How to Identify Stretch Opportunities for Professional Growth
Have you ever been given a stretch assignment? Stretch opportunities are tasks or projects that you take on that are beyond your current knowledge or skill level. These types of projects help us develop our skill-set and capabilities while allowing us to grow professionally. Though stretch opportunities will require you to step outside of your comfort zone, these projects will ultimately contribute to your learning and growth.
While you may be assigned a stretch project by your boss, these opportunities are not always given freely. There is a good chance that your boss may not recognize your potential or true capabilities, let alone your willingness to take on challenges outside of your normal job function. Below, we’ll discuss how you can identify your personal strengths and find new stretch opportunities that allow you to exercise these strengths and grow professionally.
Evaluating Your Strengths
Before you take on the responsibility of completing a stretch project, it is important to evaluate your strengths. What are you good at? A good place to start this investigation is to consider what skills you use on the job. Make a list of these skills and consider which you excel at most. Once you are given an opportunity to stretch your abilities and challenge yourself, you can rely on these skills to help you face the new tasks that come your way.
You will also want to consider what new skills compliment your current skill-set. That way, you can work to build your skill-set and prepare yourself for stretch opportunities. For instance, let’s say that you are required to communicate with customers on the phone, and this seems to be something you excel at. You’ve gotten many compliments from customers and most of your interactions seem to go smoothly. A complimentary skill may be written communication. You can learn how to excel at this new skill by taking a professional writing class or taking on more responsibilities in the office that require you to write to others.
Finding New Opportunities
There are many ways to find new opportunities that allow you to learn new things, practice new skills, and grow professionally. Here are just a few ways you can find stretch opportunities:
Ask your boss for the opportunity to take on a new challenge. Have a meeting with your boss and identify the strengths that you would like to use on a new project as well as the new skills and knowledge you want to acquire.
Create your own stretch opportunities. If all else fails, you can always create your own stretch opportunities. Take on a personal project or volunteer with an organization that will allow you to learn new information and practice new skills.
Have confidence to raise your hand. Often, new opportunities will appear in front of us, but they will require us to speak up in order to take them on. When you hear about a new opportunity, don’t be afraid to raise your hand and take on new responsibilities.
Choosing the Right Opportunity to Pursue
If you had all the time in the world, you may be able to take on every project that came your way. Unfortunately, this is just not possible. In order to manage your time wisely, it’s important to identify which opportunities are worth your while and pursue those that will contribute to your overall growth. In addition, you want to make sure that you are choosing stretch projects that aren’t beyond your ability to learn. For instance, don’t volunteer to create a website if you have never done this before and don’t have the means to learn in the time given.
Using Your Network to Find and Evaluate
It’s important to have a network of other professionals that you can turn to for support. As you grow your network through networking opportunities, be sure to ask about any stretch opportunities that might exist out there. You might be surprised as to what projects your colleagues, acquaintances, friends, and family may have for you.
You can also use your network to evaluate the opportunities that are offered to you. If you’re not sure if a stretch opportunity will benefit you in the long run, why not ask someone who has been in your shoes? Reach out to individuals in your network and ask them for advice on whether or not you should pursue specific opportunities.
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