Summer’s a great time to boost your career prospects – True or False?

Here’s a bang-up-to-date version of a really popular post from a while back. Because – apparently – it’s summer.

Here in the northern hemisphere, we make the most of summer – when it finally comes – don’t we? Holidays and days out with the kids (if you have them), weekends at festivals (probably if you don’t have kids, but you never know), long weekends away, outdoorsy pursuits, barbecues. All of which are great. What about work – and how can you boost your career prospects?

I think it’s a bit of a myth that summer’s a bad time for professional development. Workload is often (a little) less frantic, evenings are longer, we’re prepared to venture further afield, and for many there’s a feeling that the time is flying by, so a need to catch up can take hold. Others may put off boosting their knowledge and skills until the ‘autumn term’, a real hangover from our schools days – and it’s often a time when work is really busy. Here are five suggestions for banking some professional development and boosting your career prospects in the summer time:

1. Do a summer school

Get a change of scenery, company and a fresh look at things with a summer school.

You can develop your creativity with an art course. Slade School of Fine Art has a great list of creative courses, from etching to landscape painting and photography.

UAL (University of Arts London, which encompasses several world-famous colleges) has a wide range of courses, including several on creative writing and within UAL, Central St Martins has some excellent offerings, such as digital photography, cartooning, interior design and much more. I’ve done several of these over the years and recommend them highly.

You can try the School of Life, which has a packed calendar of events this summer, including ‘Networking For People Who Don’t Like Networking’ and the wonderfully named ‘How To Be A Better Perfectionist’.

One for co-funding – how about a short course at a world-class business school? Imperial College London has 3-week intensive summer courses, such as ‘The entrepreneurial smart camp’ and London Business School has ‘Entrepreneurship summer school’ London School of Economics (LSE) offers Business and Management courses over the summer– be quick, many are booked up.

2. Get a mentor

Check with your employer if they have a mentoring scheme. If they do, ask how you can apply to join in. If they don’t, approach one or two more senior people and ask them if they’d be prepared to give you half an hour of their time on an informal basis. For tips, see my post ‘So you’ve got a mentor – how will you make it work?’.

Think about what you will give your mentor in return. Tip: ‘reverse mentoring’, where both parties mentor each other, is now in widespread use. So it’s not just a case of the experienced person sharing their wisdom with the less experienced; vice versa applies, particularly when it comes to technology. You’d be amazed how grateful a senior colleague will be for some discreet 1:1 tech and/or social media training.

If your employer doesn’t have a mentoring scheme, check with your professional body. Chances are there is something, even if it’s very informal.

3. Be a mentor

You can mentor someone less experienced than yourself and in the process learn heaps of valuable skills as well as helping a colleague, job seeker or someone else who could really use a helping hand. People who mentor others get the chance to build their listening and coaching skills, away from the heat of day-to-day task delivery.

Offer your services to your employer, via HR or your department head, or again you can try your professional body. You can also contact organisations such as Do ItVolunteering England or NCVO.

4. Get a stretch assignment or project

With slightly less frantic workloads, you can ask around and identify areas where you may be able to help your employer and yourself at the same time. This may take the form of getting involved in inductions and initial training for new graduate recruits, conducting interviews, doing an employee survey or researching a new market.

Ask your department head and heads of other departments; in the course of conversation find out what’s bugging them and what they’d like to change, if only they had the time/resources. You may need to take a business approach and scope the project out with a strong ROI case, but it’s worth giving a go.

See if you can get an assignment or secondment in another part of your organisation, or with a supplier and even a client, to broaden your knowledge and skills (in my previous career, a secondment to a client’s marketing department was one of my best learning and development opportunities).


You may also find this blog post useful: How’s your year so far? Tools for your DIY mid-year review


Dawn is the author of ‘How to be Zoomly at work’, available now on Amazon, and ‘The Feedback Book’, due out in September 

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