Forging New Territory: The Benefit of Stretch Assignments
Annette Maggi, MS, RD, LD, FADA
Executive Director, RDBA
In the food manufacturer and retail work environments, it’s common for marketing and/or buying staff to rotate through various assignments during the early years of their career. It gives the staffer experience in various categories of the business as well as different functions of the company and positions them for movement into higher levels of the company as they gain broad-based knowledge through these rotations.
While as dietitians, we often look at nutrition as the definition of whom and what we are professionally, the opportunity exists to take advantage of these rotations to broaden our scope and have more in-depth understanding of the retail industry. Stretch assignments in another area of the company can help drive your career to higher, more challenging levels. Imagine what you might learn from six months spent as a category buyer or three months spent in a marketing role.
It’s best to take on stretch assignments within your current company as you’re familiar with the culture, you’re a known entity, and you have your reputation to fall back on should the stretch assignment not go as well as planned. When pitching the idea to your manager, clearly communicate the skills you bring to alternate roles as well as what you hope to gain in these roles. Do your homework, too, taking time up front to speak with others in your ideal departments to fully understand the work and how your skills might fit. Consider the departments in which you would gain most from a rotation but also choose options where you have a 50-70% likelihood of success and the experience will build upon the brand you are creating for yourself within your company.
It’s essential when pitching and planning a rotational assignment to establish how the responsibilities of your current role will be filled and how you’ll transition back into the role. A move on your part may present an opportunity for someone on your team to become an interim manager, gaining some new experience at the same time. Or you may be able to divide your responsibilities amongst several coworkers, knowing that is if for a specific time.
While many department rotations are fulltime in the other functional area, you can also leverage the benefits of stretch assignments by taking on a project within your company. Perhaps there is a particular marketing campaign you could lead or the implementation of a shelf edge communication program that you could project manage. These can be great opportunities to learn more about various functions of the company and gain new skills.
At RDBA, we envision a future where a registered dietitian is CEO of a retail company. Stretch assignments can be a powerful tool to demonstrate you have potential beyond your current role, to make your talents visible to senior leadership and position you to be first RD at the retail helm.