smaller place, organisations continue to evolve at different paces depending on their location – as a result, international secondments can help bridge these differences.
Nicholas Kirk, regional managing director at Page Personnel Finance, HR and Secretarial and Business Support, says: ‘Secondments expose you to a different environment within the company and show you how the wider business works. Knowing who’s who will help build your knowledge of the company and people’s roles and responsibilities.’
Whatever the conditions, a secondment will also be likely to improve your career chances by enhancing your CV. It will demonstrate flexibility and adaptability as an employee and open up other opportunities, as well as offering an opportunity to meet people in other areas.
Kirk adds: ‘A versatile skill set will enhance your chances of success in any role. Future accountants need to show more than traditional number crunching – a candidate who can add value to the business as a whole will have that advantage over a candidate with limited skills. Demonstrate your vision and ability to formulate and drive the business strategy as this will improve your chances of securing a secondment role and progressing in it.’