Aside from the weddings, family barbecues and trips to the beach that will fill your summer, there are valuable opportunities to advance your career. Test out a few of these tips to maximize your summer.
Learn to golf. Golf is the No. 1 networking sport and can truly help build your career. Perfecting your swing can earn you private time with your CEO out on the links. Adding golf to your repertoire can get you an in at places you never would have expected. Invest in private golf lessons, which cost between $50 and $80 per session, or hit the driving range, where you can work on your swing and pick up the game from fellow golfers.
Hit the books. Have you been interested in taking a few college courses to brush up on skills like public speaking, Web design or learning a new language? Summer is the perfect time to invest in yourself. If you can make the case for it, your company just might be able to foot the bill. Taking adult education courses will also help enhance and grow your network. You never know who you'll be sitting next to … a new graduate, a brand manager or a vice president. Your fellow peers could be an integral part to your network, your next job offer or a client introduction. Chat with fellow students after class and perhaps grab a coffee to go over course material.
Don't check out on summer Fridays. Come Friday afternoon the office tends to be a ghost town. Fight the urge to join the migration out the door. While everyone else scurries out by mid-afternoon for long weekends at the beach, you can gain an edge on the competition by finding freelance work or learning a new computer skill. You can also use this time to stay on top of industry news that you weren't able to get to during the week. Check out LinkedIn Today and customize your news by industry. Sign up to follow influencer posts such as Richard Branson or Sallie Krawcheck. While you are learning about what's trending in your industry, start following one of the 2.6 million companies with profiles on LinkedIn. Following companies keeps users up-to-date on relevant information like product launches, contract wins and personnel changes. You can also see who is leaving and coming in a company, and see where they are going. If you are looking for a new job, you can easily monitor when positions become open and jump on the opportunity.
Organize a race for charity. Check in with human resources to see if your company supports any charities that may host races. Let them know you are looking to run a race and would like to open it up to the office in terms of training or donating. Your company might even be able to sponsor your team. Training for a race is a great way to get to know people from different departments. Research charity races that are going on in your area benefiting a cause you are passionate about. National charity races include The JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes, Avon Walk for Breast Cancer, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society's Walk MS, Susan G. Komen's Race for the Cure and March of Dimes's March for Babies, formerly known as WalkAmerica.
Give back. Volunteering has changed dramatically the last few years. Gone are the days of stuffing gift bags and working sign-in tables at events. Volunteer websites like Catchafire(http://www.catchafire.org/) help place you into areas you can make a difference for a charity. Nonprofits are businesses and need people who can help them run as efficiently as possible. Professional skills like graphic design, event planning, social media, fundraising and programming are high in demand. If you are looking to build your skills in one department you can learn easily by working as part of a team. Volunteering also helps put you in touch with people inside and outside of your industry. It's a great way of getting in front of people who have similar values and are leaders. If you are interested in using your skills to volunteer, be sure to add the Volunteer Experience & Causes section to your LinkedIn profile. Expressing the causes you care about and the organizations you support will enable your network to connect you with the right opportunity.
Nicole Williams is the bestselling author of three books, the latest of which, "Girl on Top: Your Guide to Turning Dating Rules into Career Success," has been optioned by Dan Jinks and Bruce Cohen, the producers behind the Academy Award winning films "American Beauty," "Milk" and "Silver Linings Playbook". Nicole is also LinkedIn's Career Expert. Nicole's role at LinkedIn is to help professionals understand how to enhance their careers using the LinkedIn network. The company she founded, WORKS by Nicole Williams, is the go-to resource for career-minded young women and was named one of Forbes magazine's Top 10 Career Websites for Women. You've seen her on TV – as a regular guest on "TODAY," "Good Morning America," and CNN – and in print, where her advice has appeared on the pages of ELLE, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Marie Claire and the Wall Street Journal.