When the sunshine beckons and the backyard hammock starts to look a lot more appealing than your cubicle, it becomes all too easy to put off those small but important career-building tasks.
But the less-harried pace of the office during the lazy days of summer may actually provide an opportune time to do a little professional fine-tuning.
“Everyone gets a bit more laid-back when the weather is warmer,” says Jill Jacinto, a millennial career expert and associate director of editorial and communications for career site Works by Nicole Williams. “Don’t fall into this trap. Use the summer as a time to shine and develop new projects while your co-workers take summer Fridays and long lunches.”
Just think: You’ll be ahead of the game for the busy fall hiring season–or when your boss takes a renewed interest in your duties in anticipation of year-end reviews.
So we asked workplace experts to share their top summer career to-dos for everything from developing your skills to beefing up your personal brand–so that you’ll be moving ahead professionally while your competitors are working on their tans.
Do the descriptors you use to define your professional persona on the internet seem a bit blah? Then now’s a good time to assess whether those few–but important–words really showcase your best self.
There are three versions of your online bio that you should take the time to hone, says Cachet Prescott, a résumé writer, career coach and workplace trainer.
The first is a micro bio you might use on social media platforms like Twitter, which Prescott suggests keeping to about 50 words. You might use a medium-length bio (100 words or so) on your own professional blog or website, as well as content you contribute to other sites. And there’s the deeper-dive version (up to 500 words) that may appear on LinkedIn or your company’s staff “about” pages.
Regardless of a given bio’s length, “make sure your brand message is consistent across all platforms,” Prescott says. “Think about what you want people to know about you, who you are and what you’re doing [professionally].”
If you’re unsure of the personal brand you really want to portray–creative visionary? Customer-service pro? Take-charge leader?–then ask colleagues how they view you.
“If there’s a disconnect in how they see you and how you want to be seen, look for ways to close the gap in your branding,” she says.
“There’s research showing LinkedIn is the primary way [employers] are going to get their candidates,” says Mark Frietch, president of Frietch Consulting Group, a career coaching and recruiting firm. “So working on a résumé is not going to be the best use of your time.”
Indeed, a 2014 Jobvite survey found that 94% of recruiters are active on LinkedIn. So rather than while away a lunch hour looking at viral videos on YouTube, consider using that time to update your profile with your latest credentials, promotions, or any other career strides you’ve made over the past few months.
Jacinto even suggests setting aside time every week to maintain your LinkedIn network. “Connect with people you don’t talk to as often. Maybe there’s even a project they’re working on that you can help out with,” she says. “Summer is a good time to do this because you’ll be the most prominent one in their inbox.”
And if your photo hasn’t been changed since the early 2000s, ’tis the season to freshen up your LinkedIn look.
“Take advantage of the sun’s rays for amazing professional head shots,” Prescott says. “Winter is a depressing time of year, and you don’t tend to capture the same happiness and carefree spirit that you can [in photos] in the summertime.”
If your company does only one employee performance review at the end or very beginning of the year, summer may be a good time to check in with your manager to see how your boss thinks you’ve been progressing since winter.
“Put your request in an email, saying something like, ‘I know we set some goals in January, but can we do a mid-year check-in?’” suggests Lauren McGoodwin, a former recruiter at Hulu and founder of work/life site Career Contessa.
With this move, you can review your strengths and weaknesses, McGoodwin says, and have time to correct any performance issues before the next formal review time rolls around.
Successfully capturing your boss’s feedback and giving yourself time to make subsequent changes could mean the difference between spinning your wheels for the rest of the year—or ringing in the New Year with the raise you’ve been gunning for.
Face time can go a long way toward furthering professional relationships, so why not take advantage of the nice weather and do a little al fresco networking?
If a traditional networking game of golf isn’t your thing, you can turn pretty much any summer outing or personal hobby into a meet-up opportunity–baseball games, yoga classes, and even outdoor concerts.
“Most cities have a free music series during the summer. Invite [colleagues] you’ve recently met, and look to build that relationship,” suggests Frietch.
Jacinto suggests taking advantage of shorter work days by trying to attend at least one networking event per week. And it needn’t be a run-of-the-mill mixer or industry panel.
“It could be a great cooking class, or a documentary screening,” she says. “Or maybe you decide to go to an industry event one week, and a non-industry event the other–as long as you aren’t meeting the same people over and over again.”
Have you been curious to learn more about the project your colleague is working on? If he’s planning to take a two-week cruise, offer to pinch-hit while he’s away.
“[Your co-worker] will be happy that you’re willingly pitching in, and you’ll be able to further your skills,” Jacinto says, adding that it’s an opportunity to shine for a new department, a new set of stakeholders or a new supervisor.
And you don’t have to wait for a co-worker to go on a European excursion to make an impact–thinking outside the box is an evergreen endeavor.
“Make it known that you want to take on more,” Jacinto adds. “Managers always want to hear that you’re thinking about the business and ways to make it better. So if you share a great idea, and it gets positive reception at a staff meeting, don’t wait for the official assignment–get it to the rough draft phase and show it to the team.”
If you’re planning to spend some time this summer figuring out your next career move–especially if an industry change is in your future–try to squeeze in as many informational interviews as you can while your workload is light.
Picking the brains of some of the smartest and most capable people in your extended network could give you the push you need to make the leap to your dream job.
McGoodwin knows from experience: She sent 30 LinkedIn messages to recruiters in the Los Angeles area–and met with 28 of them over the course of seven months–before deciding she wanted to become a recruiter herself.
“Your goal for the conversation should be to walk away knowing what the day-to-day is of that job,” McGoodwin says. “You want to gather enough information to decide ‘This is the job for me.’”
Sometimes deciding where you’ll go and what you’ll do next career-wise requires a more introspective take.
So just as you’d keep a travel journal for the summer, consider regularly jotting down your thoughts about your professional life–particularly if you feel like you’re in a rut.
“Create a list of the things that make you tick, or write down how you feel about work after each week,” suggests McGoodwin. “What makes you feel like the best, most productive, most authentic you? Maybe it’s when you write, or create graphics, or teach someone something new.”
Journaling can not only help you discover things about yourself that you can use to boost your personal career brand, but also help you deal with a hard day at the office. Research has shown that writing down how they thought and felt during a stressful event helped people better cope with the situation afterward.
And while it’s true that writing may come more naturally to some, don’t let writer’s block discourage you–there are no rules for perfect prose.
“Feel free to just brainstorm,” McGoodwin says. “But it helps to write it down so you can go back and reference it when you need a little [work] inspiration.”
This article originally appeared on LearnVest and is reprinted with permission.