Career coach:secondment

I love my job, but I’ve just been approached to go on secondment with another department. On paper it’s a good opportunity, but I don’t want to spoil my chances of progression in my current role.

You’re right to think about beginning with a quick career audit – knowing how your career stands at the moment is the best starting point. And, as you’ve worked out, estimating the impact of this proposed secondment on your CV is the next best question.

You need to know a lot more about why you’ve been asked to do this. Is it something about you (your organisational experience, your skills, or to facilitate your next step up the ladder), is it about what the organisation needs, or a mix of both?

Secondments in other departments or organisations are generally good news, as they provide an opportunity to broaden your experience at relatively low risk. They can often provide the foundation for an interesting promotion or a move into another organisation. I say relatively low risk because sometimes they lead to career traps – for example, if you can’t find your way back to your preferred track, or if the secondment doesn’t make any sense on a CV.

Why are you being offered it is often a question about how well your organisation reads and understands you. If the secondment seems a poor match, it may be because key decision makers don’t really know what makes you tick. Who is asking you to take the secondment is almost as important as why. If it’s someone who is going to have a big influence on your future, passing the gift horse by might be seen as lack of gratitude for a great offer. You’re balancing the present chance of promotion with future opportunities.

Statistically, exposure to other areas of the business is more likely to lead to success. You also need to be very clear about how real the chance of promotion actually is.

How to say ‘no’ matters. There is no default position here. Saying ‘yes’, blindly, can lead you down the wrong path. Saying ‘no’ if it’s a well-matched offer may mark you down as inflexible. It’s a difficult judgement call, and one you can only make by finding out the real motivations behind the offer and the benefits of saying yes or (a very gentle) no.

Advice given by John Lees, one of the UK’s best-known career coaches and the author of the best-selling How To Get A Job You’ll Love (McGraw-Hill).The book is now available in its 2007-08 edition. See for more information.

If you have a question for our panel of career coaches, send your question to

Comments are closed.