Take a break: Career inspiration for your Summer holidays.

About the author

Heather leads the CIPR public affairs diploma and digital communication diploma courses. PhD, BSc, PG, RSA, CAM  

Whether you’re ready for a beach holiday, planning a staycation, geared up for a long-haul adventure, or working throughout the Summer, this Ask Dr Heather Yaxley feature invites you to take a break and get some career inspiration.  

Q. I’m looking for career-boosting reading ideas for my Summer holiday relaxing on the beach – what do you recommend? 

A. There are so many lists of books to read that it can be overwhelming to know where to start. If you’re looking to catch up on latest thinking in PR and communications, there’s a great selection of book reviews here at PR Place, and you could also download or print some of the PR Place Guides

I like to mix up my reading choices, and find that career related ideas can come from the most unlikely books. For instance, I’ve just finished reading A Honeybee Heart has Five Openings by Helen Jukes, after a signed copy caught my eye in a small bookshop. As the Guardian review of this personal memoir of a year in owning a hive notes, there is “so much else going on in the book”. It prompted four pages of thoughts in my reading journal. 

Following one of my earlier PR Place features, someone on Twitter recommended, Slow at Work by Aiofe McElwain – which has some great advice that may strike a chord for making career-related changes when you’re relaxing away from work. 

Q. Have you any ideas about how I can add to my professional development during a staycation break from work?

A. You could step things up with an intensive bootcamp approach, develop a DIY Summer school, plan a creative retreat or treat yourself to mind-renewing wellness-themed activities. 

  • Bootcamps typically involve a programme of interval training where high-intensity workouts are followed by low-energy recovery activities. In terms of professional development, you could schedule a variety of short sprint sessions where you focus intensively on learning a new skill, or tackling a topic that you’ve struggled with finding time to engage with at work. Follow each sprint with a cool down period of reflection making notes in a journal, listening to chill out music, or meditating.  
  • Summer schools offer a timetable of educational activities and inspirational experiences. Develop a DIY syllabus that covers some of your personal development objectives and look for opportunities to achieve these. Choose from free resources such as TED Talks, FutureLearn and Hootsuite Academy. You could also plan face-to-face classes with friends where you share knowledge, or look to learn something new together. If the study-bug bites, then consider signing up to gain a professional qualification with PR Academy starting in the Autumn.
  • Creative retreats can be a chance to learn a new skill (such as photography), develop your expertise in a core competency (eg, writing), or explore something out of your comfort zone (maybe graphic design or video editing). You can join sessions in photography, storytelling and editing at Apple stores. Check out what’s on at local museums and libraries. Use YouTube or other online sources, for instance to follow a yoga programme or sign-up for free Summer writing inspiration
  • Wellness activities encourage you to look after your physical and mental health away from the pressures of a busy workplace. Walking, talking, writing, reading and mindfulness are all ways of relieving stress. Downloading apps can help you with a programme of exercise and healthy eating. Self-improvement can be part of your professional development by increasing your knowledge, skills and abilities. Look at websites of charities such as MIND, St John Ambulance, for courses and resources. You could also give back through micro-volunteering (low commitment actions that support a good cause) – locate local opportunities via sites such as do-it.org

Q. I’d like to develop my career overseas and wonder if I can take advantage of a planned long-haul trip this Summer to find a new adventure?

A. One of the best things about long-haul travel is the experience of different cultures. You get to meet and talk with a variety of people, understand their lives and careers, and build your professional and personal networks. Be open to talking with strangers – the key skill is to listen and ask genuine questions to learn more. Have a card handy to exchange online contact details and connect after your meeting with a personal follow up.

Depending on where you are going and what type of adventure you’re hoping to pursue in future, you could organise a few meetings during your trip. Review your current network of contacts via LinkedIn and contact people you’d like to meet, who may be willing to spare you some time. 

Consider having a purpose that you can achieve during your trip. For instance, identify an outcome from meetings with people or organisations that would be of value to others, such as sharing insight, co-creating a guide, writing a thought leadership article, publishing blog posts or recording podcast or video interviews. 

Research professional bodies or community groups in your destination that may welcome hearing about your work and career experiences. For example, see if there is a local Lions Club and make contact either directly or through your closest group in the UK. This could be an opportunity for you to meet and learn about their work or to see if you can help out during your trip. You could also share what you learn from your experience when you get home.

Q. How can I find career inspiration when I’m working all Summer?

A. If you are part of a team and your co-workers are going to be away for a week or more, ask if you are able to help cover their work in some way. This can be a chance to understand other roles, work with different people in the organisation or externally, and undertake new tasks if appropriate. 

Another thing you can do is produce a review of what’s happened when colleagues are away – such as summarise any news items or internal developments that will help them catch up. This could be an opportunity to set up a new monitoring approach that might be adopted as a routine action going forwards. 

Should things be a little quieter over the Summer review your working practices and introduce changes. Being more efficient and effective is a career asset, so make a note on the benefits of any new systems and include in your appraisal when that occurs.