Career Advice

How to Use Holiday Downtime to Get Ahead in Your Career

posted on November 29, 2019 | by Sophia Ronga

How to Use Holiday Downtime to Get Ahead in Your Career

If you’ve ever returned home for Thanksgiving or the December holidays, you know there is only so much eating and playing board games with your family to be done. With that extra downtime – or if you need a break from being surrounded by people – you have a great opportunity to plan the next steps in your career.

Keep reading and I’ll walk you through what steps can be taken during the holidays and how to make them the most effective.

Network with people in your hometown (or wherever you’re spending the holidays)

I love being home with my family for the holidays. Really, I do! And I love how slow everything can move around the holidays. I don’t feel the pressure to get up and be productive. I can simply sit back, relax, wear stretchy pants, and eat some Thanksgiving turkey. And yeah, that’s all nice… for about a day. Friday morning of Thanksgiving weekend rolls around and I start getting antsy about being in the house.

Use that energy to get to know, or reconnect, with someone whose career interests are aligned with yours. Look for local events or hit up the girl who used to sit next to you in homeroom sophomore year on LinkedIn to pick her brain about the company she’s currently working for. You’ll be glad you got out of the house, and you’ll have a new connection to take with you when you’re back at work focusing on your next steps.

Get serious about learning a new skill

OK, I get it. For some people, being cooped up in their house is their favorite thing about the holidays. If you’re excited to hole yourself in your childhood bedroom and won’t consider leaving no matter how many times I mention the word networking, then consider this instead: honing a prior skill or developing a new one.

There are plenty of courses online that can help you pick up the basics of financial analysis, the building blocks of computer programming, or even how to make a five-course meal. Whether it’s related to your career or not, building up skills and working on something you’re passionate about can make you more attractive to future employers (they are hiring a human, after all) and make you a better employee at the job you currently have.

Volunteer for a cause you care about

Truth be told, this is one you should be doing regardless of your career aspirations. When the holidays roll around and we’re constantly discussing things we’re grateful for, it’s an easy jump to wanting to do something for someone – or something – who is less fortunate than we are. So make the move and give a couple of hours of your time to a cause you care about.

This has an immediate benefit: helping someone in need. But, yes, of course, this is an article about your career, so I have to talk about volunteering’s impact on your trajectory. To many employers – 92% in fact – volunteering is a way to hone leadership skills. It shows you’re adaptable, dynamic, and care about things other than your own self-interest. So much so that 85% of hiring managers are willing to overlook flaws on a resume if that candidate includes his or her volunteer experience.

So this holiday season, volunteer out of the goodness of your own heart and have a kick-ass resume booster as an added benefit.

Pick up a seasonal side hustle

Maybe you’re not necessarily looking to advance your career at the moment, but hey, it would be really helpful to have a little extra cash stashed away for the summer. If that’s the case, consider taking on an additional, temporary job.

There are so many seasonal jobs that pop up around the holidays – restaurants become busier and need an extra set of hands, local businesses are inundated with requests they’ve been waiting all year for, and every mall in America needs a Santa to pose in their atrium. Going for any one of these (that last one, though, may be a tough gig to land) will put some extra mula in your pocket and won’t require the level of commitment that another part-time job might, because once the holidays calm down, you can expect the workload to calm down too.

You get a bit more downtime during the holidays than you do during normal parts of the year. Enjoy that time. Relish it. Relax. Then, as your youngest cousin begins to drive you just slightly bonkers, consider taking on any one of these four ways to improve your career. Go into the next decade an extra step ahead!