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Summer is officially here!
While it might feel like summer is the best time to take a break from thinking about climbing the career ladder, the next few months are actually a great time to evaluate where you are, plan for a promotion, or get ready for an upcoming transition to a new job.
While it seems like the job market slows down in the summer and professional networking opportunities dry up a bit, that’s not always the case. There’s still a lot you can do if you’re actively job hunting or looking to build your network. We’ve got some ideas on how to maximize the summer months to improve your career prospects or get ready for a career change.
Take Time to Reflect on Where You Are—and Your Career Prospects
Whether you enjoy your current work or are actively thinking about where you want to go next, the next few months provide some unique opportunities to map where you are, how things are going, and where you’re interested in going next.
Whether it’s lounging in an Adirondack chair by the lake or lying on a towel on the beach, nothing beats some quiet time with a great view. Try using that view to reflect on your career path and goals for the rest of the year, the accomplishments you’ve reached so far, and what else you want to learn. Taking time to think about what else you want to learn or other skills you want to develop next will come in handy when your manager asks you how you want to grow over the next year.
Summer’s a great time to be outside, and if you’re someone who thinks well while doing a physical activity, you might consider going for a “career reflection hike” or “professional reflection bike ride” in nature to let your mind wander and think about what’s next.
Or, if you’re thinking about making a change, you might use your relaxing view to inspire journaling or deep thinking about what career paths you’re interested in exploring over the next six months. You want to be prepared with an answer if someone at a holiday BBQ, family reunion, or happy hour asks you want you’re interested in doing next.
Take Stock of Your Portfolio
If you’re actively pushing for a promotion or planning on interviewing in the next six months, this is a great time to put pen to paper and jot down all the accomplishments, goals, new skills, and experiences you’ve had since you last changed jobs.
Whether you’re about to make the case for why you deserve a raise or are going after a new job, you need to have examples of accomplishments and answers to behavioral questions polished and ready to go.
- Why do you think you deserve this raise or promotion?
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
- Tell us about a time you experienced conflict with a coworker…
- Tell us about a time you didn’t hit your goals or failed in a piece of your work…
- What skills do you have that make you stand out from other applicants?
Those are all tough questions to answer, especially if you haven’t taken the time to prepare. Don’t forget to take stock of your soft skills—like communication skills—that can set you apart from the competition.
Try grabbing a friend in a similar position and head for a walk in the park while you coach each other through your answers. Take a step back and think through how you’ll position yourself and what examples you’ll use to demonstrate your value.
Spend Some Time on Social Media—Especially LinkedIn
One of the most valuable resources you have in your career is LinkedIn. Now’s the moment to spend some quality time with the platform—any updates you make or stalking you do may fly under the radar more at this time of the year. Update your summary, add recent accomplishments to your profile, and make sure you’re connected to everyone in your network.
If you’re actively thinking about a career change, make sure your profile is inviting, informative, and speaks to the kind of career change you’re trying to make. If you’re hoping to set yourself up for a promotion, you might update your skills section and maybe even ask for a new recommendation or two.
If you know you’ve got superpowers in relationship-building and meeting new people, use LinkedIn to find people who are doing things you think are really interesting, as well as people you can learn from in a mentor relationship. You may not want to connect with them unless you actually know them, but you can ask a mutual connection to introduce you so that you can set up a time to get to know them and build your network for future opportunities.
While LinkedIn is probably going to be your main platform for career growth, it’s always smart to check your Facebook and Instagram profiles to make sure the content is professional enough that it won’t raise any red flags or seem inappropriate to contacts or potential employers you’re hoping to connect with on that level.
Get Into Summer Networking
Being intentional about your networking and getting out there is one of the best things you can do for your professional growth. And how great is it to not have to lug around your winter coat while balancing a glass of wine and shaking hands at a networking event?
Summer has plenty of built-in opportunities to reach out and reconnect with former colleagues. Maybe you’ve seen their latest photos on Facebook from their vacation—that’s great reason to reach out and mention you’d love to hear all about their trip and catch up over a drink at a nice outdoor spot.
Summer months may also allow you to take longer lunches, depending on your industry. Squeezing in a morning coffee, lunch, or drink is much easier and less stressful when your coworkers are out on vacation and you don’t have a major deadline breathing down your neck.
If you’re exploring a career transition into higher education or nonprofit work, chances are good that people in those industries will have more time during the summer to network. Of course, if you’re thinking of becoming a wedding or event planner, you might want to wait until after the summer to network with people in that sector.
Grab a friend who’s also been thinking of hitting a networking event and make the most of a summer evening by grabbing dinner afterwards to talk about the people you spoke with.
Take Time Off
This might be the most desirable thing to do to boost your professional growth this summer, but surprisingly, not everyone is taking advantage of all their vacation time.
In 2018, employees used less than 50% of their vacation days to travel last year —citing eight days total on average according to State of American Vacation 2018, an annual survey that tracks American vacation. 61 percent of people reported the biggest reason they left vacation days on the table was the fear that they’d look replaceable.
While you might initially feel like skipping vacation days makes you seem too important to take time off, the truth is that we all need some R&R in order to do our best work. Bill Gates was famous for his “Think Weeks,” where he’d spend a week uninterrupted in nature and away from daily distractions to do some big-picture thinking for Microsoft. If Bill Gates can do it, so can you.
Just imagine what new ideas, important realizations, and creativity might result. Plus, no one wants to hire someone who seems super stressed and unhappy. To be the best you can be in your job search and journey to career success, you’ve got to be in good physical and mental shape.
If you need another good reason to take your vacation days, think about this: Employees effectively donated an individual average of $561 in work time to their employer in 2017.
If you had career goals for yourself this year that haven’t come to fruition yet, summer is great for spending some quality time preparing for the opportunities and conversations you’ll be having as things heat back up again in the fall.
Got another idea for how to boost your professional development this summer? Share your thoughts!
A version of this article previously appeared on Ellevate Network.
Emily Lamia has been helping people grow and develop in their careers for over a decade. In 2015, she founded Pivot Journeys to create experiences to help individuals navigate their next career move and find meaningful work.