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 school 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 range of painting and drawing courses.
University of the Arts London (UAL) has a wide range of courses, including several on creative writing as well as digital photography and animation 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.
2. Do Zoomly’s summer school
Shameless plug alert! Zoomly is doing its first-ever pop-up summer school this year. You can plug your skills gaps in just 90 minutes of focused, practical and highly interactive training. Topics include ‘How to plan and prioritise’ and ‘How to delegate effectively’. For the full menu and to book your tickets check out our event.
3. 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.
Think about what you will give them in return. Tip: ‘reverse mentoring’, where both parties mentor each other, is gaining ground. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
Alternatively, 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.
Dawn is the author of ‘How to be Zoomly at work’, available on Amazon.