How to Find Career Stretch Roles and Promotion Opportunities
To get a promotion, you need to prove you can perform beyond your current job. That’s the purpose of stretch roles— projects and tasks that build your skills and get the attention of your boss and your boss’s boss.
Instead of waiting for stretch roles to land in your lap, take these steps to reel them in.
Look to stretch from day one in your new job. Why? People form opinions of others in nanoseconds. You want to be seen as someone with a stretch mindset from the get-go. These are the people who get hired in the first place and receive great opportunities to grow professionally and gain visibility in the company.
Be exact when you ask for more responsibilities. Instead of asking to be handed higher profile tasks, ask for specific projects that will energize you to perform at your peak and also advance your career.
“Saying that you enjoy working on marketing projects may not get you the same kind of growth opportunities as saying that you enjoy developing the strategy behind advertising campaigns for consumer products,” says Sherri Thomas, CEO of Career Coaching 360.
Talk to Your Boss
To identify stretch roles, partner with your manager to come up with additional responsibilities and goals within your current role or elsewhere in the company.
Be proactive and make sure your professional goals, shared with your boss, feature professional development at the top of the list. Make sure the goals include expanding your current skill set, sphere of knowledge and/or your company network, says Joanne Korman Goldman, executive career coach and founder of JKG Coaching.
Cast a Wide Net
But don't wait on your boss to put a formal stretch role plan in place. Your professional development may not be at the top of your boss’s to-do list. Network within your company. Ask other coworkers, a mentor, a sponsor and keep your own eyes open for opportunities. To smooth the way, have an exploratory meeting with a department head or coffee with a coworker. Attend meetings, events or social activities beyond your normal responsibilities.
Reaching above her boss worked for one of Goldman’s clients we’ll call “Emma.” Although Emma’s skills were stellar, the boss didn’t prioritize growth opportunities, nor did he know how to uncover stretch roles in the organization. What Emma needed was greater exposure to senior management to be considered for a promotion.
One of Emma’s objectives involved a project spearheaded by her manager’s boss. Emma presented compelling reasons to her manager as to why she needed direct contact with his boss.
That project raised her visibility beyond her boss, as well as with other senior-level people in the company. She participated in high-profile meetings, learned about other departments, and built a reputation as a leader, innovator and strategic thinker.
Volunteer Within Your Company
One of Thomas’s clients, “Bill,” had been working as a technical project manager for several years without any growth opportunities, promotions or advancement. Bill was frustrated and wanted help finding a job in a different company. Instead, Thomas suggested Bill identify higher profile projects within the company and make a proposal to the program manager to volunteer two hours a week in addition to doing his current job.
“Even though he was putting in an additional two to three hours a week, he was more energized and motivated which allowed him to do his current job faster,” Thomas says.
Volunteer Beyond Your Company
Network and volunteer outside your company. That worked for Thomas when she was writing radio and television commercials for a large retail chain. She had learned a lot about advertising—now she wanted to learn about marketing. So she joined the American Marketing Association and moved quickly up the ranks—learning about marketing and expanding her leadership skills.
The Results Are In
So how’d it work out?
Emma, who scored direct contact with her boss’s boss in a high-profile project, was promoted into another area of the company in less than a year.
Bill, who volunteered at his company for several hours a week on a project that energized him, became lead project manager on the project within three months. Within three years, he received two promotions.
Thomas, who learned valuable skills by volunteering with the American Marketing Association, leveraged those skills in getting hired at a Fortune 100 company at almost double her previous paycheck.
Reach out and up for stretch roles. The potential payoff—in dollars and career advancement—is well worth it.