stretch assignmentIn a recent discussion with a millennial on career development, the topic of stretch assignments came up. He expressed concern that he was “not ready” and feared making mistakes along the way. In the conversation that followed, I helped him understand why this was an essential move in his career.

Five Reasons to Seek a Stretch Assignment

  1. Companies offer stretch opportunities to employees they feel have the potential to develop. It’s managements way of saying that you’ve got their attention. Now it’s up to you to show them what you can do!
  2. Stretch assignments are an indicator of how you perform under pressure. How do you handle stress on the job? Do you buckle down and become laser focused or do you become lost in the maze? You can bet that working under pressure will be a key indicator in evaluating your performance. To hone up on your technique, check out this Forbes article with five tips on how to deal with workplace stress.
  3. Management watches how you interact with colleagues and leverage intellectual resources to fill your knowledge gaps. Here’s the deal, management doesn’t expect you to know it all moving into a stretch assignment. One aspect of your development they want to see is how easily and quickly you team up with coworkers who can mentor you along the way. If you’re not one to ask for help, a stretch assignment may leave you feeling more stressed than excited. Moreover, it may be the last one you get for a while. Check out this article for tips on building and sustaining meaningful workplace relationships.
  4. Stretch assignments give management insight on your learning style and how quickly you master new skills. From that, they have a better idea of the trajectory of your development, which is important for talent management planning. Learning styles vary according to the individual. Some prefer to learn by reading, others by applying logic. Some learners need to go through the motions independently after having shadowed a teacher. Many learners use a variety of blended learning techniques. What management wants to see is the methods you use for getting up to speed and how long it takes you to get there.
  5. Evaluating the performance of an employee in a stretch role lets management know what they need to do to keep you engaged (challenged) in your work. Neither you nor your management wants you to wait until you are bored out of your mind to seek a new challenge.

It’s a Compliment, Really!

When looking at the offer from the perspective of management, my friend saw the opportunity with more clarity. He realized it was much broader than taking a test and assuming new responsibilities. It was an evaluation tool for long-term employee management, reserved for those the company valued enough to push a little harder.

And that’s gotta feel good.

Sheila Callaham is an author, motivational coach, and longtime communications and change management professional. Sheila leverages the power of words to influence stakeholders and shape perceptions.

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