Professional Development in the Summer Holidays

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The summer months can provide you with some invaluable opportunities for reflection. If you work in higher education, you could be involved in reviewing the successes of the previous academic semesters. It is often a time of recalling achievements, revisiting procedures and planning changes for the next term. Once the frantic pace of the academic semesters are behind you, it can be easier to put aside some time to reflect on career aspirations and skills you would like to improve.  In the following article, I will share with you three ways you can develop your professional skills in the summer months.

Projects

Did you know that there are a myriad of short-term opportunities for the summer? They could be perfect for trying out new professional paths.  If you are interested in teaching, you could find a number of opportunities both in the UK and overseas. You could teach languages and polish your public speaking skills.  If you are interested in event management, why not help out at summer conferences, and get to know people in the sector? It could lead to a job later on which you may have considered impossible to get. If you speak multiple languages, you could dip your toe in the field of interpretation, gain invaluable experience, and help people from a host of different backgrounds.

You could take up overseas volunteering and hone your language skills. A close friend, whom I shall call Lisa (not her real name for confidentiality reasons) worked in academia for years. Whilst sipping delicious cappuccinos together one frosty morning, Lisa admitted how much she yearned to hone her Italian and to see more of Italy. I encouraged Lisa to spend a little time researching volunteering opportunities. A few months later, she took up a fabulous summer volunteering job working in Florence. She met some fascinating people from a range of interesting backgrounds, her Italian improved beyond what she could have imagined, and she could not wait to return the following year!

Mentoring

If you have had a great mentor before, you most probably know how much individual mentoring can develop your work skills. Your mentor needs to be skilled at building rapport with you, listening to you carefully, challenging you gently (if needed) and sharing some helpful guidance with you. You will see that there are boundless ways of finding mentors. Why not look into mentoring through the university where you gained your university degree? Many UK universities offer mentoring to their alumni to help them achieve their aspirations.

Organisations increasingly promote a culture of coaching and mentoring. It is wise to enquire about one to one support which you could access through your work place. If your mentor is a more senior member of staff, they could give you tips on how to handle work challenges and share with you their hard-earned experience.

Mentoring does not necessarily need to be formal. Make sure that you recognise any informal mentoring you might already be receiving and benefitting from (without calling it mentoring). Instead of trying to find a mentor you do not know, take advantage of the help you already have at your fingertips. Mentoring can work miracles if you commit to making changes.

Sheryl Sandberg, founder of the ‘Lean In’ movement, reminds us that searching for the right mentor can become like seeking Prince Charming:

“Now young women are told that if they can just find the right mentor, they will be pushed up the ladder and whisked away to the corner office to live happily ever after.”

Although mentoring can be an invaluable form of support, it is wise not to get too dependent on mentors and to have realistic expectations.

Courses

New experiences could gently move you out of your comfort zone, provide opportunities to make new friends, and to experience the world at a richer and deeper level. You might visit a magnificent stately home, volunteer in your local community or take up a new course you always wanted to try.

You could choose from a myriad of work related courses which range from IT programmes, language skills, marketing, design skills and project management (just to mention a few). If you wanted to learn more about the fast growing trend of online education, you could take up courses to help you confidently use online learning platforms. It could lead to building your professional experience, improving your CV and being aware of the joys and challenges of learning platforms.

If you would like to experiment with a creative subject, why not try creative writing, painting or film making? As you engage in new experiences, you could see the world with a fresh pair eyes. Creativity can help you to see complex challenges from a refreshingly new perspective!

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