Book Review: “Stretch” Shows How to Future-Proof Your Career

Something really frightening happened to me the other day.  I was exploring some of the new job sites out there like Indeed and FlexJobs when it hit me.  It wasn’t like a ton of bricks, rather, it was a sort of sinking feeling.  Honestly, I don’t even know why it mattered.  I wasn’t looking for a job. But what if I was looking for a job?  What if something happened and I needed to get back into the corporate world?  I realized that my current skill set was so specific and so unique that they didn’t really match exactly what the hiring companies were looking for.

How to Future-Proof Your Career

It’s not news that the world of work is changing, shifting and evolving.  The part that seems to be eluding so many workers and business owners is how to create a stable future for themselves and their families.  In the new book “Stretch: How to Future-Proof Yourself for Tomorrow’s Workplace” by Karie Willyerd  (@Angler) and Barbara Mistick  (@BarbaraMistick), the authors combine their groundbreaking research with SAP and Oxford Economics to outline five strategies and practices that will help both workers and business owners greet tomorrow’s work environment with ease.

The Good News — It’s Up to YOU

In “Stretch”, the authors provide you with DIY career management tools.  You can do all of these things on a budget and on your own.  You’ll also get a range of strategies on how to approach work and develop your skills and capabilities so that more options are available to you.  Finally, you’ll learn how to assess your current reality and create a path to succeed in tomorrow’s workplace.

The authors break these lessons down into five practices:

  1. Learn on the fly. Continuing education is mostly on YOU.
  2. Be open. Accept feedback, not as criticism, but as valuable information to help you unlock your future.
  3. Build a diverse network. More connections give you more information and more options.
  4. Be greedy about experience. Use your x-ray vision to see valuable experiences in all of your tasks.
  5. Bounce forward. Always keep your dreams and goals in the forefront. When setbacks happen, use the experience to move you forward.

Each of these strategies will transform the way you look at every work experience you approach, from being a simple task to get off of your list to being a performance element that takes you a step closer to your future.

The Authors Have Seen the Future — and It Is Us

Authors Karie Willyerd and Barbara Mistick make a wonderful team.  This book makes sense out of huge amounts of data and feedback that laypeople have noticed for years, but haven’t quite been able to wrap their heads around.

Willyerd is the Workplace Futurist for SuccessFactors, an SAP company.  She is the author of “2020 Workplace: How Innovative Companies Attract, Develop and Keep Tomorrows Employees Today.”  Barbara Mistick is the President of Wilson College.  She’s pioneered the nation’s first college loan buy-back program.  She is a seasoned entrepreneur and has won numerous awards from the US Small Business Administration.

They didn’t just write a book together, they practiced these “Stretch Principles” in the process.  They showed and proved that what they’ve written about is practical and applicable to people at every level and in every type of career; whether employee or business owner.

The days of depending on some outside force to show you your future, to give you a promotion or even an opportunity are over. It’s up to you to see the opportunities and seize them.

What Was Best About This Book

I’m a complete sucker for books that take extensive research and present the results, the insights and practical steps you can take to leverage what the data is telling us.  This book does all of these three.

There is research.  There are numbers and data and even stories from the interviews that will make the research accessible.

There is in-your-face analysis.  The authors take the data and the stories and tell you exactly what you can expect in 2020, 2030 and beyond.  They tell you the general skills you’ll need and show you how to get them.

Finally, throughout the book and especially at the end of the book is an application plan.  There are simple worksheets and charts and potential plans you can use to implement these strategies.

The only thing I would say a business owner might miss is a pure focus on business owners.

Why Read This Book

When I first received my review copy, I was dubious.  “Why should a business owner read this book?” I thought.  I was only a few pages in when I realized that this wasn’t just a book for “career changers” or employees or new graduates.  This was a book for any person who worked.

Business owners will find extremely valuable insights into today’s employment environment as well as what to look forward to.

If you’re an employee, and you take the advice you find in “Stretch” seriously, you will see your job through a completely new lens.  And it will be good.

If you’re a young person getting ready to enter the world of work, all I can say is WOW.  Reading this book is like peering into the future.