Identifying Stretch Opportunities for Professional Growth
Have you ever been given a stretch assignment? Stretch opportunities are tasks or projects beyond your current knowledge or skill level. These projects help us expand our skill-set and capabilities for career development. 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, these opportunities do not always come 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 job. Below, we’ll discuss how you can identify your strengths, find the right stretch opportunities, and rely on your network.
Evaluating Your Strengths
Before you take on the responsibility of a stretch project, it is important to know what you are capable of now. To grow professionally, you first need to recognize what you know, so you can find opportunities that focus on skills you want to improve or learn. A good place to start this investigation is to consider what skills you use on the job, and make a list. Once you acquire a stretch opportunity, rely on your strenghts to help you face the new tasks.
You will also want to consider what new skills complement your current skill-set. For instance, let’s say that you excel at communicating with customers on the phone. You’ve gotten many compliments from customers, and most of your interactions run smoothly. However, written communication is a skill you do not use daily but could improve upon to gain more work experience. You can cultivate diverse professional skills by looking for stretch opportunities, such as taking on more responsibilities in the office that require you to write.
Finding Stretch Opportunities
There are many ways to find stretch opportunities to practice new skills and grow professionally. Here are just a few ways you to find them:
Communicate with your boss. Have a meeting with your boss to dicuss your interest in taking on new responsibilities and learn what kind of stretch opportunites are availble. They can help you identify your strengths and weaknesses, and might already have the perfect stretch opportunity. Your boss will also keep you in mind for future opportunities
Create stretch opportunities. If all else fails, you can always create your stretch opportunities. Why limit yourself to the work place? Stretch opportunites can be a personal project, volunteering, learning a new language, or getting a certification. Anything that develops new skills is an opportunity to stretch yourself outside of your comfort zone.
Have confidence to raise your hand. Often, new opportunities will appear in front of us, but they will require us to recognize them and speak up. Taking the first step to stretch yourself can be daunting, but the risk will pay off. Tasks and needs pop up all the time in meetings. Recognizing what problems you can solve will show your coworkers you are reliable.
Choosing the Right Opportunity to Pursue
We do not have all the time in the world, so you can not take on every stretch opportunity. To manage your time, identify which opportunities are worth your while. Pursue those that will contribute to your overall growth and professional goals. In addition, you want to make sure the stretch opportunity is achievable. For instance, volunteering to create a website when you have never done one before will not help you gain technical experience.
Using Your Network to Find and Evaluate
A network of other professionals can support you in finding and pursuing stretch opportunities. As you grow your network, be sure to ask about any stretch opportunities you are a good candidate for. You might be surprised what projects your colleagues, acquaintances, friends, and family may have for you. You can also use your network to evaluate opportunities. If you’re not sure if a stretch opportunity will benefit you, ask for advice from someone who has been in your shoes.
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