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5 ways to use ‘bridge days’ for career success

With a little smart thinking, you can maximise downtime during the holidays to help further your career.

Many businesses close down during the quiet period between Christmas and New Year. If you're lucky enough to have some "bridge days" away from work, why not put them to good use? With a little smart thinking, you can maximise downtime during the holidays to help further your career.

1. Network and send e-cards

The festive period is a great opportunity to meet up with friends and ex-work colleagues you haven't seen in a while. 'While you're catching up on old times, you can share what is happening with you work-wise,' says Corinne Mills of careers consultancy Personal Career Management and author of Career Coach.

'Perhaps they can be a sounding board for some of your ideas or give advice on your current career challenge. They might even know of some new opportunities or useful contacts for you to talk to.'

Many jobs are never advertised, and often it's "not what you know, but who you know" that can make all the difference. According to a survey by career management consultancy Drake Beam Morin, 60% of former job hunters said they had found a new role through networking.

If you can't meet up in person, Corinne suggests sending e-Christmas cards to your professional contacts. 'It's a gentle way to keep your relationship warm with relatively little effort and could be helpful in the coming year if you could do with their help, or vice versa.'

2. Update your CV and LinkedIn profile

If you haven't done so for a while, now is a good time to update your CV and LinkedIn profile.

'Applying for jobs in the modern world is about so much more than what you put on your CV and any recruiter worth their salt is likely to have at least a cursory glance at your online presence in order to get a fuller and more detailed picture of what you're really like,' says Michael Bennett, co-founder and managing director of Rethink Group.

'Having the time off work can be a good opportunity to get your profiles in order and to review your social media presence. It sounds obvious but far too many people overlook it. Consider whether your profile presents a professional image that you would want an employer to see and if it doesn't, change it.'

Corinne agrees, adding: 'Take time to update your profile with your career-building activities and achievements over the last year. It will help you be ready for opportunities when you see them.'

3. Review your career kitbag

As the year comes to an end, the holidays are an ideal opportunity to think back over your achievements and consider how you want 2016 to be different.

'Now's the time to review your career kitbag,' says John Lees, career strategist and author of How to get a job you love. 'What have you learned in the last 12 months? What can you do now that you couldn't do a year ago? How have you changed and developed?

'Think about why you want to make a change. Are you tired of your role, your team, your organisation, your work sector, or your boss? Be sure to address the real problem.'

4. Plan for the future

Once you've thought about what you need to do to make your goals happen, Corinne suggests scheduling the tasks and activities in a 2016 calendar, so you have mini-reminders and targets throughout the year. Once you've done some soul searching, it's time to look outwards. John says: 'I call the process "organised discovery" – talking to people about the roles they occupy and the sectors they work in. Doing this mapping task means you have a much clearer understanding of the benefits of change, and when you apply for a job, a much clearer understanding of employer needs.'

5. If you're stuck at work…

Stuck in the office between Christmas and New Year? You might as well do your best to get the most out of it. 'If you're working intermittently over the festive period, this can be a great time to speak to your manager, colleagues or other decision-makers who might be in at the same time,' says Corinne.

'The work pressures are often less, people are more relaxed and generally happier to chat "off the record", especially if there are fewer people around. Use this time to ask for their advice, sound out opportunities or ask about something you've been meaning to for a while, but there just didn't seem an appropriate time to do it.'

Finally, you've worked hard in 2015 – so don't forget to enjoy the Christmas break!

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