Ah, summer. An opportunity to relax, fire up the barbecue, take a road trip, hit the beach or indulge in a thousand other pastimes that we associate with sunny skies, warm temperatures and long days.

But summer can also be the best time to focus on career planning and development. Work often slows down during the summer months as everyone gets into a vacation state of mind,  and that means there is more time for you to invest in yourself and your career.

Here’s a list of 11 things you can do this summer to help you get ahead.

#1: Socialize and network

You can invite your coworkers and contacts out for a leisurely lunch or have them over to your house for a Sunday cookout or to join your annual Fourth of July celebration. You can bring them along on weekend trips, attend outdoor concerts together or organize shared recreational activities for everyone’s families. Summer provides the perfect excuse to socialize and network. Even if you’re an Introvert, you should try to take advantage of people’s summer vibe to get together and get to know each other better. The bonds you create through this kind of networking can pay dividends in the future.  

#2: Update your resume and career profiles

Have your resume and LinkedIn profile gotten dusty and outdated? Now would be the perfect time to refresh the information, to make it more current, lively and attractive to anyone who might be checking them at any point in the future. You can search online for resume/profile templates and for tips on how to spice up your resume to increase your odds of standing out from the crowd.

#3: See what's going on in your industry

If you were no longer with your current organization, where would you like to go to work? If you were to take the next step on their corporate ladder, what would that look like? If you decided to make a lateral move, what would be the benefits? Summer is an excellent time to research the possibilities and to compile a list of jobs that would interest you, at companies or with organizations you’d be thrilled to join should the opportunity to join their teams arise. When it comes to long-term career planning it’s smart to be prepared well ahead of time, so you won’t be left scrambling should unexpected circumstances arise.

#4: Take a career aptitude test

Even if you're happy in your current role, taking a career aptitude test can help you identify and develop skills that you're not using. It's a great way to determine what other types of roles might fit your abilities, interests and personality, and what areas of development you may need to focus on in the future. It's a nice exercise at any stage of your career since it will let you know if you need to shift gears or double down on what you’ve already been doing.

#5: Add career-oriented material to your summer reading list

If sitting down with a good book and a cool glass of lemonade is a favorite way to relax, then why not use the summer months to your advantage and add some career-oriented material to the list? Your choices could specifically offer advice about your current career. They might touch on the types of continuing education courses you could take to expand your knowledge, or recommend self-development strategies you could adopt to become better at your profession. Alternatively, you could read books about how to find success in any career field, and then apply the lessons you learn to your job and your workplace relationships.

#6: Share your bright ideas

You can demonstrate your knowledge by publishing relevant social media commentary, blog posts through LinkedIn, or writing articles on your company’s website if they feature that type of material. Summer is a nice time to reach out to an industry audience in this way since you’ll have more free time to develop your ideas and write them down.

#7: Take on a stretch assignment

Stretch assignments are big projects that force you to further develop your knowledge and skill set and transcend your current limitations. You’ll take on fresh responsibilities that will challenge you and make it necessary for you to learn something new. It’s like a crash course in advancing your career. Plus, it shows management that you’re a fast learner and hard worker, and bold enough to take on new challenges that will push you outside your normal comfort zone. 

Accomplishing your mission in a stretch project will encourage your employer to trust you with even more responsibility moving forward, which could eventually lead to a promotion or pay raise (or both).

#8: Volunteer!

Whether you want to build homes for the homeless or save animals in distress, summer is a great time to get started since you’ll have a bit more time available to help out. Volunteering will lift your self-esteem and boost your self-confidence, and you'll meet a bunch of similar-minded people who will be a great resource if you ever need their recommendation. For volunteer work that is directly or at least tangentially related to your career field, it could help you develop skills and talents that would be useful in your regular job.  

#9: Prepare for your next performance review

If your next performance review is some months away, summer is the perfect time to reflect on your achievements from the past year. Make notes about what you did that went above and beyond expectations, and start thinking about your vision for the coming year. Your preparation will stand out and show how dedicated you’ve been and how determined you are to maintain your high level of performance in the upcoming year.

#10: Seek out a mentor or accept a protégé

You can prove you’re ambitious and dedicated to career advancement by finding someone with expertise to mentor you. As you absorb their knowledge and gain confidence, you’ll inevitably become more proficient at whatever you’re asked to do. Another alternative is to cast yourself in the mentorship role, offering advice and guidance to a new or young co-worker who is eager to learn the ropes and benefit from your vast experience. The latter choice will show that you’re a team player all the way.

#11: Learn how to relax and manage stress

In the summer, you can take some time out to focus on yourself and your well-being. It’s important to learn how to relax, manage stress levels and let go of the pressure to be constantly achieving. Learn breathing and meditation techniques and practice them each day until you get into a routine. By the time autumn arrives, your newly developed meditation/mindfulness habit will leave you feeling calmer and more centered, all the time. That will translate into a more focused work performance and a more emotionally balanced existential state, which will inevitably improve your relationship with your employers and co-workers.

Nathan Falde
Nathan Falde has been working as a freelance writer for the past six years. His ghostwritten work and bylined articles have appeared in numerous online outlets, and in 2014-2015 he acted as co-creator for a series of eBooks on the personality types. An INFJ and a native of Wisconsin, Nathan currently lives in Bogota, Colombia with his wife Martha and their son Nicholas.