Have you recently looked out your office window at a beautiful day? It can be tempting to turn on the mental cruise control during the summer months. I call it the “summer slump” and I’ve been guilty of it myself. However, I’m constantly reminded by my lovely (and extremely dedicated) coworkers, that those who work the hardest tend to get the furthest.So, while I’m sure the landscape outside the window in your office is unbelievably appealing at the moment, I’d like to share just a couple ideas that will get your wheels spinning. Even if you heed just one of the points below, you will be in a much better spot than 90% of your peers. Heck, you’re already ahead if you’ve read this far!Reach Out to Personal ConnectionsYou don’t need to be in a career transition to reach out to someone in your network and ask him or her to join you for a cup of coffee or a lunch within the coming weeks. Here’s the secret: You need to have a goal in mind or something specific you’d like to have come out of the conversation. Everyone wants to help, but if you’re not clear about what you need help with, you might end up wasting each other’s time. Consider networking with professionals who know something of the industry you want to break into or perhaps people you’ve always looked up to with the goal of fostering a more formal mentoring relationship. You can do it!Attend Industry Networking EventsYes, SCARY! Walking into a room full of strangers is not easy. Guess what? We all started somewhere. I’m willing to bet that whoever you approach will be kinder than you think and the fear you felt will disappear in no time. If you’re still a bit apprehensive, grab a friend or colleague to go with you. It takes practice to learn how to introduce yourself to strangers, so the more you do it, the easier it gets. And it will build up your confidence, which can be beneficial elsewhere in your career. Take the leap and find an event by searching through Eventbright or your favorite industry group’s event schedule.Research, Research, ResearchIf you are looking at making a career move – start researching companies! There are thousands of companies in the state of MN, so it can be challenging knowing where to begin. Trust me, I empathize. But don’t let the challenge get you down! One way to begin narrowing this list is to identify the organizations that align with your values. Many companies are very transparent online with their organizational culture, values, and mission statement, so hop on-line and get cracking. Find out which companies in MN grow the fastest, consistently win “Best Place to Work” year after year, or perhaps search by industry. If you really have the time, buy the Book of Lists. Don’t have the cash? You can find it at just about any library.Use this research to identify 15-20 companies – don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to do more than that. Now you have a manageable starting point to look into any connections you might have or other relationships you’d like to foster with anyone at those companies.Feeling Gutsy? Email Strangers!I said it. And actually it’s really not that scary. Yes, in MN we tend to be afraid of people we don’t know. But in our connective world, it’s time to lose that mindset – people want to help other people. Think about it from your perspective, if someone were to email you and explain to you why they genuinely need your help or insight, it would be pretty tough to say “no.”Even though emailing strangers can be a great way to make new connections, there is a right and wrong way to go about it.Be honest, be sincere, and customize each email you send specifically for that individual (don’t forget to use proper grammar and triple check for typos).Share a story about how your values align with the company they work for or something they did in their career.Ask if you can treat them to a cup of coffee or better yet, bring them coffee/pastries to their office (who can say no to that?) so that you can minimize the amount of travel time for them.Follow up afterwards to share with them the takeaways of the meeting, and propose next steps.I’ve given you a few resources, but it’s up to you to decide to actively work to advance your career. Use this summer wisely, but don’t forget to enjoy the nice weather! (Networking is always better on a patio.)If you have other suggestions or stories about how you’re using the summer to grow professionally, please comment below!By Laura KingLaura King is a Sr. Interactive Marketing Recruiter at Versique Executive Search and Consulting. She has more than eight years of recruiting and client management experience, and is a motivated relationship-builder and helpful resource for companies hiring top-tier interactive marketing talent. She can be reached at email@example.com.RelatedAlumni Give Back Through Hearts and Hammers ProjectCareer Link: Networking for Life2011 Hearts & Hammers Project Day a SuccessCareer Link: Do You Know What It Takes to Make a Significant Career Change?