Book Review: Stretch: How to Future-Proof Yourself for Tomorrow’s Workplace

Stretch Cover

Disclaimer: All views expressed in this article are the personal opinion of the writer.

We live in an extremely demanding world. Companies come up with new products every year to stay relevant and our bachelor’s degrees aren’t enough for many employers anymore. In Stretch: How to Future-Proof Yourself for Tomorrow’s Workplace, Karie Willyerd and Barbara Mistick address this ever-changing workplace and its requirements.

Willyerd and Mistick are uniquely qualified to address these concerns. Willyerd is a workplace futurist, which means she interprets trends and creates a vision for an organization, at SAP SuccessFactors. She also co-authored the bestseller The 2020 Workplace: How Innovative Companies Attract, Develop, and Keep Tomorrow’s Employees Today. Mistick was the founder and CEO of Mobility Inc., a company that transported disabled students, and has experience with college students from her positions at Seton Hill University and Carnegie Mellon University. Mistick is the current president of Wilson College.

Willyerd and Mistick start Stretch by frankly stating that everyone has an expiration date; we will eventually have to retire from our workplaces. However, we have the ability to extend our expiration date as much as possible. This is Stretch‘s goal: to teach us how to stay relevant in our workplaces as long as we can.

After the introduction, Willyerd and Mistick explain the five major practices they promote throughout the book, which they call Stretch Imperatives. The first practice is to learn on the fly, so they introduce different strategies to keep learning on the job. The next imperative emphasizes the importance of being open-minded to new ideas and opportunities, accepting uncertainty, and receiving criticism and feedback. The third practice highlights building close and loose networks, which should include people from different disciplines and experiences. Imperative #4 says we should be “greedy” about gaining experiences and encourages readers to seek out and initiate opportunities. Lastly, the fifth practice encourages not only bouncing back but also moving forward after failures or setbacks.

Overall, Stretch is super insightful with material fit for not only millennials starting out their careers but also seasoned professionals in their respective fields. The fact that nearly anyone can benefit from it is one of the reasons I loved the book. Also, the authors recognize how wide their audience is and advise different methods for different kinds of people. Furthermore, each point is followed by an example of someone who has already experienced it, along with data and statistics to support their claims.

But fair warning: Stretch asks its readers to actively and intentionally work to ‘stretch’ themselves. You will not be able to follow any of their suggestions by being lazy. For example, in the section “Build a Diverse Network,” the authors write that “building strong relationships requires reciprocity, and sometimes you may need to scratch the person’s back first before being able to make use of that contact.” I like the fact that Stretch demands action and taking initiative; you can’t change your life by passively taking in the information. Also, the book gives practical strategies rather than abstract recommendations, making it easier for readers to act with a plan in mind.

On the flip side, the authors sometimes forget the importance of a healthy work-life balance. In the same section, they encourage the readers to always get on board with new assignments:

If you are always one of the first to volunteer for new assignments, your enthusiasm will guarantee that you have no shortage of work. 

It’s true – it’s good to be enthusiastic about your work and challenge yourself to tackle new projects. However, people burn out. We are not robots that can just work, work, work all year round. It’s important to not overwork yourself physically and mentally – especially if you’re trying to stay in the workplace as long as possible.

Despite the radical steps the book asks the readers to take time to time, overall there’s a lot of merit to Stretch‘s suggestions because of the anecdotes that follow each point. I could probably learn most of these lessons as I continue working and making mistakes, but Stretch allows me to prevent those mistakes. Thus, every superhero can read and benefit from this book.

Like this? Check out our review of The School of Greatness!

Written by Diana Kim

Disclaimer: All views expressed in this article are the personal opinion of the writer.

We live in an extremely demanding world. Companies come up with new products every year to stay relevant and our bachelor’s degrees aren’t enough for many employers anymore. In Stretch: How to Future-Proof Yourself for Tomorrow’s Workplace, Karie Willyerd and Barbara Mistick address this ever-changing workplace and its requirements.

Willyerd and Mistick are uniquely qualified to address these concerns. Willyerd is a workplace futurist, which means she interprets trends and creates a vision for an organization, at SAP SuccessFactors. She also co-authored the bestseller The 2020 Workplace: How Innovative Companies Attract, Develop, and Keep Tomorrow’s Employees Today. Mistick was the founder and CEO of Mobility Inc., a company that transported disabled students, and has experience with college students from her positions at Seton Hill University and Carnegie Mellon University. Mistick is the current president of Wilson College.

Willyerd and Mistick start Stretch by frankly stating that everyone has an expiration date; we will eventually have to retire from our workplaces. However, we have the ability to extend our expiration date as much as possible. This is Stretch‘s goal: to teach us how to stay relevant in our workplaces as long as we can.

After the introduction, Willyerd and Mistick explain the five major practices they promote throughout the book, which they call Stretch Imperatives. The first practice is to learn on the fly, so they introduce different strategies to keep learning on the job. The next imperative emphasizes the importance of being open-minded to new ideas and opportunities, accepting uncertainty, and receiving criticism and feedback. The third practice highlights building close and loose networks, which should include people from different disciplines and experiences. Imperative #4 says we should be “greedy” about gaining experiences and encourages readers to seek out and initiate opportunities. Lastly, the fifth practice encourages not only bouncing back but also moving forward after failures or setbacks.

Overall, Stretch is super insightful with material fit for not only millennials starting out their careers but also seasoned professionals in their respective fields. The fact that nearly anyone can benefit from it is one of the reasons I loved the book. Also, the authors recognize how wide their audience is and advise different methods for different kinds of people. Furthermore, each point is followed by an example of someone who has already experienced it, along with data and statistics to support their claims.

But fair warning: Stretch asks its readers to actively and intentionally work to ‘stretch’ themselves. You will not be able to follow any of their suggestions by being lazy. For example, in the section “Build a Diverse Network,” the authors write that “building strong relationships requires reciprocity, and sometimes you may need to scratch the person’s back first before being able to make use of that contact.” I like the fact that Stretch demands action and taking initiative; you can’t change your life by passively taking in the information. Also, the book gives practical strategies rather than abstract recommendations, making it easier for readers to act with a plan in mind.

On the flip side, the authors sometimes forget the importance of a healthy work-life balance. In the same section, they encourage the readers to always get on board with new assignments:

If you are always one of the first to volunteer for new assignments, your enthusiasm will guarantee that you have no shortage of work. 

It’s true – it’s good to be enthusiastic about your work and challenge yourself to tackle new projects. However, people burn out. We are not robots that can just work, work, work all year round. It’s important to not overwork yourself physically and mentally – especially if you’re trying to stay in the workplace as long as possible.

Despite the radical steps the book asks the readers to take time to time, overall there’s a lot of merit to Stretch‘s suggestions because of the anecdotes that follow each point. I could probably learn most of these lessons as I continue working and making mistakes, but Stretch allows me to prevent those mistakes. Thus, every superhero can read and benefit from this book.

Like this? Check out our review of The School of Greatness!

Written by Diana Kim

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