Alright, so you’ve finished your advanced degree, perhaps an MBA, but there doesn’t seem to be an opportunity for promotion in your organization. Then again, where will you get the work related experience that could be leveraged to attain a new job role in another organization? Don’t despair – take a harder look within your organization!
In fact, although there may not be an identified new role available, there are often plenty of opportunities for a so called “stretch assignment”. A stretch assignment consists of one or more special projects or tasks that allow you to solve unique corporate problems while at the same time gaining new skills beyond your current knowledge. Many times your project will allow you to work right alongside your most senior manager.
Asking for a stretch assignment demonstrates a sense of commitment and engagement to your organization and employers value this attitude. At the same time, it offers you an opportunity to demonstrate your technical and/or leadership skills all the while that you are learning new skills and working with a new team. You will also be taking a major task off the list for a manager and that certainly reduces their stress. And finally, taking on a stretch assignment allows you to gain some additional visibility within your organization.
Do you really have what it takes? To win and succeed in a stretch assignment, high potentials need to have the right motive (a willingness to have an impact on others in a selfless way), the right leadership assets (including among others the ability to learn, stay resilient, and connect), and be willing to accept the costs of a senior executive position.
The challenge for you then is how to find and choose the right “stretch” opportunity. Consider the following when making your decision:
Seeking a stretch assignment can be a powerful experience that can strategically position you to develop your leadership skills, become more visible and recognized as a high potential employee. It will also help you to develop your self-confidence as a leader, acquire valuable feedback from a mentor and literally have the opportunity to check various roles and options within your organization. Go for it!