Four ways to learn from short-term jobs

THE number of short-term assignments in companies has been increasing, and the trend is expected to continue. Short-term positions can offer rewarding development opportunities, but they can also pose daunting challenges.

As someone taking on a temporary role, how do you take advantage of short-term assignments for your long-term learning and professional development? Here are four tips for making short-term assignments work for you.

1. Set short-term goals: At the beginning of your experience, sit down and write out what you hope to accomplish during your tenure — both the instrumental and the personal. These goals should align with the longer-term goals you’ve set for your career — either those you set annually or those you’ve thought through on a longer basis.

2. Seek feedback: In a short-term assignment, establish a feedback loop with your manager and others around you. Set up at least one formal check-in with your supervisor to review your work and generate formal feedback, and ask that this be complemented by informal advice along the way.

3. Find mentors and peer relationships: Relationships are essential for building experience and understanding what it takes to succeed in your work. Proactively seek out individuals at various levels of the organisation for coffee chats to learn more about their work. Take some of these relationships a step further and develop mentors: Finding those who are willing to invest in you will help you move along your development path.

4. Keep a learning journal: When you see something that works — or doesn’t — write it down. If you track what you’re learning and make sure to look for lessons in every relationship and circumstance, you’re more likely to leave even a brief experience with real insight.

(Adapted from “Maximise Your Learning in Short-Term Assignments” at

Harvard Business Review© 2016



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