Ways to improve your career on your lunch break
As the nature of the career-ladder undergoes a fundamental shift, employees today are becoming more entrepreneurial, using free time to gain new experience and bring in supplemental income. Increasingly, the lunch break offered at a full-time job is an ample opportunity for rising young professionals to briefly flex their wings and experiment with advancing their careers in new and interesting ways – so long as they’re back by 1 o’clock.
Surprisingly, however, most employees just work through lunch, a misplaced stab at increasing their own productivity which actually accomplishes the exact opposite. Career-minded individuals, take note: Rather than squander your lunch break on half-hearted work, try shutting down your computer, getting up from your desk and doing something more productive.
1. Go for a walk. The jury is in, and the verdict is unanimous: Sitting too much is making you a less productive employee. Also, it’s killing you. Exercise, on the other hand, makes you healthier and improves productivity, while securing your position in the secret cabal of high-powered workers who work out during the day.
2. Go out with peers. The benefits of networking on long-term career growth are well-documented: it boosts self-esteem, enhances communication skills and lets you tap into the hidden job market. Unfortunately, oftentimes the term networking is used only to refer to well-known schmoozing events, such as industry conferences, while everyday networking is overlooked.
You spend more time with your co-workers than your friends or your family. So use your lunch to leave the office, befriend your co-workers over a slice of pizza and forge lasting connections that will help to advance your career.
3. Watch TV, listen to music or read a book. Downtime is essential to a balanced life, just as a balanced life is to a strong career. The uniquely American epidemic of chronic busyness inherently fosters a culture of overwork, leading to burnout.
Consider using your lunch break not only to get away from work physically, but mentally. Relax, fire up Netflix on your tablet and watch an episode of Mad Men. It may just save your sanity.
4. Expand your knowledge. Alternatively, if you want to use your lunch break for something directly productive but with a long-term focus, try furthering your education. Continuing education improves your employability, leads to higher pay, hones existing skills and imparts new ones – all of which are the crucial superfoods a growing career needs.
To find continuing education programs in your field, search YouTube or iTunes for podcasts on topics related to your field. If you want something a little more formal, consider a curriculum-based continuing education program.
5. Pursue a personal project. Whether freelancing or building something on your own initiative, one of the best ways you can spend your lunch break at work is by working on something else. After all, a 2015 study by Contently found nearly one-fifth of professional freelancers also work a full-time job, and a similar study by The Freelancers’ Union found that part-time self-employment is on the rise.
While full-time self-employment can lessen the chances of long-term employability, working on the side during your lunch break alleviates this issue. You have the career security of a full-time position, but the freedom and flexibility that accompanies experimentation. With the safety net of your current job to hold you up, you can build the bridge to a better career by hand.