How to make vacations work for your career

It's vacation season, and work is finally taking a back seat. But that doesn't mean you cannot be productive while kicking back on a beach.

About the author

Gil Petersil is a communication and strategic networking expert with over 20 years of business experience as a serial entrepreneur and a business coach for more than 200 companies spanning across diverse industries.

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While on vacation, switch off from your work completely, don’t check your business email and forget about social media!

For most people, this is how a holiday should be spent. However, before that perfect vacation time starts, you still have to finish all your tasks for the coming next two weeks. And once you get back from vacation, you’ll find yourself sorting your overloaded mailbox, and quickly facing numerous tasks again.

And that’s totally fine. At least you had that chance to rejuvenate and refresh your mind and body to tackle a new set of tasks at work. Even HR professionals agree that vacation time is beneficial to employees. In fact, one study conducted by the Society for HR Management’s Project: Time Off found that employees who fully utilise their vacation leave are more productive and happier with their work than those who do not. This is why encouraging employees to take a vacation is helpful to the bottom line – it contributes to the development and overall well-being of each individual, as well as to the success of the organisation.

Having said that, it’s certainly important for any company to set and enforce a vacation policy that suits its business’s operations. Study your company’s policy and grab the chance to take that vacation. It’s for your own good!

Well – that’s true, even for somebody like me who considers work to be a major part of life. We won’t totally give up work, even during a vacation. However, this doesn’t mean that you’ll lock yourself in a hotel room, stay away from your family and friends, be glued to your laptop, and refuse to talk to anyone.

What is important here is you can still maximise your productivity while being on holiday. Reply only to urgent emails and important calls. Don’t dive into a routine and remember that you can also use this vacation time as an opportunity to address issues about your career and your future. You can allocate one hour a day for such issues and leave the rest of the time for sleep, connecting with the ones you love, and new experiences.

If you have 60 minutes a day for this, what would you do? Here are a few suggestions.

Think about your goals, and what you really want to achieve

Write down three goals for the coming month; three – for the next quarter; and another three for the rest of the year. If you want to lose weight, write it down. Want a new car? Write it down. New job? Put it on the list.

Let your goals address all aspects of your life. This exercise looks easy at first sight but actually, you can spend your whole vacation on it. But having your goals expressed and written down, you now are halfway to success.

Your next step is to start sharing your goals with other people. It lets you kill two birds with one stone: first, you have no way back, you have to complete them. Second, people around you can help. You can’t achieve anything on your own – you need help and support, and people are ready to provide it. Someone might introduce you to a recruitment specialist from your dream company. Someone might join you for a morning jog, as they also want to get in shape. You’ll be surprised to see: goals are much easier to achieve when you are not alone.

Meet with a career counsellor

Even if you have no plans to change your job, talk to a consultant. You don’t have to arrange a personal meeting – meet online. After one Q&A session, a career counsellor can help create your professional profile, define your strengths and weaknesses, and show your current position in the market and the career opportunities available for you.

Sometimes we consider ourselves super valuable and think that as soon as we leave our current position, a bunch of employers will be seeking our attention. Leaping from retail to IT looks like a child’s play for us. Reality can dampen your feelings but also gives you an opportunity to create a workable plan to get the desired results.

Read useful books

You still read on vacations, so make it helpful. Choose the reading that will give something to your professional life. No need to focus on your own narrow area.

For example, if you are a recruiting officer and work for a marketing department – read the latest book about marketing. You will have something to discuss with clients and applicants; and you’ll be able to show your knowledge of the issue. If you are a top manager, you may be interested in psychology or change management.

Start a personal blog

Blogs are a perfect instrument to develop your personal brand and show your level of expertise. If your blog sparks interest, you become well-known in professional circles. Journalists ask you for comments, and colleagues ask for advice.

You will also be invited to business events as a speaker. It’s not a fast way, but definitely a steady one. I, for example, can’t fit writing into my regular workflow –there are too many meetings and presentations. When I am somewhere away, my mind is routine-free, and I can concentrate on texts.

Learn something new

You don’t have to select some fundamental training course. Get a short online training on efficient time management. I assure you, even if you consider yourself a highly-structured person, you will get ideas on how to become even more productive.

I also recommend any course on personal financial management. We easily operate annual budgets in the office, yet don’t get around personal financial planning. Careful planning of your available resources – time and money – is a way to achieving goals quicker. 

Start learning a foreign language

For example, if you plan to spend your vacation in Italy, don’t take individual lessons beforehand. It is not realistic for most people. Download an audio course for beginners or Italian study podcasts on your phone. Also, listen to people on the streets and try to speak to them. 

Connect with people

You have finally broken from the office and your regular social network! Use that time to meet new people. If you dream of moving to another city, go there for a vacation. Visit some local businesses and networking events to get the opportunity to meet the right people. It will make relocation and job search easier for you. By connecting with people, you can get new ideas that can grow into a new business. On holidays, you collect impressions and stories so you’ll have something to share in the office when you return from vacation.

Use your vacation to 100%, and don’t forget about your main objective – to relax. Spend some time with your family and the people you love, and regain strength for your next career breakthrough. 

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