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A secondment is a great career opportunity

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Itchy feet? Time for a change? Desire to learn more? Maybe it’s time to consider a secondment.

What’s a secondment?

When I was a copywriter in Digital, I was approached by the marketing department’s social media editor about a secondment, doing maternity cover for one of his deputies. I was interested, but didn’t really know what a secondment was. I’d heard the term, and I knew people in Digital had taken them, but that was about it.

A secondment is “the temporary transfer of an official or worker to another position or employment.” So, if there’s a temporary vacancy somewhere else in the business, then you can switch to that job for a fixed period of time. You usually have to interview, like any other job. And you take the highest wage, whether that’s your original role or your secondment role.

I went through that process and was ultimately offered the job.

Why I took a secondment…

I was ready to make a change. It wasn’t that I no longer enjoyed my role, or that I didn’t enjoy copywriting any more – far from it – but I wanted to see if I could use my skill set elsewhere.

Moving over to Marketing, and using my copywriting skills in a different way, woke me up and got me excited. I had the opportunity to work on various campaigns and be creative in an entirely different way. With social media, everything is very fast-paced, which can be exhausting but also means there’s never a dull moment.

What did I learn?

  1. Get out of your comfort zone

Before moving departments, I was really comfortable in my copywriting role. I knew what was expected of me and how to do a good job. But I think I stopped properly pushing myself.

Meetings with more than just my team would bring me out in a cold sweat and talking in front of a large group of people would keep me awake the night (or three) before. In my social media role, I was regularly going to meetings in London with some of the country’s largest media agencies. 

Creative brainstorms, feedback on campaign ideas and reporting on social performance were a weekly occurrence. Sometimes you could prepare for these meetings, but often you had to think on your feet and come up with ideas on the spot. For every 10 ideas, there would be one gem, and there was no time to be embarrassed about the tat that ended up in the skip.

Getting out of your comfort zone is vital. Feeling anxious about speaking out is better than staying quiet and not feeling anything at all. Although I’ll always hate public speaking, and a cold sweat is still likely, I know that the sense of achievement for asking that burning question in a Q&A is better than sitting back and letting someone else ask it for you.

  1. Meet new people

With hundreds of people working in the DLG Bromley office, it’s hard to stay connected with all the different departments. And that’s not even taking the other offices across the country into consideration. A secondment helps you get to know different people around the business and seeing the hard work that goes into every department can be eye-opening.

And when you return to your old role, you begin to realise how beneficial knowing more people can be!

  1. Learn new things

This is a biggie.

Before moving to the social media team, my social media knowledge was limited. I had a decent amount of Facebook followers, an embarrassing number of Insta followers, and a laughable number of Twitter followers. To sum it up, my social media presence was almost non-existent.

To me, social media was just posting a few tweets and uploading a couple of Facebook pics. When I told people I worked in social media, they all seemed to think the same thing. But there’s a lot more to it than that.

I learned that content plans have to include propositions, brand activation, products and crisis content (among other things). The team also has to inform customers about important topics, such as ghost broking and changes to Insurance Premium Tax.

Another area that I hadn’t considered was the escalation process. As part of the escalation team, I had to be contactable out-of-hours in case a crisis hit. Protecting the brand’s reputation was often nerve-racking, but a process is in place for almost every eventuality (although some you just can’t predict!). Having said that, an ill-timed tweet, or an insensitive response, has the potential to blow up and damage the brand’s reputation.

In your new role there’ll be heaps of stuff to learn, especially if you move into an area you don’t know very much about. Become a sponge and absorb as much as you can. Not only will it make you better in your secondment role, it will also make you better when you return to your original role.

  1. Take learnings back to your original job

Perhaps the hardest thing to learn when moving from my copywriter role into social media deputy editor, was how to trim down copy into just a tweet. In another article, the importance of microcopy is discussed, and this takes on a new meaning when condensing an article or an idea into 140 characters for social media.

I’ve also become more process-driven due to my secondment role. Planning is key! Whether that’s a clearly outlined processes, checklist, brief or an in-depth campaign laydown with clearly defined roles for each stakeholder, planning is personal to what helps you do a good job. Never underestimate its importance!

Going back

At first, I had mixed feelings about returning to my old role. My secondment to social media was originally a year, but it got extended for a further six months. My original manager could’ve rejected this, but luckily mine just wanted what was best for me. And I didn’t really feel like I’d had enough of social after a year.

Now I’m back in Digital, the first few weeks have been a bit surreal. I imagine this is how people feel after returning from maternity leave – as if everything has changed, and yet nothing has changed at all.  

But, lots has actually changed. There are loads of new faces. Digital has grown, and a handful of my lunch buddies have moved on. This in itself makes returning exciting, as there are lots of new people to meet.

I’m also excited to stretch myself again as a copywriter and use everything I’ve learned in my secondment role. Maybe things I thought would be useful won’t be, and maybe other things I wasn’t aware of might become invaluable. Either way, if you’ve got the right support system in place – in your old job and your secondment role – then your secondment should be nothing but a positive experience. 

Go for it!