Heating Up Your Career: Eight Tips for Summer
When the weather is hot and the beach beckons, the temptation is to do what you used to do when you were a kid on summer break: Give your brain a rest, take it easy overall and recharge your batteries. But if you do that, you're missing an opportunity to advance your career -- whether you're just out of high school, attending post-secondary classes or gainfully employed.
Despite the urge to have fun in the sun, summer is not a time to cool your heels career-wise. Instead, the generally slower pace gives you a breather that can be used to build new skills, expand your network, and plot your next move on the career ladder.
How can you do it? Here are eight steps you can take to get ahead while everyone else is getting a tan.
1. Attend summer classes.
This is a good time to take professional development classes, get continuing education credits to update your professional certifications, or pursue educational opportunities that will take you on a new career path.
At Computer Systems Institute in metropolitan Chicago, for example, we have students who have switched from banking to medical billing and coding, from real estate sales to information technology, and much more -- frequently beginning by testing the waters in summer school.
2. Prepare/update your resume.
Let's face it: Who has time to do this in the middle of the year? Take advantage of summer downtime to create or freshen this key job-hunting tool.
Whether you're actively looking for a job or simply trying to be prepared for when an opportunity comes along, update your references, add any extra training or education you've received, and take time to write a cover letter that will make HR directors sit up and take notice. If you're employed, adjust the document to reflect any promotions, additional responsibilities or specific achievements. Either way, you'll be faster on the uptake when you spot the perfect position on Monster.com.
3. Improve your time management.
The more you can get done in a day, the more indispensable you will be to an employer and the likelier you are to be rewarded with a raise, get a promotion or simply keep your job. Learning to stay organized, eliminate distractions like reading your personal email, and control the urge to visit your Facebook page can go a long way toward improving your productivity.
Take the time to explore the tools available to help you stay on task, from pen-and-paper organizers to electronic versions. Clean and reorganize your workspace to get rid of clutter that can drain productivity. Experiment with limiting your non-business online activities to a certain time of day. Figure out what works for you so that you can accomplish more in less time.
4. Put on your 'there's a better way' thinking cap.
Whether you're on the job or on the hunt, breaking out of the business-as-usual box can be a boon to your career. When there's a summertime lull that leaves room in your head for a little brainstorming, try to come up with fresh ideas to help your employer and/or yourself.
If you're working, develop suggestions for cutting costs, saving time, adding a new product or service, or otherwise improving the way your organization operates. If you're not, spend some time figuring out if you're on the right path and – if the answer is no – how to get back on track.
5. Get extra experience that will give you a leg up.
Raise your hand to serve on a committee, volunteer to help out on a team project, participate in a community program, or find other ways to differentiate yourself from your colleagues or fellow job candidates. Going the extra mile can make you more valuable to your current or prospective employer.
6. Network anywhere and everywhere.
Whether it's your local chamber of commerce, a professional organization in your field, or a summer-only event like a charity picnic or even your son's baseball game, take every opportunity to make connections that might help you get a job or get ahead. As the saying goes, it's often not what you know -- but who you know -- that makes the difference.
And don't forget social networking sites like LinkedIn. Create your profile and begin building up your contact network, so that you can use the site to aid in your job search when you're ready.
7. Educate yourself about your industry.
Use your spare summer hours to find blogs and other online sources about your industry, bookmark the ones that are most relevant, and make the commitment to follow them to learn about new developments and trends. You may find yourself using that information to steer your job search or demonstrate your knowledge in a job interview.
8. Research potential employers in your field.
Whether you will soon be entering the job market, are contemplating a job change or are simply wondering whether the grass may be greener with another employer, it's wise to know the players. Summer is as good a time as any to do your due diligence.
Only 20 percent of job openings are advertised, so knowing where the other 80 percent may come from will come in handy when you embark on a job search. It's better to do the legwork ahead of time so that you'll know who you want to target when the time comes.
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