Use the Lazy Days of Summer for Career Success

Maybe you’ve recently graduated, are in mid-career shift or are recreating your life after economic downturn – whatever your story, if you’re looking to launch your career to greater heights, there’s no better time than summer. While your peers may be thinking of taking the summer off from the job search, you’d be best served to take this time to lay the groundwork for your future.

Unemployment Lines Await

According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), worldwide unemployment is still high at 8.5%, while US unemployment rates linger at a staggering 9.3% and Canada hovers around 7.4%.

The OECD reports that, since the start of the economic crisis some 3.5 million young people worldwide have joined the ranks of the unemployed. According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, those under 30 in the US may be some of the hardest hit, with nearly thirteen percent of those under 30, unemployed.

What does all this mean for those trying to establish a new career direction? It means competition in the workforce is fierce. But it’s not impossible. According to a recent survey hiring managers are reporting that their companies are confident the economy will continue to expand in the latter half of this year, making hiring more probable. Instead of sipping mojitos by the pool this summer, you’d be better off creating and implementing your new career strategy and getting the jump on the competition.

Summer Slow Down

While you may argue that summer, may be a slower time of year for some industries, with businesses functioning on reduced staffing, summer hours and lowered production, what you’d be missing is the potential opportunities for employment that staff vacations present. For someone looking to garner experience in an industry new to them, summer provides the perfect chance for you to pitch in and help a company maximize production in the absence of staff. Because things are slower, you may also be able to capitalize on some quality one-on-one mentoring.

Interning and Volunteering

Interning has long been a respected way for new grads to get their foot in the door, especially in highly competitive fields, like law and journalism. But interning isn’t just for recent grads anymore. Mid-career interning has become the perfect way to change career trajectories or fill-in resume gaps, while keeping your skills and accomplishments relevant. Often internships like these lead to job offers at summer’s end, with some even offering nominal pay for your efforts. Even if you don’t land a job, though you’ll have gained experience for your future career and made valuable connections in your desired industry.

Just because your industry may not typically employ interns, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Approach and explore the idea with some of your ideal companies, sharing, specifically, what you feel you can offer and why – you might be surprised by their response.

Also, volunteering at a local nonprofit in your field (or a related one) looks great on your resume and builds skills and connections that could lead to the position of your dreams.

Research and Network

* If you’re on the lookout for employment opportunities, let people know. No reason to keep it a secret. Reach out to friends, colleagues, neighbors, family and even casual acquaintances – you never know who has a lead on that next great job.

* Go to industry events, conferences and meet-ups. Networking with your peers, in a genuine fashion, can get you the inside scoop on possible job openings and keep you up-to-date on your industry. Nearly 80% of employment positions are filled this way.

* Research: Where would you like to be, ideally, in your career? Look at who is doing what you want to be doing and find out how they got there. Ask them if they would be open to mentoring you.

* Keep up on changes in your industry, researching the current market and any new innovations.

* Develop your skill set further: Is there a new skill you can cultivate or a knowledge base you could expand that would increase your value in the marketplace? Use this time to take a class, be mentored or read industry newsletters and books. This kind of passion for your career shows employers you care.

Remember, in a competitive job market, employers want to see your potential in action, not your vacation photos.