Summer is upon us. As we now spend more of our time focused on our vacations and weekends away, it’s also a time when we end up putting our career goals on the back burner, often without realizing it. But while the summer is an excellent time to take a break, you shouldn’t take a break entirely from your career. It’s possible to enjoy the summer months and invest in yourself so you can make progress on your career goals. Here are five ways successful people use the summer to their advantage.
1. They step back
It might sound counter intuitive, but taking time to recharge and regroup is an essential part of career success, as research shows time off can be good for your health and can even help boost your productivity. If the first half of your year has been fast-paced, taking some time away can set you up for a strong second half of the year. But whether you choose to take single days or more substantial blocks of time, keep in mind that it’s not enough to only make plans to be physically out of the office. You also have to commit to unplugging from work as well, as 56% of workers in a survey said they routinely touch base with work when they’re supposed to be taking a vacation break. The key then to getting the full benefit of your break, is making sure that you plan for how your work will be covered so you can detach without the guilt.
2. They look back
You likely made goals for yourself at the beginning of the year. If you are like most people, the tasks, projects and deadlines you must meet day-to-day take your focus away from the longer-term goals you set for yourself. Now that the summer has arrived, you may find that you’ve all but forgotten what you hoped to accomplish this year.
While most people only look back during their year-end review or only at the start of the year, the summer is an ideal time for looking back and taking stock of where you are since you still have the second half of the year to make adjustments.
You should go back to the list of goals that you created and do an inventory of where you stand with each one. Start by asking yourself are each of the goals still relevant and meaningful to you. If not, now is the time to remove or change them. For the goals that are still relevant and important to you, ask yourself are you making the progress that you expected. The slower summer days are an ideal time to reflect on what is working well, and what you need to do differently.
3. They find the gaps
We’re living in times where industries, jobs, and skills required are changing quicker than ever before, so career advancement is not just about what you already know. Advancement is also based on your capacity to learn and adapt your skills. That is why 93% of Millennials in a Manpower study considered ongoing skills development an important part of their future careers.
Whether you are a recent graduate or someone with a few decades of work experience under your belt, the more you invest in yourself by learning new skills, the higher the potential payoff. Not only will you be taking steps toward achieving your own goals, but you will also be more valuable to others in this time of constant change and uncertainty. You can use the summer to take the first step by figuring out which skills you need that will also yield the most benefit.
For example, do you need additional job skills such as mastering a new system or do you need a certification? Are you interested in moving into a leadership role? The summer might be a good time, with people in and out of the office, to step forward and take on additional responsibilities that grow your leadership skills.
Most of us focus on hard skills, but soft skills have never been more critical than they are right now. We must have skills that can’t be automated like critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, communication, and creativity. As you identify which gaps you want to fill, consider the fact that these are some of the most important soft skillsfor workplace success.
You should also think about other skills that you might need to expand, such as technical or social media skills. One way to make learning these skills painless over the summer is to do quick lunch-and-learn sessions so you and your colleagues can take turns teaching one another in a more relaxed environment.
4. They look ahead
Not only do you need to keep your skills up to date, but you should also build the habit of staying abreast of what’s happening both inside and outside of your company. Many of us fall behind on keeping up with the timely and relevant information in our professional magazines, books and our news feeds. You can use the summer to do some catching up and looking ahead so that you are tracking important trends as they are happening.
5. They set clear goals
After you have stepped back, looked back, found the gaps, and looked ahead, the final step is to set a clear goal for the rest of the year. You should choose one goal to be your priority that is big enough to help you make meaningful progress, but not too big that you will let it slip because you’ve taken on too much at once.
If you want to build a skill, an online course or training through your employer might be the way to go. If you’re looking to take on additional responsibilities to help grow your skills, make sure you have the right network of support inside of your company that can help you with that goal. Catching up on your reading and professional development is something you can take action on immediately. Whatever your one goal is that you choose over the summer, it need not be time-intensive, but you should find a way to make sure that it is clear, actionable, and if possible, make yourself accountable by telling someone else. That way, you can advance your career while also enjoying the summer months.