I just finished writing last week about developing two brands, one focused on your professional career and the other on your personal life. Well, this division is never going to be clear cut. There will be times when your personal life influences your professional career and vice versa.
Summer is nearly upon us, and with summer comes wonderfully fun activities to fill your free time. Summer is all about spending time outside, hanging out with friends, and going to parties and other events. While this personal fun is exactly that, fun, it can also help enhance your professional brand. Here’s a look at a few activities and how they can benefit your career development.
If an internship was not in the cards for this summer and you are returning to or taking on a seasonal job, take full advantage of your downtime by incorporating some career-related volunteer work. Future educators, social workers, and psychologists might work with children at a local library’s summer reading program or a school district’s summer school program. Animal shelters and conservation groups have opportunities that might be ideal for someone in biology, for example. Local parks and recreation departments are often seeking volunteers to work with summer programs. While these activities add some enjoyment and value to your free time, they also provide you with experience. Win-Win.
Every summer, my husband plays in a local softball league. It’s a great way for him to be active, but it’s also a good way for him to maintain and build connections in the community. I attend his games as a spectator, and I almost always run into other faculty and staff from the university. These games provide a laid-back atmosphere for quality networking.
If athletics are your thing, take the opportunity to enhance your networking through league play. As long as you keep your competitiveness in check, you can connect with people in a whole new way. Since it’s impossible to keep your professional and personal brands completely separate, letting contacts in on this side of your life adds a little personality to your professional brand.
Barbecues and Parties
Barbecues, picnics, and other social events are an integral part of most people’s summer vacations. These social opportunities are a great time to practice making small talk, something that most people struggle with. When you are surrounded by people you’re already comfortable with, small talk should be easier. And if there are people at an event whom you don’t know (ex. a friend of a friend), work on your personal introduction and conversation skills with them.
The other benefit of these social events is the opportunity to reconnect with people you haven’t spoken with in a while. Going home for the summer means you might run into high school acquaintances who you haven’t seen since the previous summer, much like how I will often seen some professional contacts once a year at an annual conference. Again, you have an opportunity to engage in small talk. However, you and an old acquaintance are also growing through education and can begin to connect on a para-professional level. For example, several of my contacts on LinkedIn are friends or acquaintances from college. What were once purely personal relationships have grown into mutually beneficial professional connections.
As the 2010-2011 academic year comes to an end and you embark on an enjoyable summer break, keep in mind how you can continue to develop as an budding professional.
What other summer activities could benefit you professionally and how might they do so?
Laura serves as Internship Coordinator at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in the office of Career & Leadership Development. In this role, Laura advises students who are pursuing internships, assists employers with intern recruitment, and supports university faculty who oversee academic internships. She also provides students with job search readiness assistance through presentations, individual counseling, and social media. Laura earned her bachelors degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she majored in French and Political Science, and she received her masters degree in Counseling from UW-Whitewater. To learn more about Laura, read her blog, follow her on Twitter, or connect on LinkedIn.