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If you want to grow, you have to stretch

Career development is one of the more frequent topics of conversation I have with employees, potential employees, colleagues, friends and family members. It means different things to different people, of course; however, I have noticed a bit of a disturbing ‘theme’ permeating throughout many of the conversations I have been having over the past 6-12 months. For many people, I have found that their definition of career development is that it is a series of incremental steps that they have to take in order to get paid more money. I also have heard from folks that they view career development as taking on assignments that can showcase with skills. To both of those groups I say – wrong! If you are thinking of career development as ‘steps’ you need to complete in order to get more cash, then we need to get you into a better mindset in terms of career development and I am hoping this post might do that! However, if you view career development as a series of (progressive) opportunities, job assignments, etc. to help build and grow your knowledge, skills and abilities, than I think you are in the right place.

Stretch ImageIn good employer/employee or manager/employee relationships, this type of dialogue (around career development) takes place on a regular basis. Both manager and employee set developmental goals, the manager provides the opportunities for the employee and then success is measured and feedback provided to the employee. If you are moving your career (development) in the right direction, there are going to be times when those assignments, opportunities and experiences you have been tasked with can get downright scary! If it does, that means you are stretching yourself. What I mean is that if you are experiencing those feelings of discomfort because you are pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, then that is a good thing. It means you are learning and growing professionally because of the stretch assignment(s) or opportunity you have been presented and challenged with completing.

Let’s be clear – taking on new/different assignments that don’t cause you to sweat a bit, lose a bit of sleep or at the very least give you some heartburn are NOT helping you to grow your career or develop you professionally. When growing, and taking on stretch assignments, this means you are doing/learning/being exposed to things you have never been exposed to before. Perhaps you are now in charge of people? Or maybe you have budgetary accountability now? Or maybe even you have to speak/present in front of groups of people? All of these things are ways that you could be stretching your abilities and GROWING your career!

So, the next time the topic of career development comes up between you and your manager, make sure you are working from the definition above. That is, the assignment must cause you to stretch yourself in some capacity. If you are developing, you need to be stretching yourself at all times. Take on assignments that cause you to work and think differently, interact with different people and at a different level, communicate differently and that cause you to apply what you have learned differently. Step outside of your comfort zone and realize that what got you to where you are now may not get you any further in your career.

The key is that if you truly want to develop your career, then you have to make sure you are challenging yourself at each opportunity. You can’t mitigate all (career) risk by only doing things that you know 100% for sure you can successfully do. Sometimes you need to fail to learn. Think of the process as a career exercise: Stretch & Grow & Fail & Stretch & Succeed….then repeat…..over and over. As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of Idea go/FreeDigitalPhotos.net


One Response

  1. Reblogged this on Trish Pratt | Executive Coach | Career Coach| Boston, MA and commented:
    Great blog post. The tangible things, i.e, bigger salary, or bigger title often only bring short-term satisfaction. But personal expansion…? Now that’s a direct connection to career development and long-term job satisfaction!

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