6 Ways to Make Summer Count For Your Job Search

After a long and brutal winter, summer is finally here. It's officially time for fireworks, barbecues, bonfires and whatever else makes your summer special.

It's also a great time for a job search revamp. The truth is, all of those barbecues and bonfires can be the ultimate networking events as you get awesome facetime with some potentially great connections. And if you play your cards right, they may lead to your next great job opportunity.

In order to enjoy your summer while also making it count for your job search, keep these six things in mind:

Keep it informal at summer gatherings
Summer events and gatherings are fun, informal ways to have a good time with family and friends. They are also the perfect setting to make new and lasting professional connections. One word of caution: If you meet someone that you feel could be a strong connection, keep your conversation with them more personal and informal -- don't "talk shop" unless they initiate it. They are likely trying to unwind and enjoy themselves, so don't hurt a potentially great opportunity by being too aggressive.

Don't forget the follow-up
It's easy to forget the important things when you're out of your normal daily grind during the summer. When you attend an event and know someone in a position to hire will be there, or you just happen to meet a great connection, introduce yourself and leave a positive impression. Then, follow-up with them a couple days later on LinkedIn or via email and see if they'd be interested in meeting for lunch or an informational interview.

Take advantage of long lunches
Those in-office jobs tend to be able to take a little more time in the summer to enjoy longer lunches or breaks. If you're looking to connect with someone, take advantage of this by inviting them out to lunch. This gives them an excuse to get out of the office and enjoy the beautiful weather, and you know they won't feel rushed and you'll get some great one-on-one time.

Build a network to keep your job search on track
Although summer is a time to have fun and let loose, keeping in touch with a small network of people who are working towards the same goal is always a great way to stay on track. Whether you communicate in-person or just online, use this group to stay up-to-date about new job opportunities that come up. These can be private groups on professional networks, through e-mail chains, or even on group texts.

Do good, get good back
Get outside and offer to help your neighbors with their yard work or give some of your summer time to a local nonprofit. While you're using your time to give back to the community, it doesn't hurt to let people know you're looking for a new job -- you may stumble upon a great new connection that could lead to a new job at some point down the road. Finding volunteer opportunities that will allow you to brush up on some skills you may have not used recently is also a great way to do good, and get good back.

Re-evaluate your job search and skills
With a little extra time in your day, you can re-evaluate your job search and make sure the path you're headed in is still the right one for you. You should also take some time to assess and update your resume and skills. Take a class or two at a local college and learn a new skill to add to your resume, or offer to help with projects that are going on in your area. Not only will this help keep your resume fresh, but also it will allow you to expand your network as you get to know classmates, professors and fellow community members.

Summer is all about fun and relaxation, so make sure you enjoy it. But don't forget it's also a great time to build your network and possibly find your next job opportunity. For that reason, make sure you are always presenting yourself in a professional, yet relaxed manner. Leave the silly stuff for more private gatherings where you know everyone.

Val Matta is the vice president of business development at CareerShift, a comprehensive job hunting and career management solution for companies, outplacement firms, job seekers and university career centers. Connect with Val and CareerShift on LinkedIn.