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11 Ways to Make the Most of Your Time “On the Beach”

20 April 2010 5 Comments

By: Kristine Schoonmaker

Riviera Maya – Cancun

Picture it.  You’ve made it through the incredibly competitive and rigorous recruiting process, gotten the offer, perhaps just come back from training and you’re primed and ready to start the exciting work of partnering with clients to find solutions to their problems.   Only one problem…you’re not staffed!  There’s no boss to tell you what to do with your day. Perhaps you don’t know anyone in your office – maybe you don’t even live in a city where there is an office.  It can become very difficult to feel connected and valuable.

Here are 11 different ways to make the most of your time and set you up for success all year long.

  1. Set your annual goals. Make a list of the things you want to experience, learn, get exposed to or accomplish this year.  Use this as criteria to proactively seek out projects that will offer these vs waiting for HR to put you somewhere.
  2. Get required training out of the way. There’s always some online training course that you have to complete.  Let’s be honest, that’s the absolute LAST thing you will want to do at 11:15PM the night before the deadline – get it over with now.
  3. Close any skill gaps. Are there some areas you feel less than confident?  Presentation skills, PPT, Excel, industry information and terminology?   Figure out your biggest knowledge gaps and polish your skills in a low-pressure environment.
  4. Outsource or automate personal commitments so they don’t bog you down on the road – online bill pay, house cleaning, yard care and laundry to name a few…
  5. Draft your PPT CV/Resume or update your resume.  There’s nothing worse than rushing to pull this together in a jam.
  6. Build or add to your resource (S.W.I.P.E.) file. A ready-made file of examples will give you much jump starts when you need them most.
  7. Get ready for your annual review. You heard me right.  It’s a big deal, so why not take it as seriously as client work? Set milestones and create a process to track your contributions throughout the year.
  8. Make time to reconnect with friends. Time at home is precious – make the most of it.
  9. Sign up for reward programs and make your wish list. Corporate perks can save you lots of money.  Don’t miss opportunities to take advantage of them.
  10. Get on a proposal team. Not only will you get good experience, it’s a great way to get picked up by the project team.
  11. Reach out to 3 new people in your office or practice. Even if it’s just over email or to schedule coffee, every connection you make is a valuable networking opportunity and one more resource to help you with staffing, deliverables, etc.

Consider what is going to bring you the greatest benefit.  Just tackling 1-2 might make all the difference in the world when you start your next project!

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  • Kristine said:

    I’ll add one more, particularly for those who have been employed for some time. Take a great trip you never seem to have the time to take…say two weeks in Spain?!

  • Vishal Sookur said:

    2 days on the bench and I’ve completed 1, 2, 5, and 8. All great tips for spending time productively. Glad I had the downtime!

    I would also add, although it may already be alluded to, try compiling/ adding to an excel hit-list of managers, directors, partners etc. who work in areas or sectors or on projects that you are interested in by trawling internal databases. Use this resource to meet and keep track of relevant people who may help you get resourced/ staffed in the future on projects you WANT to work on.

    The headings I use are: Name; Grade; Competency/ Specialism; Sector; Points of Interest (ie. if you find out you have anything in common like same college etc. and what you’d want to talk to them about).

    This may be common knowledge, but I’m new to consulting so thought I’d share something I’ve spent my downtime on. Hope it helps.

  • Kristine Schoonmaker (author) said:

    Great approach Vishal, thanks for sharing. I especially like your point around noting points of interest – a great networking tip!

  • James Connors said:

    Kristine, these are some great tips. I was a little surprised though, that these (mostly) assumed that you would not be going into the office while Beached…

    Taking your point about just coming back from training (you’re a new hire) you should spend AS MUCH TIME IN THE OFFICE as you can. There is nothing better than face time. This will also help with getting on proposal teams.

    Now, if you’ve been on the job a while and are simply between projects, then I think this is a fine assumption. BUT, even in this case, I would consider going into the office Fridays because travelers are back in town, many socials or happy hours take place then, and it’s usually some sort of casual dress day.

    Food for thought.

  • Kristine Schoonmaker (author) said:

    James, you make a great point about face time. And, if there is the ability to go into the office, there is absolutely no reason not to do any or all of these things from there. I do know, however, that there are often situations when people are either in a smaller office with significantly less traffic or (as in my case when I started) live in an entirely different city from their office, where going in isn’t an option. Because of that, this list focuses on things that could be done from anywhere, but I agree with your point that face time is best.

    In fact, even once you get staffed, I think it’s always great to take advantage of the events other offices have to offer. For example, I lived in a city with no office and my home office was mostly HR staff. So, when I was staffed on a project in Philly, New York, or Minneapolis, I’d often attend some of their events, just to connect with people face to face as you mentioned. It’s a great practice to expand your network, even if you work out of a big office.

    Thanks for the add!