• published on 2/21/2024
  • 5min

Guide to Work Secondments

A study by the European Commission in 2022 found that nearly 20% of European Union citizens wanted to work abroad at a future point, highlighting the appeal of experiencing different ways of life and exploring locations across the world. [1]

Guide to Work Secondments

Table of contents

1. What is a secondment?

2. Finding secondment schemes

3. Preparing for the secondment

4. Steps for a successful secondment

5. Benefits of secondment

Going on a secondment overseas is a great opportunity for those who want to live and work abroad on a temporary basis. During this time, they can develop a broad range of skills, learn about different cultures and boost their career prospects.

Check out our guide to learn more about international work assignments, including the benefits, steps for success and how to prepare for it.

What is a secondment?

An internal secondment is a term used to describe when an employee is transferred within their company or another business for a specified period of time. The length of the work assignment can vary, but is usually for periods of less than a year, something which will be agreed upon between the worker and their employer beforehand.

The two kinds of secondment a worker can undertake are:

Internal secondments

An internal secondment is when an employee is sent to work in another part of their organisation, such as a different department or office. This process is often used by companies as a way to keep their workforce engaged and promote employee retention.

Seconded employees get the chance to learn exciting new skills and a deeper knowledge of the business to benefit them in their role and the wider business as well.

External secondments

External secondments abroad differ in that the worker will complete their assignment at a company that is not part of their current organisation.

Reasons for seconding employees could be to enhance the relationship between the two businesses, for the employee to learn more about how the other business works, and similar to internal assignments, gain knowledge that will benefit them in their original role.

Finding secondment schemes

If going abroad on a work assignment is something you’re interested in, then there are several ways to begin this journey. This includes:

  • Speaking with your line manager to discuss if there are any roles available or if they think a secondment is something you would benefit from.

  • Doing some research on your internal database or external job sites to identify any roles that could be suitable.

There are certain laws and processes that need to be followed for secondments, so be sure to check these carefully and follow them at all times.

Preparing for the secondment

Once you have found a secondment opportunity, it is time to prepare for the temporary relocation abroad.

It’s important to note that throughout the assignment, the secondee remains an employee of the original business, who will be responsible for things such as paying their salary and other matters that relate to the worker’s employment.

Similarly, though the worker will report to the host company for daily duties, they and the initial employer will still have duties towards one another. When your secondment is being organised, some examples of what you should have in place beforehand are:

  • The purpose of the secondment: make sure both you and your line manager are clear on the purpose of the secondment, such as to develop a new skillset or to complete work on a specific project.

  • What your responsibilities are: ensure that it is laid out what tasks you will be responsible for during your secondment so that you know what is expected of you.

  • A written secondment agreement: all the information regarding your assignment must be outlined in this document, including the time period for your secondment, your responsibilities, and your salary.

Don’t forget that moving abroad also requires a lot of organisation, which can sometimes be stressful. Check out our checklist to help with your relocation.

Steps for a successful secondment

To ensure you have a successful international secondment, there are some steps you can take to maximise your experience:

Listen to feedback

It’s important for secondees to listen to feedback during their assignment, as well as guidance from colleagues and line managers to grow in your role. Their knowledge can highlight areas of work you didn’t realise required improvement.

The information shared by others can mean you avoid making mistakes in the future and teach you how to handle criticism, which is a useful skill to have.

Be open to new experiences

Working life can vary from country to country, so adapting to this can be a challenge. However, being open to new experiences and approaching the assignment positively can help you make the most of your time.

Ask questions of your colleagues when you need assistance, and embrace a different way of working. This adaptability is an invaluable skill to put on your resume that prospective employers could find impressive.

Build your professional network

Working in a new environment allows you to grow your professional connections within your industry. To do this, attend events that are being hosted in your local area or connect with people on professional networking platforms.

This can assist you when looking for roles, be a valuable learning tool and maybe even result in collaboration on interesting projects in the future.

For some useful tips into how to make friends in a new country, take a look at our blog here.

Benefits of secondment

Going on secondment to a different country presents many opportunities to workers. Here are some of the main benefits you can gain from this experience:

Boost your career prospects

By going on a secondment abroad, you can develop a whole range of skills that can improve your career prospects, from learning a local language to growing your confidence in your specialism.

It can help you on a personal level too. Living abroad is an exciting adventure, but it can be daunting, and the time you spend there can teach you resilience and independence which will guide you throughout life.

Identify areas for growth

Alongside this, you can use your secondment to establish areas for improvement. For example, take part in any training exercises that are offered and ensure you allot time for honing skills you want to develop.

When you’re collaborating with colleagues, always try and learn something and note down anything which might be useful for you. This approach to work life can be an appealing trait for future employers during the hiring process.

Travel the world

In addition to enhancing your career, an international secondment is a chance to explore different parts of the world.

You can use this time to try out local foods, learn about your destination’s culture and visit the sites it has to offer. To immerse yourself in their way of life, you could wander through the streets in your spar time, go on a fun trip, or hang out in one of the local hotspots with some of your new work friends.