If you’re working this week, you may have extra time for Facebook games or for long workouts at your gym. The week between Christmas and New Year’s can be a slow one in some corporate offices – and that can be a precious opportunity for some career climbing and creativity.
Yes, you can and should use these dead days to liven up your work opportunities in 2012.
“It’s a great time of year to go out and do some informational interviews,” said Donna Schilder, a leadership, career and business coach in Southern California. “Talk to different department heads, especially those who are potential bosses, and ask about what issues they run into a lot or what they look for when they’re hiring someone.”
Schilder thinks the slow time is a great time to build the ramp to your next major project, or to measure the cost savings or other impacts of your last one. If you need some ideas on making the most of these rare slow times, read on:
The holidays are a great time for rekindling relationships and reminding people they are special. So call someone you worked with a couple of years ago, or someone you wish you could work with again. If they are working this week, they may appreciate a call from a former protégée or colleague to relieve the monotony. And if they’re away on vacation, they will be glad to have a friendly “thinking of you” message and invitation to lunch or a networking event for when they return. You also could start recruiting a mentor this way, Schilder said.
2. Propose a new improvement program.
“Be proactive in bringing solutions” to senior management, said Schilder, who used to work in quality management and process improvement jobs. Start by reviewing data on errors, or look through reports to identify “what’s been a consistent issue?” Ask: “What’s not working? What solutions can I bring?” Then come up with an area where you could improve the company’s operations and save money – and a place you’d like to be developing your reputation and connections. Create a brief Powerpoint showing the problem’s scope, solution and potential cost savings. Then ask for an appointment with a senior executive in early January. “They’re creating their own visibility,” she said.
3. Design a workshop for clients or colleagues.
Develop it around “an idea on making their lives easier,” Schilder suggests. Or offer some solution to a recurring problem that many face, or a new initiative they may need to understand. This can give you a deeper connection to coworkers and the people who get things done day to day.
4. Lift your LinkedIn presence.
Add a few of your accomplishments from 2011; mention your skills and volunteer connections if you haven’t already filled those sections in. Consider too the most overused profile words that LinkedIn identified and whether they serve you well – or need to be supplanted with something superior. My Fortune.com piece suggested a little digging before ditching them all.
5. Set up some goal markers.
If you haven’t written down your goals for next year, do that first. Make sure your list includes those goals your boss wants you and your department to achieve and those you personally have set for yourself or our career. Then spend time figuring out the key mile markers that will show you’re on the path to success – and put them down with deadlines for achieving them. You might even put a calendar reminder every two or three months to update and recommit to your goals’ progress, or if you use a goal buddy, a reminder of your weekly check in.
6. Refresh your creative self.
This may mean a long lunch at an art museum or a walk through a nature preserve. It could mean inviting everyone who’s working out to that Malaysian restaurant and “really tasting the food,” said Schilder. “Involve your senses. Stop and be mindful….Listen and observe.” Read some poetry or take some photographs – especially if that has nothing to do with your day job. As you really take a moment to look at things, you may notice some big picture ideas or see your creative perspective re-emerge.
7. Clear the decks.
Get organized so you’re ready to run when the pace picks up in January. Purge electronic and paper files. Clean your desk. If you’re a manager, start working on performance reviews due in the first quarter. Or go back and evaluate your biggest projects of the year, and try to come up with some measurable ways they are contributing to the company’s successes or cost savings. If you can work ahead a bit on routine tasks, you’ll be ready when that important request or stretch assignment comes through.
So pick a couple of these ideas and get going; your slow days will fly by – and so your career will fly, too.