30 HR Stretch Assignments That Can Enhance Your Growth, Development & Promotability

Plus a one-page cheat sheet you can use!

by Alan Collins

Want to take your career to the next level with your current employer?

Taking on a stretch assignment in your current role may be your ticket.

A stretch assignment is simply a project or task you take on that falls outside your typical duties and requires you to step outside your comfort zone and learn new skills.

There are lots of benefits of tackling one of these assignments:

If nothing else, a stretch assignment can add bullets to beef up your resume and prepare for an HR future outside of your organization.

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Need some specific examples?

Check out this one-page cheat sheet.


To squeeze the most juice out of this one-pager:     

(a) Use it as a reminder of the types of assignments you may want to pursue.  

(b) Keep it handy on your all devices (phone, laptop, tablet) to access quickly for future reference.

(c) Forward it to HR colleagues who might welcome having this information to aid in their career advancement efforts.

(d) Use it any way you want!

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Here’s a case study to illustrate.

Gabrielle Lewis-Smith was frustrated.

As a senior HR manager with one of the largest hospitals in Chicago, she didn’t feel she was moving fast enough in her career.

She loved the organization, didn’t want to leave, but was clueless about what to do.

However, a career-defining moment arrived
when she was suddenly thrust into a
highly visible leadership role.

When a colleague of hers resigned in the middle of planning the annual organization-wide talent review process, involving 225 leaders in 45 departments, Gabrielle received an unexpected visit from her manager.

“My boss came to me sweating, in a breathless panic,” she recounts.

“And he said, ‘Gabrielle, I need your help. You’ve been doing a great job. I know you’re swamped, but I need you to step up, lead and facilitate this whole thing. Can you do it?’”

In that moment, she felt terrified and out of her comfort zone, having never led something this big and visible to the senior management team.

But, she also had the self-awareness to realize, “This might be my opportunity. Someone sees more leadership potential in me than frankly I see in myself. And trusts me to do this.”

So, with her boss’ 100% assurance that he’d support her all the way, she agreed to bail him out.

And, the experiences and exposure she
gained from
this “stretch assignment”
changed everything.

“It was a turning point in my HR career, and changed forever how I saw myself as a leader. In the end, this project helped me bond with my boss and showcase skills he didn’t know I had.

“I also got great feedback from the higher ups on my role in planning and facilitating many of the reviews.

“And, in the months that followed, I started getting calls and all kinds of opportunities opened themselves up to me, both within…and outside of the hospital.

“My boss promoted me to HR director eight months later.”

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So, how do you obtain a stretch assignment? 

Here’s what not to do…

Don’t sit on your butt,
waiting to be asked.

Instead, take charge! 

Get proactive and seek out projects that would add value to the organization, but can’t get done because of insufficient resources, money or time. 

Or you might also dig into areas within HR or the larger organization where you’ve noticed problems, inefficiencies or dysfunction.

Or it also be as straightforward as raising your hand and volunteering to tackle a project no one else wants to do.

In any event, once you’ve identified an issue or project you’d like to take on, talk to your boss, offer your help and get the ball rolling.

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Finally, here’s how to maximize the experience.

#1:  Stretch in the right direction

Make certain that your stretch aligns with your current job accountabilities and/or your future career goals.

#2:  Take time to plan your stretch.

Stretch assignments can be time intensive and energy consuming. Make sure what you’ve selected inspires and excites you.

#3:  Where possible, include others.

Engaging others will offer you new leadership opportunities by allowing you to delegate tasks and coordinate assignments with colleagues.

Teaming up with peers, or possibly a mentor, can also cause the endeavor to seem less daunting.

 #4:  Seek guidance. 

Stretch assignments take you out of your comfort zone which means you are not expected to have all the answers. So do don’t be afraid to ask questions, request direction and ask for assistance when you need it.

#5:  Cross organizational boundaries.

Stretch assignment are often most effective when they include working with individuals from another area of your organization.

Such assignments can give you insights that can build your total business perspective and insight.

#6:  Market what you accomplish.

Even if you knocked the project out of the park, it won’t mean much if no one knows what you’ve accomplished.

In your pre-deal negotiation, request that your stretch assignment be marketed internally.

For example, ask that it serve as a best practice story and be shared through appropriate HR or company channels, whether it’s via an internal newsletter, social network, webinar or even in a brown-bag information session.

All this helps you publicize and maximize the value you gain from the experience.

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What now?

Have you taken on a stretch assignment recently?

Now may be the perfect time to tackle one.

If you’re like Gabrielle, it may be exactly the kind career-defining move you need to launch your career forward.


Got comments, thoughts and additional insights?

Post them in the comments below by clicking HERE.

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Want more proven tips and strategies for excelling in your current role?  Then check out:  WINNING BIG IN HR: 100+ Powerful Strategies For Accomplishing Great Results Faster & Getting Your Clients To Rave About You As A Human Resources Professional!   For more detailed information about this book, go HERE. 

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…Or if you’re a brand new HR leader and you want to get off to a fast start and launch yourself successfully, then check out:  THE NEW HR LEADER’S FIRST 100 DAYS: How To Start Strong, Hit The Ground Running & ACHIEVE SUCCESS FASTER As A New Human Resources Manager, Director and VP.  You can get more details HERE.

About the author: Alan Collins is Founder of Success in HR, Inc. and the author of a variety of best selling books for HR professionals.  He was formerly Vice President – Human Resources at PepsiCo where he led HR initiatives for their Quaker Oats, Gatorade and Tropicana businesses.

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