This post originally appeared on TheEveryGirl.com
If you’re like us, you never quite lose the nostalgia for that back to school feeling. A fresh start, crisply sharpened pencils, and the fun of tackling something new still get us excited in the early fall. Even after moving on to that post-student phase of our lives, there are ways we can capitalize on all of those feelings and translate them to best practices in our careers. This is a great time of year to practice these holdover habits from our school days!
1. Expand Your Network
A new school year used to be the perfect opportunity to make friends and grow your inner circle. After we graduate, it can be not only harder to hang on to our school friends, but we can also find it difficult to make new friends outside of that historic context.
Fall is a great time to revisit being diligent and purposeful about expanding your network. Most of your professional contacts are just getting back in the swing of things after Labor Day. It can be great timing to schedule a coffee meeting or lunch and have the baked-in talking points of what everyone did over their summer.
For extra credit, challenge yourself to push beyond the professional context, and think about those few gals in your work circle who you’d like to be better friends with. Sometimes all it takes is suggesting a shared yoga class or jointly attending a networking event to get past that awkward “let’s be friends” phase.
2. Check In on Career Goals
Without set deadlines and semesters to keep us on track, it can be tricky to find other ways to measure our progress on career goals. Again, fall is a great time to take a step back and set some tangible benchmarks on your goals.
What are you looking to achieve in your career before the end of this year? Before next year? Set aside an evening with your personal planner and actually book yourself some goal check-ins. The best goals are “SMART” — specific, measurable, actionable, relevant, and time bound. Hold yourself accountable by literally booking appointments with yourself over the next few months to check in on whatever next career move you’re working toward!
3. Unplug “After Class”
All of us career-minded ladies can find ourselves overwhelmed at work from time to time. With fewer and fewer physical boundaries between us and our workplaces (Hello, constant emails!), it can be difficult to separate our work and personal selves.
School days gave us clearly defined boundaries, and when class was over, we could check out even if there was homework to tackle later. A good holdover lesson for us here is to find ways to define that workday ending in way in that serves our families and our career goals.
While very few of us actually have the option of entirely unplugging from work, we can make some small tweaks that give us more time for personal plans. Consider chatting with your boss about a specific email window or evening check-in. For example, it may give you flexibility to leave the office at an earlier hour if you commit to checking your email at a certain time every night and responding to anything pressing by opening of business the next morning. This type of arrangement can feel like you’re putting time back in your day by getting out of the office when the “bell rings!”
4. Assign Yourself Some Homework
Without the challenge of new classes and a defined school schedule, we might not be as proactive in challenging ourselves to learn new things. Be your own academic advisor and make a list of all of the things — big and small — you’d like to learn over your own next few semesters.
Always wondered what bitcoin is? Still on the bucket list to learn a new language? Jot down a few of these learning goals and make yourself a plan for how to tackle them. The exciting part of learning in this life stage is that we can make goals take as long or go as quickly as we’d like.
Resources abound for self-directed learning! Find a mooc on a topic you’re interested in, or look up local community college courses in your area. Lifelong learning can even be as simple as scheduling weekly time to read on a new-to-you topic. Make yourself a “homework” schedule and stick to it this fall!
5. Freshen Up Office Supplies
School supplies were the best, right? I remember no greater joy than getting the list of all of the notebooks, pens, and the perfect fall bag. Fall is a perfect time to treat yourself to a few new things that can freshen up your office look.
To really capture the school spirit, think a little more professionally than just the new boots that we all really want. As we go on in our career, it can be easy to forget to “upgrade” some of our office accessories that can help build a more professional image.
A polished leather iPad cover conveys authority when you’re taking notes. And pulling your business cards from this chic holder (versus digging around for them in your purse —guilty!) says you’re well-prepared for meetings.
6. Pack A Lunch
During our busy work days, good nutrition can go by the wayside. While our campus food hall certainly left something to be desired, the ease of just popping in to an on-site salad bar sometimes gave us more healthy options!
Recommit to packing your own lunch, and you’ll almost certainly save on calories and cash. An easy way to get back in the lunch-packing habit is to combine meal prep efforts with a commitment from your gal pals to join you in the effort.
Consider enrolling a couple of friends into your lunch-packing crew and assign a day of the week where you’ll bring lunch for each other. For example, you take Monday, Julie takes Tuesdays, and Em takes Wednesdays. Yes, you’re making three lunches on Monday, but most meal prep recipes give you a few servings, and now you’ve got a few days a week where you’re tied to healthy eating!
Do you miss the back to school routine? What elements of those habits have you carried into your professional life?