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How to use your weekend to advance your career

Regularly using a few hours of your weekend toward moving smart work forward will accelerate your career.

I remember growing up seeing "T.G.I.F." on TV, and it shaped my view that weekends are meant for checking out from work, goofing off and otherwise having fun. If you have a truly awful job, this may be a smart way to replenish your energies and enjoy life. However, what if you don't hate your job but you have been following the herd mentality of wasting away your weekends without giving it a second thought?

Consider this – weekends are prime time to advance your career.

Before you cross your arms and elevate your blood pressure at the thought of working on the weekend, I'm not suggesting you head into the office or abandon your pursuits of pleasure. Rather, I'm simply saying that if you are ambitious, regularly using a few hours of your weekend toward moving smart work forward will accelerate your career.

Advancing what matters
Weekends are a great respite from the general sense of weekday urgency and an opportunity to create space to focus on what's important. Here are a few examples of what could be important to you:

  • Building your professional brand – At my startup PILOT, we encourage our customers to think about their brands well beyond their title and what's on their business card. Thinking about who they are and how they are known professionally, in their industry or function, in their community and in their personal enrichment activities is critical. Weekends offer an opportunity to think about how you can use and grow the transferable skills that energize you in other domains. Taking a portfolio approach to your brand diversifies it, and doing so requires intentional thought and planning in many areas.
  • Advancing a special project – Many times in our careers there are things we would love to work on in our workplaces, but there isn't time to do so "off the side of our desks." Make time on the weekend! As a management consultant at a top-tier firm, I worked insane hours with constant global travel, yet I still found time to co-found my firm's first Employee Resource Group, that is still thriving nearly 10 years later and has had a profound impact on the policies, priorities and culture of the firm. The only way my co-founder and me were successful was carving out special time on our weekends (and often 6 a.m. Monday flights when our colleagues were sleeping).
  • Learning new things – There are SO many cool, interesting, creative and innovative things happening in the world. Yet even with technology making it super efficient to share information, we still have to make time to read the long-form article, listen to the podcast or watch the TED talk. I spend a few hours every weekend reading articles I've saved in my Pocket app, or continuing a recommended book on my Kindle. You can greatly up your credibility at work by referencing relevant things outside the walls of your organization. Plus, learning from others typically stimulates a great deal of creativity in us about how we can improve our work, leaving us inspired.
  • Getting organized – Monday mornings can start an avalanche of chaos in the form of back-to-back meetings and interruptions that seem to roll into the proceeding week, every week. Weekends are a good way to "get your stuff together" by prioritizing your week, thinking strategically, planning ahead and otherwise doing what it takes to be prepared so you feel powerful when you start your week. I make an effort to think through my week ahead and set myself up for success, even if just for a half hour, each weekend.

Having the maturity and discipline to bring your career advancement into the mix of your weekends a few times a month will advance your career, I promise you. Do yourself a favor and pull up, think critically and invest this precious time in a high return opportunity.

Tweet @CareerBuilder: If you set aside even two hours this weekend to advance your career, where would you start?

Ben Brooks is the Founder & CEO of PILOT, the NYC-based tech startup focused on helping managers retain their best people. Leveraging on-demand and engaging technology, PILOT mimics working with an executive career coach by fusing process and content together into an action-oriented and insightful digital experience. PILOT's newest invention is called "The Brand Crafter," an interactive workshop designed to help define and expand your professional brand. Learn more at www.pilot.coach, say hello at hello@pilot.coach, or tweet Ben at @benbrooksny.