If you’re skipping a summer getaway this year because you’re trying to save money, don’t feel bad about it. It could actually be a good thing if you’re hoping to get ahead at the office.
In fact, summertime can be an ideal opportunity to do some strategic career planning. For example, perhaps you can use this time to map out your next moves at your current job. Or, perhaps you can begin strategizing about your next career move.
If you’ve got some time on your hands this summer, here are four ways to potentially brighten your career prospects by the fall.
1. Volunteer for Extra Tasks
Your colleagues may be taking time off and leaving part of their workload unfinished. That’s a chance to step up and pick up some of the load – and perhaps get the attention of higher-ups.
“Taking on extra work and doing a great job of it can be an effective way to impress your boss,” says Chris Chancey, career expert and owner of Amplio Recruiting.
Chancey says not to think of this as picking up the slack for your coworkers. Instead, “see it as an opportunity to demonstrate leadership, showcase skills and strengths your supervisor and teammates probably did not know about.”
Just be sure that taking on extra work doesn’t compromise your ability to manage your regular workload.
Jason Patel, founder of college and career prep company Transizion, says to prioritize the kinds of tasks you offer to take on to focus on high ROI activities. Also, review your work schedule so you know what you can really do.
“This will help you discern how much extra work you can take on. Knowing how much you should help a coworker will save you from burnout,” Patel says.
2. Grow Your Network
Your network can be an invaluable tool for moving up the career ladder, so consider expanding your connections this summer.
“Summer is a great time to get out of the office and socialize,” says Laurie Berenson, founder of Sterling Career Concepts.
Some ways to connect? “Meet people for lunch or happy hour, reconnect with former colleagues, reach out to people with whom you’ve worked on projects in the past but haven’t seen lately,” Berenson says.
Those kinds of activities can reinforce your existing relationships. If you want to add people to your network, Chancey says to expand your scope. He suggests taking up a group hobby or attending Meetup events to meet new people who may share similar career backgrounds or professional interests.
You can also broaden your network online through LinkedIn and other professional networking sites.
“You probably have a little more time in the summer so why not take this opportunity to send out personalized invitations to connect with people whose role you admire and aspire to,” Chancey says.
“This is also a great time to reach out to some of your existing contacts and see what they are up to. On LinkedIn, you can write them a recommendation or endorse their skills.”
3. Learn Some New Skills
Knowledge is key for career advancement so consider initiating your own version of summer school. For instance, take a class, attend a workshop or seminar, volunteer, read some useful books or listen to some motivating podcasts.
“Summer is a great time to take a course,” Berenson says. “If your company offers internal training, look at what’s offered or find out if you can be reimbursed for third party courses.”
Focus on filling in any knowledge gaps you might have that could help you shine at work or potentially help you land another job down the line.
This is where having a mentor can be invaluable.
“What works for everyone interested in professional growth is getting mentored by an industry expert, either online or in person,” says Maciej Duszyński, a career expert at ResumeLab.
“Why? Because industry experts can get you up to speed in a heartbeat.”
4. Start Planning Now for a Job Search
Setting clear goals for what you want to do career-wise can help you get clarity on how to achieve them if your plans involve changing companies.
“Define your career goals for the fall and begin mapping out your next ideal move over the summer,” says Jeanna McGinnis, professional career coach and director of client triumph for Mentor Happy.
“By planning now, you’ll have a better understanding of what you’ll need to accomplish prior to beginning a job search in the fall.”
McGinnis says that in addition to setting goals, you should focus on some tangible tasks. That includes updating your resume and LinkedIn profile.
You can also research for salaries, which can help you potentially earn more money if you’re offered a new position. And, you can practice your interviewing skills and elevator pitch over the summer so that they’re fine-tuned when it’s time to use them.
Stay on Your Toes at Work this Summer
One last tip for making forward moves on the job this summer: Maintain your professional image at work.
“Just because everyone is slacking does not mean you should come to work late and sneak out early or show up in beach attire,” Chancey says.
“While you should enjoy the cheer, do not let your guard down too much such that you ruin your reputation, especially in the eyes of your boss.”
That’s good advice! While we want you to enjoy the summer heat, keeping it cool at work can help you get paid what you’re worth if you’re angling for a raise or promotion.