5 Ways to Get Ahead During Summer

Summer Presents Unique Opportunities for You to Advance Your Career

Summer is No Time to Slack Off at Work

And suddenly, Summer.

Coats go into storage, you’re buying sunscreen by the gallon, and your mind instantly shifts from spreadsheets and status meetings to suntans and sandy beaches.

However, while kids might be screaming “school’s out for summer” and racing for the playground, things don’t quite work that way as an adult in the business world. But don’t worry, the tips below won’t be as painful as summer school. So here are 5 ways you can use summer to your advantage professionally.

5. Take a Vacation

Just because your boss is jetting off to his lavish ocean-side villa each weekend, doesn’t mean you need to set up a beach chair in your cubicle for the next few months. If you have vacation time, take it.

This is something that many people struggle with, especially the Type-A personalities among us. With the boss out of the office, some would argue the benefits of staying at work and getting caught up on all their projects. Here’s why that doesn’t make sense. Surveys show that 36% of workers don’t use all their vacation days. If you’ve worked hard to negotiate your pay, your title, and your benefits, why leave any perks on the table?

It can also lead to burnout and stress on the job. Even the best employee can’t keep operating at an optimal level for months on end. By taking time off to recharge your batteries, you can come back from the beach even more productive. So trust me, slowly step away from your inbox.

4. Diversify Your Summer Reading

Listen, I’m not going to tell you to go cold turkey and completely abandon your US Weekly magazine, the latest spy thriller, or the steamy romance novel topping the best-seller charts while you’re sitting by the pool.

But summer is a great time to mix in a business book that can help forward your career. Some of my favorites?

3. Double Down on Networking

When it comes to expanding your realm of business connections and advancing your career, there are two rules that always rise to the top:

  1. The vast majority of jobs are found through networking
  2. You need to build your network before you need it

Summer activities present some unique opportunities you might not have at other times throughout the year. Instead of meeting the person in the suit and tie (and scarf and overcoat) stuffed into the folding chair next to you at a crowded conference in February, strike up a conversation with the guy next to you in cargo shorts and flip flops while you wait your turn for the next burger coming off the barbecue grill.

Whether it’s a summer wedding, backyard fireworks, or a concert in the park, expanding your social circle can often lead to business leads or job offers once the dog days of August are over.

2. Review Your Plan

What significance does Monday, July 2 have? It’s about the halfway point of the year, a good time to ask yourself how things are going. If your New Years resolution was to get a promotion or reach certain goals, are you on track to meet them? If so, it might be time to summarize your accomplishments and ask for a raise. If not, what can you adjust to ensure that the second half will be successful?

However, what if you assess where you are and don’t like what you see? Are you working in a job you don’t enjoy, with co-workers you can’t stand, and a manager that stresses you out? Or maybe you just realized that the career you are in is not a good match for your skills and passions.

For many businesses, the summer months of July and August are much slower, both in terms of business and hiring. Take advantage of this time to prepare for a career change:

  • Update your resume
  • Create a web presence and a portfolio of your best work
  • Go on informational interviews to learn more about new opportunities
  • Research the market value for salaries for someone with your experience

When September rolls around and companies renew their focus, you’ll be ready to go.

1A. Expand Your Skills

After a long day of work, it’s all too easy to come home, plop down on the couch, and catch up on the latest reality show, singing contest, sporting event, or cheesy sitcom. But as the season finales unfold (with a shocking twist!) and the pro hockey and basketball champions are named, resist the urge to delve into reruns all summer.

Instead, allocate a few evenings a week to taking classes and updating your skills. Here are some ideas:

Formal classes: If an MBA or grad school is in your future, sign up for a GMAT course. Or go after a major skill that will help you at your job, such as certified training in your industry.

New media skills: Whether you’re a dialed in tech geek that needs to know the absolute latest programs, or an older worker determined to stay up with the times, there are dozens of new media websites and programs to be mastered. For example:

  • How to set up a blog
  • How to use Twitter
  • Effective use of LinkedIn
  • Photoshop and graphic design skills
  • Digital video editing
  • App and mobile development
  • Writing and editing for the web
  • Understanding web analytics and reporting

1B. Expand Your Skills

Passion project: If you’ve ever said “I’ve always dreamed of doing (insert passion project here)” don’t wait another day. Various studies show the average American watches 3-5 hours of TV per day, so cutting out TV this summer would free up at least 20 hours a week to put toward your goal. Maybe it’s self-publishing a book, launching an online business, or volunteering.

Fun and valuable classes: Expanding your skills doesn’t have to be seen as a chore, and might pay dividends in the workplace down the line. You might also try such things as:

  • Taking an improv comedy class with a friend might lead to more confidence speaking in front of groups at work and thinking on the fly
  • Learning to use your new DSLR camera in a photography class will not only allow you to take better photos of your friends hiking through the mountains, it could also give you an eye for great content for your company’s social media sites
  • Starting a food blog might be a great way to make sure grandma’s recipes are available to family members spread across the country, while the skills you learn (installing WordPress, basic HTML, uploading photos and videos) could translate to projects at work
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