Slow Summer at the Office? Here's How to Get Ahead.
So, you didn't have the personal budget for a fancy getaway this year, or you've already used too much PTO to take time off. A slow summer at the office doesn't have to be a yawn. With some careful planning, you can survive—and even thrive—during the dog days of summer. Here's how to get ahead at the office when your colleagues are at the beach.
Tackle low-priority projects that will make life easier
We all have a list of "someday" projects that are easy to put off but would bring great rewards. You might have ideas for digitizing old records, developing a database of sales prospects, or reorganizing shared files to ensure they follow your company's file naming convention and are easier to find. These types of projects are never urgent, but they're the kinds of undertakings that will make work easier in the long run. Summer is the best time to tackle such initiatives. The office will be quiet. You can put on your headphones and dig in sans interruptions.
Learn a new skill or pursue a certification
Given the plethora of on-demand learning opportunities available today, you can pick up a new skill or pursue a certification at any time—and it's a lot less stressful to learn the ins and outs of Adobe Creative Cloud, for instance, if you're not on a deadline. Before your boss takes off for vacation, make sure the two of you are on the same page about what skill set would most benefit your team and the most cost-effective way for you to purse that skill on company time.
Get a jumpstart by working ahead
Everyone else's work might be at a standstill due to family vacations, but that doesn't mean you can't work ahead. Develop your timelines and calendars for fall and winter projects. Work on budget forecasting. Set up project templates. Basically, get started on anything you can. When your colleagues are sweating deadlines come September, you'll look back fondly at those lonely days under fluorescent lights.
Volunteer to fill in for colleagues in other roles and departments
Ask your supervisor if opportunities exist for you to pitch in for vacationing colleagues both in and out of your department. By making this ask, you won’t just demonstrate you're a team player, you'll potentially lay the groundwork for your next promotion. Particularly if you work outside of your current department, you'll expand your network by interacting with colleagues in different ways, and you'll have the chance to try on a different type of work. You might discover you find this other work truly fulfilling—and if an opportunity opens up in this department, you'll have a leg up on other candidates due to previous experience.
Think strategically about your career
It's hard to be thoughtful about your career trajectory when you're busy meeting deadlines and juggling priorities. The slower pace of summer can give you space to consider whether your current position is fulfilling and helping you achieve your long-term goals—and, if you haven't set short- and long-term goals, summer also affords you the space to do that, too.
You can also use the slower days of summertime to organize your career folder (your repository of training records, positive feedback, and other useful information come performance review time).
Another idea: Reach out to your professional contacts to set up "just-because" lunches and coffees to catch up. You want to keep your contacts fresh so it doesn't feel awkward when you need a favor in the future.
Take time for fun
Just because you're stuck in the office it doesn't mean you can't enjoy your summer! Your company might offer flexible scheduling in the summer, such as early-release Fridays or an adjusted schedule where you work four 10-hour days and have Fridays off. Make the most of it! Use your newfound time to "staycation" in your hometown. Visit the art museum, hit a new restaurant, or create your own movie "festival" based on a new-to-you genre or actor.
Whatever you do, don't squander slow days at the office sneaking in Facebook time or bemoaning your lack of travel budget. Enjoy easier days when you can leave work at work and relax during your time off.