Summer might not be full-on downtime—you’ve got research, writing, and recuperation on your plate already—but it’s the best chance you’ll have to catch up on some personal and professional development projects. Here are some ideas I came up with:
1. Create a personal website.
If you don’t have one yet, you’re definitely missing an opportunity. Not having a website in this day and age is a little bit like resisting getting a cell phone. You’re only making life harder on yourself by swimming against the current. Just accept that it’s the way things work now and embrace it.
Anyone can do this; just pick a platform and follow the steps. I’m a Wordpress guy, but Blogger is another popular platform. With either, you can have a basic bio page with a photo up and running in a matter of minutes. Having a professional web presence is an important part of networking and competing for jobs these days. Trust me, you can do it.
2. Join Twitter and use it.
Non-users might find this hard to believe, but this social network has an unbelievable wealth of information for teachers and researchers. Do a search for your field and start following people. You’ll be amazed by all the great stuff that gets shared every minute, and you’ll never believe that you waited this long to join.
3. Take an online course.
Just because you have a graduate degree doesn’t mean you can’t keep learning. You could take a course in your field or, better yet, in a different field. Learn another language or take a computer programming class. Never hurts to mix things up a little.
You’re probably doing research over the summer (or if you’re an adjunct, you might be working at Starbucks). But I bet you can squeeze a few hours a week out of your schedule to volunteer at a pet shelter or to plant trees. It’ll make you feel better and you’ll be surprised by how many professional contacts you can make through your altruism.
5. Form a community group.
What are your interests? Do you enjoy biking, hiking, running, or painting? Put a free listing up on Craigslist and find other people in your town who share your interests. It could turn into a weekly event.
6. Write guest posts for websites.
Whether you have your own blog or you’re building one as soon as you finish reading this article, another great way to make professional connections is to write guest posts for other websites.
Do a Google search for sites that are focused on your research interests, and then go ahead and contact the author with an idea for a post. There’s a good chance that at least one site owner will welcome a fresh perspective (and a day off from writing). By writing guest posts, you will gain a new audience that you can direct back to your own website.
7. Start a business.
Becoming an entrepreneur doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking. You can often do it with very little startup cost. Sell baked goods at your local farmer’s market. Get a booth at an antique store. Put up a flyer at the coffee shop about your tutoring services.
All of these business ideas cost almost nothing to start and could very quickly turn into a part-time income.
8. Reach out to alumni at your school.
Use the alumni network at your school to meet new people and make connections outside of your immediate circle. The academic life can be pretty insular. Sometimes we hesitate to step outside of our comfort zones. The cool thing about meeting with fellow alums is you already have a built-in conversation piece.
Even if you’ve moved away, there’s a chance other alumni might be living in your area. Never hurts to check. Who knows—you might even make a new friend.
Got more tips? Let us know in the comments.