The Real-World Feminist Podcast: Use Your Down Time for Career Advancement

You find yourself with a little time on your hands. Maybe a bunch of scheduled meetings disappeared. Or your project is stuck in a holding pattern. Or the rest of your team is out on holiday.

You can fritter this time away on social media, online shopping, or an extra-long lunch.

Or you can use this time to invest in your career.

Let the B-team fart around on Facebook. We know that you have some badassery to unleash on the world.

You see, no one gets promoted for just doing their job. The promotions are granted to those who consistently go above and beyond.

When these pockets of time pop up, rejoice. They are opportunities to push forward an agenda, practice a new skill, and learn new information.

Here’s advice on how you can make the best use of these little pockets of downtime.

Review your annual review with documented goals.

Don’t just pull out your review and goal documentation when you’re getting ready for the next review.

Consider this document as a living, breathing thing that you must nurse at least once a month.

Give it a good look over and take the time to give yourself an honest progress check-in. How are you tracking? How can you use this time to move the needle?

Whatever you do, don’t just read it over and think, “I’m good.” Determine something you can do TODAY in this free time window to advance your agenda.

Make a proactive offer to assist your boss.

Good employees do what they are asked to do well.

Great employees take it up a notch and anticipate next steps and offer to take them on.

Look for win-win opportunities to earn a little extra credit and build your reputation as an up-and-comer.

Simply put, what can you do to make your boss’ day easier today? Make the offer. Even if your boss doesn’t take you up on the offer, you get extra credit simply by making the offer. You can’t lose.

Take advantage of learning resources available at your company.

It kills me that so many people don’t take advantage of the resources sitting in their very laps.

Take an online class. Borrow a business book from your boss. Attend a lunch-and-learn. Schedule a meeting with a person you’d love to learn from.

Don’t think that training can only come in the form of a 1-week offsite seminar. There are free opportunities to learn EVERYWHERE.

Commit to using your morning commute time for learning and your evening commute for entertainment.

Even if you have a short commute, consistently using that window over time adds up. Commit to yourself that you will further your professional growth with your morning commute.

Use your mornings for listening to audiobooks and podcasts that will enrich your career learning. Use your mornings to read the latest business book or industry news.

Save the true crime podcasts, mindless social media scrolling and jamming out to your favorite playlist for the evening commute. It can be your reward for a day well spent.

Tend to your professional network.

What old colleague can you shoot an email to? Have you been meaning to congratulate a friend on a new position?

These actions take minutes to accomplish. If you sent one of these notes a day, you’d be well on your way to strengthening your professional network.

You want to actively tend this garden when you are not on the job search. If the only time you engage on LinkedIn is when you need a job, people will see right through that.

Write a heartfelt thank you note.

Is there someone who’s really gone above and beyond for you lately? Is there someone who can use a little happy boost?

You would be amazed at how much a little heartfelt gesture means to another person. Practicing gratitude comes with a happy boost to you too.

Practicing regular gratitude is a hallmark of a great leader.

Practice modeling that kind of behavior.

Even a five-minute window well spent can put you one small step forward in your career.