BBQ. Watermelon. Sno-Cones. Beach. Summer means something different to everyone, but to most of us, it means freedom. As students, there was nothing better than seemingly endless summer nights. Without the worry of class the next day, life was pretty darn simple.
As adults, most professions require we that we show up at the office, regardless of the season. While summertime can be considered “lazy days,” it’s actually the perfect time to up your game and advance your career.
Especially if your job tends to slow down during the summer season, use these tips to move your professional life ahead:
1. Catch up on professional reading. Whether it’s a white paper or lengthy memo, reading at the beach or the park makes boring text a bit more palatable. Load up on magazines, print out lengthy blog posts you’ve pended for “later,” and download the latest biz books to your portable device.
2. Make new contacts. Fewer people around the office mean more opportunities to interact with coworkers from other departments. This also might give you the opportunity to get your hands on new projects and information. Use the relaxed atmosphere to your advantage. Some of the most important career conversations you will ever have will occur on a summer Friday at 3 p.m. when most people have checked out for the day. Make an extra effort to talk to your boss.
3. Get outside. If the only light hitting your pale skin is of the fluorescent variety, you need to make more of an effort to feel the warmth of the sun. That big flaming ball in the sky can actually be your No. 1 career ally.
4. Skip the casual dress. Some companies allow employees to dress down during the summer. Even though it’s hot outside, consider dressing up, instead. While other workers push the envelope and come to work dressed like slobs, your appearance, if you kick it up a notch, will get noticed.
5. Meet the temps. If your organization brings in summer interns or temporary seasonal help, go out of your way to get to know them. These people are new and can use your guidance. Not only will you feel good, but you will expand your network while building career karma. If you think back on your own career, you can likely recall the names and faces of people who went out of their way to make you feel comfortable. Return the favor.
6. Reorganize. From your inbox to your bottom desk drawer, use the slow season to get your workspace in order. Busier times are ahead; better to perfect your filing system now before things start to pick up.
7. Take a career inventory. Are you happy at work? Making enough money? On a path of growth and self-improvement? Use the summer to evaluate whether you’re happy with your career. If you’re not pleased, create a job-exit strategy. Set goals and put a plan into motion.
8. Apply for jobs. While your coworker is sunning in San Juan, you could be applying for jobs. The number of available posts usually shrinks during the warmer months, but so do the number of viable candidates. Summertime can be a great time to reach out to that normally busy business executive.
9. Flex your leadership muscle. With many bosses using vacation time as well, summer can be the ideal time to shine as a leader. Let your loyalty, know-how, and people skills come to the forefront. With the head honchos out of the office, be ready to step up into the spotlight.
The lesson here is to not let summer go to waste. If you plan your time wisely, you will be able to balance the beach, the books, and the boss–and further your career at the same time.
Andrew G. Rosen is the founder and editor of Jobacle.com, a career advice blog. He is also the author of How to Quit Your Job and an established freelance blogger who is available for hire. Follow him on Twitter (@jobacle) or connect on LinkedIn.