Ah summer. Half-day Fridays, family vacations, long patio lunches—it’s amazing any work gets done at all this time of year.
So how do you leverage your summer months? You can ride the slack train of bare minimalism or you can use this time of year to powerhouse the engine of your career. The trick is to make the summer season work for you and your job advancement.
Let’s start with some intriguing research around summer productivity: One study says we’re 45 percent more distracted during the summer, while another says we’re actually more focused and productive during sunny days because we’re in better moods. And a better mood = being more productive. However, a lot of that good mood gets fueled into socializing with our co-workers.
If you’re the type who likes to take an informal “summer break” at work (no one’s judging!) here’s something to think about. What if—just what if—you played the summer card to your advantage and made some career strides?
Summer offers great job opportunities. The trick is picking activities that align with everything summer has to offer, and using them to move your career ahead a notch or two.
Here are five ways to advance your career this summer (without feeling like you’re “working”):
Expanding your professional circle is one of the best things you can do for your career. Use that elevated energy level and summer social drive to attend industry events, go to a conference or invite someone you’ve been meaning to connect with to lunch or drinks. Most of us are much more inclined to get out and about after work while it’s still light out, rather than during the dark early evenings of winter. Seize this most premium networking season and see what your net brings in!
2. Have fun honing your leadership skills.
If you manage a team, try sharpening your leadership skills in some less traditional ways. For example, you’ve probably noticed that your team might be a bit distracted right now—yes? How do you motivate everyone to be focused and productive? The best tactic is to meet summer head-on. Schedule fun into the weeks, like team picnic lunches; plan for half-day Fridays. Make sure everyone on your team goes on vacation. Give the people what they want—more playtime—and the natural result will be that they work with more focus and verve when they’re in the office.
If there are some back-burner projects that people are excited about, bring them out. If you can rally the troops around the mood of summer in a fun and productive manner, your team will love you for it, and it will improve teamwork for the more serious challenges and project cycles ahead.
3. Find a new job.
If you’ve been thinking of branching out, don’t tell yourself a story that summer isn’t a great time to look for a job. It’s one of the best! (Note: Any time is a good time to look for a job if you’re ready.) Here’s why summer rocks for job hunters.
- Lower competition. There are fewer people looking for a job in the summer months. A lot of people put it off because they think, like you might, that summer’s not a good time; or, they simply put off any grand career gesture until fall. Make gestures now and you’ll come out ahead.
- Jobs that are posted are legit. Everyone is inclined to take it easier in the summer—including hiring managers and HR teams. So if a job is posted, then it’s a position they really need, sooner than later.
- There’s a lot of positive energy to leverage. If you’re the type that has more energy and goodwill in the summer, that vibe will be your best friend during your interviews.
4. Have fun with your goals.
That’s summer for “review your goals”—which sounds like a chore. So, with your most inventive summer hat on, get out those goals you set for yourself way back when (or even last month), and do some quick house cleaning. Are there any you can cross off—either you’ve completed them or they’re no longer relevant? Is there a goal that might be one of the fun extra-curricular goals that always drops to the bottom of your priority list that you could focus on?
If you’re saving yourself to go into high gear mode come fall, think about small ways you can get ready to move closer to some of your professional and personal goals. Challenge yourself to come up with some imaginative and motivating ways to get there.
5. Start something new.
What’s the tiniest new habit or activity you could nurture this summer that would make a difference? If you chew too much gum at work, cut back; if you say “Yes” to every project request start saying an occasional “No,” or “Let me think about it” (and then consult your scheduling software). Put yourself on a so-called “Summer Experiment” and start doing that thing now (don’t check email for the first hour of work; contribute to your company blog; start meeting people in person rather than instant messaging incessantly).
And have fun—really! Various research says when people are happier they do better work and are more productive. So here’s to using your imagination to pump up your career this summer!