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Career Growth

Tips on How to Evaluate Stretch Assignments

If you are in a season in your career where you believe you can benefit from a stretch assignment, my advice to you is to just do it! Evaluate each opportunity, assess the outcomes, and work with excellence. 

Ways to assess special projects, stretch work, and more!

I’ve taken several stretch assignments in my career and I have been able to grow both personally and professionally as a result of this decision.  As I reflect on the work that I have done over the past decade, some of my most valuable and most creative projects have been special assignments.  In today’s post, I am going to share my experience with stretch assignments and tips on how to evaluate each opportunity.

Let’s level set the conversation by first establishing a definition of stretch assignments. Stretch assignments are short-term work assignments above and beyond your day-to-day job responsibilities.  They often provide an opportunity to work cross-functionally and can help to develop new skills.

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I will be the first to admit that taking on additional work can be time consuming.  In all honesty, you must be very diligent about what you take on and when.  As you are considering these types of assignments it’s important to ensure that the work is:

  • Purposeful
  • Goal aligned
  • Value Add

As you are reviewing the work details, expected outcomes, and time requirements, consider the above three points as well.  If the assignment is not purpose aligned, you may not enjoy it.  After all, this is above and beyond work. The work should also align closely to your professional goals.  It should also equip you with experience(s) that is above and beyond your current knowledge, or skills. Lastly, the expected output should add value to both you and your organization.

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One of my most impactful stretch assignments to date is leading an Employee Resource Group, ERG.  It gives me an opportunity to walk in purpose, which in my opinion, is critical to workplace satisfaction.  You can read more about The Power of Purpose and your Career: Discovery, in this blog post.

I’ve also assisted with various conference planning workstreams, divestitures, and thought leadership.  In some cases, these were opportunities that I sought out, but in many cases, I was recommended or nominated to perform the work.  Regardless of how the opportunity came about, I evaluated each opportunity by assessing the following:

  1. Work output
  2. Needed Skills
  3. Growth Opportunity
  4. Visibility
  5. Time Commitment

Work Output

What does the project include? I personally assess if the work will allow me to tap into my creativity.  My background (ie. day job) has been financial in nature for my entire career, so any opportunity to tap into my creative side is a plus!

Needed Skills

It is important to take an honest assessment of the skills that are needed to perform the work.  If I do not have the skills, I ask myself how quickly I can acquire the needed skills and through what mode.

Growth Opportunity

It’s important to ask, “How will I grow as a result of this opportunity” 

Side note: I have taken on stretch work, that I otherwise would not have, as a “favor” for a co-worker only because I valued our relationship and I know they needed my expertise.  These examples are few and far between, but I wanted to share this perspective as well.

Visibility

Visibility is important to emerging leaders and those looking to get their foot in the door.  If you are looking to catch the ear of a leader or hiring manager in another organization, seek ways in which you can support their initiatives.

Time Commitment

No-brainer here… When you take on stretch work, it can be time consuming.  As a result, you may find yourself overwhelmed having to manage competing priorities. You can learn ways to manage competing priorities as you pursue purpose in this Podcast episode

In my next post, I will share the Top 10 Benefits of Stretch Assignments.  Make sure that you subscribe to the blog so you don’t miss it!

If you are in a season in your career where you believe you can benefit from a stretch assignment, my advice to you is to just do it! Evaluate each opportunity, assess the outcomes, and work with excellence.  If it is aligned to your purpose, your future self will thank you for it in the end.

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