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Whenever you think about upcoming travel plans, you may dream about beach vacations, adventuring outside, or spending quality time with family. These breaks from work are exciting and motivating—not to mention positive for your health and wellbeing!

So what if you could retrain your mindset to feel that same excitement when you don’t have travel plans but still want to take advantage of time off? 

Whether you’re a working professional, parent, student, or job seeker, taking a staycation from the day-to-day may be just what you need to find motivation. Read on for our ideas of how you can use that time to pick up a new skill, hone in on a particular aspect of your work, or gain some real-world experience.

Pick up a new skill

There are tons of free opportunities to learn and grow in your career, many of which are accessible from the comfort of your home. If you’d like to use your staycation to update the skills on your resume, here are some resources to get started: 

  • Idealist’s Career Advice blog brings you an ever-growing library of useful resources for improving your resume, searching for jobs, applying to grad school, and more. Find career development guides on topics like personal branding and career paths, and design your dream career with our free email course.
  • Skillshare courses are taught by experts in a variety of fields, and their free offerings are only about an hour long. Sign on to Skillshare and learn graphic design, email marketing, visual storytelling, or blogging. Watch videos on workplace productivity, or how to succeed in an interview. Whatever you want to brush up on, you can probably find it here.
  • Udemy also offers courses on a wide variety of topics. If you type “free” in the search bar, you’ll be presented with a list of hundreds of free courses that can be completed in about 10 hours or less. Tune up your writing skills or learn to build a website or develop an app. The possibilities are endless.
  • Open Culture offers free resources specifically for brushing up on your language skills. Whether you want to learn the basics or practice a language you already know, chances are you’ll find some free resources on this site.

To get the most out of your professional development staycation, choose just one skill you want to learn or practice (rather than all of the above) and then develop a manageable schedule for your time.

Remote volunteering

Volunteering, when done thoughtfully and intentionally, can be a great professional development opportunity. And if you're interested in volunteering from home during your staycation, use Idealist's remote volunteering search filter for thousands of opportunities.

Some large organizations now offer formal online volunteer programs and opportunities. Here are a few:

  • Red Cross: During times of disaster, the Red Cross utilizes digital volunteers to monitor online discussions to find people who need help, and to share important updates on social media. If you are active on Facebook and Twitter, this could be a great opportunity for you.
  • Smithsonian Institute: If you’re passionate about education and interested in history, science, or anthropology, the Smithsonian Institute has some great opportunities. Virtual volunteers help with two main projects: transcribing historical documents and updating relevant Wikipedia pages.

Get hands-on experience

If you’d rather be out in the community than in front of your computer, spend the week focusing on hands-on learning.

Is there a particular nonprofit that you’d like to support or learn about? Consider job shadowing to see what the field is like, ask questions, and of course, network!

Not sure where to start? If you’re a student or recent graduate, check with your college career office for any organized job-shadowing programs. Plenty of colleges and universities have listings of alumni interested in taking on a mentee for a few days.

If that doesn’t provide any opportunities, explore who may be available in your own network. Talk to alumni, friends, and colleagues whose jobs you are interested in learning more about. Ask them if you can shadow them for a few days in whatever way is most convenient. If shadowing isn’t a possibility, perhaps they'll be open to a friendly conversation over coffee. Most people are flattered when someone takes an interest in their career and will be happy to help.

And if you can’t find anyone in your network, reach out to an organization you are interested in. Be clear about your goals for the week and the amount of time you’d like to commit, then ask if there is an employee who would be interested in having you as a shadow. If there is someone in particular you admire, try to reach out directly and arrange an informational meeting at their office or over coffee. It can be scary to make that ask, but it’ll be worth it to have an awesome experience. Plus, you’ve got nothing to lose.

To get the most of your job-shadowing experience, try the following:

  • Prepare: Do your research on the field and the person you’re shadowing. Come up with specific questions you want answered and set goals for yourself about what you’d like to learn.
  • Be respectful: Be cognizant of the workplace culture. While you want to learn and ask questions, recognize that there is also a time to be quiet and just observe.
  • Follow up: You may only spend a few hours or days shadowing, but don’t end the relationship when you walk out the door. Send a thank you email, letter, or card telling your mentor how much you enjoyed the experience, and continue to stay in touch.

Other professional planning

There are many other ways you can create a professional development plan during a productive staycation. Maybe you want to spend the time working on your resume, drafting cover letters, or checking out these inspirational reads. Or, perhaps what you really need is time for self-care. Whatever you decide, try to use the time to focus on what you need.


Are you searching for a formal way to grow your career? Check out our post, 5 Professional Development Trainings for Every Stage of Your Career, for online and in-person resources.

Samantha Fredrickson profile image

Samantha Fredrickson

Samantha Fredrickson has worked in communications and nonprofit advocacy for more than a decade. She has spent much of her career advocating for the rights of vulnerable populations. She has degrees from the University of Nevada, Reno and New York Law School.

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