Summer vacations are great for students. They can go to bed late, wake up even later, wear shorts and fliplops, maybe even forgo brushing their hair (or teeth) altogether. Your employer does not believe that you should have the same absence of standards at work. Here are three things that may have slipped at work that could use your attention.
First, your wardrobe. It is hot outside. It is very tempting to alter your wardrobe to deal with the heat. Start by remembering that most business offices are about a nice 72 degrees. Some, may even offer arctic temperatures. The key to transitioning from hot to cold (or at least not as hot) during the day is dressing in layers. A tank top and flip-flops are typically not acceptable for most business settings, but you can add a jacket or sweater and change to wedges before walking into the work. For men, it is time to invest in some undershirts if you wear button-down shirts every day. They will absorb sweat and prevent such unpleasant results as the sweaty arm pit stain or a perspiration streak down your back.
Guys are stuck with slacks or jeans regardless of weather, but women have a few more options with skirts and dresses. Most offices are more conservative than a bar on Friday night -- your clothes should reflect that. Wearing items that bare too much skin can be off-putting to your co-workers, and can also erode the respect peers and managers have for you. As an example, skirts should be an appropriate length for sitting and standing at work, and your neckline shouldn't be so deep to the point of being a distraction. Make sure your summer selections still keep the focus on business.
Second, your schedule. August is filled with outdoor concerts, barbecues, picnics, festivals and friends leaving a little early to get out of town. However, unless you accepted a pay cut before the summer, chances are you are still employed for a minimum of 40 hours per week. If you are still being paid for full time, you should work like a full-time employee. If you are lucky, you may have a manager who doesn't mind a schedule alteration from time to time, but you should not count on it (nor take advantage). It is key that your productivity is high and you are adding value before asking to leave a little early. Otherwise, manage your vacation time so that you leave ample hours for taking time off to enjoy the summer.
It is also helpful to remember that many other people take advantage of scheduling time off on Friday afternoons or Mondays. If you are in a role where you set or conduct meetings frequently, beware of scheduling meetings on Friday afternoon, Monday morning or any summer day after 3 p.m. These are typically the first meetings canceled, forgotten or rescheduled if summer fun comes up. The safest times to set up meetings are Tuesday through Thursday between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. There is a much greater chance that who you are meeting with will hold that time.
Third, your "out of office" protocol. Work will continue even when you are not in the office. Be thoughtful of your customers and colleagues still in the office while you are away. Start with a clearly communicated plan as to how your work will be managed in your absence. Maybe you want to check emails and forward anything urgent? Alternately, you may want to disconnect completely and set up an "out of office" email message and a forwarding protocol. Be sure to create a similar process to handle any calls. Make sure you also document your activity on anything a colleague may need to handle while you are out. If you are in a client-facing role, the continuity of information is critical. As much as prospects and clients recognize you are a human and deserve a little rest and relaxation, if their need is immediate, they may just move on to someone else versus waiting for your return. If customers are properly informed and skillfully handled, you will minimize any business disruption. Finally, ensure that a manager or more senior employee is authorized to make decisions in your absence if you are inaccessible and an emergency comes up.
Most of us work so that we can afford to enjoy things like vacations, time with family or other activities. It is likely that we enjoy those things even more because they are occasional treats instead of everyday occurrences. Set yourself up for continued professional success, even during the summer, by performing at your best with a little planning and thoughtfulness.
Robin Reshwan is the founder of Collegial Services, a consulting/staffing firm that connects college students, recent graduates and the organizations that hire them and a certified Women's Business Enterprise (WBE). She has interviewed, placed and hired thousands of people across a broad spectrum of companies and industries. Her career tips and advice are used by universities, national clubs/associations and businesses. A Certified Professional Résumé Writer, Robin has been honored as a Professional Business Woman of the Year by the American Business Women's Association. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa and as a Regents Scholar from University of California, Davis.
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