How time off can help your career

Find networking opportunities wherever you go.
By Beth Berk, CPA, CGMA

With summertime fast approaching, many CPAs will plan for some well-deserved time off. Taking time off isn't just relaxing: It can also help further your career. For one thing, it can give you much-needed space to reflect on your career path. It can also be a chance to do some informal networking in new situations, scout around for new job opportunities, or vet a potential new place to live.

While you're away from your job, think about the pros and cons of your work, what new challenges and opportunities may be available in the near future, and what changes have occurred recently that you've been too busy to think about. Does thinking about work or talking about it put a smile on your face? Do you feel energized and proud when you tell others what you do? Or do you feel so stressed out that it is time for a change?

You may determine that you really enjoy what you do, and just need time to relax and have fun. Or, you may realize you need to make some minor modifications such as better time management, setting realistic goals you can achieve, or exercising more.

If you decide it's time to start looking for a new job, try taking a day off to drive around your area, heading in directions you don't usually drive, and check out businesses and industries nearby. Maybe you didn't notice the new office buildings or office parks that were completed within the past year or two. Do you know what companies are located there? Use Google Maps to find the address or name of the building or stop by and look at the directory. You may find some potential new employers you weren't aware of.

If you are planning to go on a vacation, or even a staycation, talk to new people you meet. Chat with your kids' friends' parents or fellow guests at your hotel. (Yes, talk to complete strangers and network!). Ask them what they do for a living, who they work for, whether they like it, how they chose their industry, profession, or company, what skills and training are necessary for their type of job, what they think of their employer, and so on.

By getting outside your usual networking circles, you increase the chances of learning something completely new to you. You may meet someone who works for a company you have always been interested in learning more about. You may also find out working for that company may not be as great as you thought. Or maybe you'll learn that an employer you've never even heard of has an opening for a CPA.

If you visit another part of the country or a foreign country where you might want to move someday, take sufficient time to explore that location. Drive around that city's downtown, business district, and areas where there are office parks.

Find out where the large shopping malls are and get a sense of the surrounding area and housing options. Estimate the cost of living: Search online or pick up local real estate guides to see what rents and housing prices are like, and walk around the supermarkets and check out food prices. Pay attention to gas prices, and prices and taxes in the restaurants and stores, too!

While you're there, attend a CPE or networking event to meet other professionals and network. You can even plan your trip to coincide with a specific seminar, conference, or event.

If you think about it, whenever you meet someone for the first time—whether in a social setting, at the gym, through your children, or at a business-related event—you are networking. So, no matter how you spend your time off this summer, take advantage of meeting new people. You never know who may be the one to help you find that next job when you're ready!

Beth A. Berk, CPA, CGMA, is an independent recruiter based in Maryland.

To comment on this story, email associate editor Courtney Vien at

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