The Stretch Assignment
Summer can be the perfect time of year to embark upon a stretch assignment. With many colleagues taking their family vacations and postponing launching big projects until the fall, the summer months can free up some time for you to concentrate on your professional development.
A good stretch assignment is a great way to turn a corner in your career progression. It should be mentally challenging and allow you to forge a new path or cultivate a new area of expertise. Completing a stretch assignment will ultimately provide you with a new skill, new relationships and new-found confidence.
As you begin your stretch experience, there are a few things to keep in mind to help you to stay on track.
- Chart your course. Evaluate your current position and standing within the organization and decide what skill areas and contacts you need to acquire to get to the next level. Look around your work environment. Who hold the positions you most would like to fill in the next few years and what are the departments or directorates you would eventually like to become a part of?
- Set up a plan. Look for opportunities and assignments that can enhance your skills and expand your current network. For example, leading a meeting, planning a conference, joining a cross-functional team, mentoring an intern, or authoring a white paper on an innovative solution to a current challenge. Find any area that interests you and develop a plan and timeline.
- Center your efforts. Recognize that this new activity is out of your comfort zone and embrace the challenge. As you may ask yourself why you decided to take on such a project, keep in mind that every hour invested and every new lesson learned will lead you closer to your goal. Also, it is important to think of ways to leverage and apply your new knowledge.
- Assemble your support team. As you embark on your assignment or project, remember to solicit the help and advice of those you meet along the way. They will not only assist you with the task at hand but these new connections can prove to be a valuable resource in the future.
- Stay on track. Stick with your plan and remind yourself of how great you will feel when you have accomplished your goal. You will experience a new level of self-confidence!
- Celebrate your victory! Take pride in your accomplishments and use that positive energy to plan your next challenging stretch assignment.
ASK A MENTOR
Many times, the most difficult parts of completing a stretch assignment is narrowing down what skills you want to develop and planning the direction you want to move toward. Having a conversation with your mentoring partner can help you to verbalize and prioritize your plan. The following are a few questions to consider when planning a meaningful stretch assignment:
· What are the skills that you have always longed to acquire?
· What position(s) have you always wanted to achieve?
o Why? (Watch for answers as these can be most revealing).
o What skills are needed to move in that direction?
o What are the softer skills needed?
· Who are the key people that you would benefit from developing a relationship with?
o How would you be able to make those connections?
· Have you developed a time table to accomplish this goal?
o How much time can you plan to carve out each day to dedicate to this goal?
o Have you outlined every step to accomplish this goal?
o What is the timeline?
· Are you more comfortable in a collaborative setting or do you prefer working on your own?
o How can you incorporate the more challenging of these two in your plan?