Your Guide To Starting A Summer Project At Work

Image Credit: Start By Geralt (

Image Credit: Start By Geralt (

Last week, you learned about the value of starting a summer project. Today, we continue that theme with a focus on starting a summer project at the office. Our work context carries some restrictions and other considerations to consider when we design a project. Today’s post will help you identify opportunities and provide a list of ideas.

Where To Find Summer Projects At Work

Many of us are under pressure at the office with a constantly growing task list. If you lead yourself with Getting Things Done, it’s possible to retain perspective and control even with the heaviest workload. In any case, simply delivering on your stated responsibilities is not enough to win distinction. It is vital to set yourself apart. Look for summer project ideas in these five places.

  • Provide Vacation Coverage For Someone In Your Department. In many companies, a significant number of people take vacations in July and August. What happens to their work while they are away? You can offer to do this work for them and learn new skills in the process. Before you commit, make sure you receive the training and guidance you need to be successful.
  • Organize a Volunteer Day. Many large companies and organizations have an annual volunteer day where employees leave the office for half a day to assist the local community. For example, I recently volunteered with First Book Canada and a Toronto school to read books with students and share my passion for reading. Planning and organizing the event is a great way to demonstrate your organization skills and build your internal network.
  • Write a Procedure. In many jobs, there are certain activities that recurr every week, every month or some other frequency. After you have done the activity numerous times, you will forget how difficult it was to learn. What if you leave the department for a vacation (or for a promotion)? You may be expected to train your replacement. That exercise will be much easier if you have a written procedure for certain aspects of your job. Start small by writing a one page summary of the activity, resources required and the people involved in the activity.
  • Address An Audit Finding. Governments and large companies have internal audit departments. These professionals specialize in controls and risk management. In most cases, auditor will discover some problem – hopefully minor – in how your department operates. Leading a project to address an audit finding is another summer project possibility.

The “Developing Your Network” Project

Developing and maintaining a thriving professional network is one of the most important assets for you to develop. You can look at your network in different ways. One helpful distinction: you need an internal network (i.e. people you know and trust within your organization) and an external network (i.e. people you know and trust outside your current organization). Use these ideas to develop both aspects of your network.

  • Study effective networking methods. We are fortunate to live in a time when many of the best networking experts have shared their wisdom (e.g. the outstanding Manager Tools podcast – Building a Network) on networking. If building and expanding your network is a new challenge for you, I recommend reading “Never Eat Alone, Expanded and Updated: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time,” by Keith Ferrazzi and Tahl Raz. A good general tip – look for ways you can help other people with their problems before you ask for a favor.
  • Do the 4×4 Networking Challenge. I first discovered this networking challenge concept several years ago from Anna Runyan, founder of Classy Career Girl. In essence, you commit to two types of networking activity for a month. First, you commit to meet 4 new people. Second, you commit to spend time getting to know 4 people who are already in your network. Runyan is one of the few people I have encountered who gives equal emphasis to maintaining your existing network, a critical reminder.
  • Join An Internal Committee. Did you know that participating in a certain committes are a great way to expand your network and gain new skills? For example, I know somebody who has earned Red Cross training through his participation in the Life & Safety Committee. In my own case, I have joined the employee engagement committee in order to make a difference, meet people from other departments and connect with senior management. Offer to give a presentation or take on the task of organizing the committee’s meetings is a great way to get started.

The value of developing your network of relationships cannot be overstated. The importance of these relationships become even more vital as you rise to higher levels of management. After all, senior managers and executives rely on other people to provide information and get work done. Without a great network, it is difficult to be effective.

The “Earn A Certification” Project

Earning a certification is an excellent way to demonstrate your professional committment and expertise. Despite those benefits, it is important to be thoughtful in selecting a certification. Some certifications – like the PMP and CFA – are widely respected by employers around the world because they have been established for decades and are backed up by professional organizations. Other certifications have significantly less value in the marketplace. Use the following principles to decide if a certification is the right move for you.

  • Research Your Company. Does your boss, department and company value certifications? For example, some IT organizations provide significant support to professionals who wish to earn technology certifications. In that case, there is clear value in earning a certification that will advance your standing within your organization.
  • Research Your Industry. What if you have your eye on a new role in the future? For example, you may be interested in working in Big Data – a great skill set for digital marketing professionals to learn. In that case, research how people learned about Big Data. You may find that many people come into the field with specialized university degrees while others are self-taught. In that case, earning a certification may or may not help you reach your goals.
  • Align Your Career Goals And Certification Decision. The type of certifications and courses you spend your time on influence how people perceive you. For example, if you are interested in management roles, it makes sense to focus your studies on leadership, communication and related skills (e.g. Dale Carnegie Course or ToastMasters programs).

Question For The Comments:

What summer project will you choose to grow yourself at work?



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