By Caroline Levchuck
You want to take a vacation, but you feel guilty for abandoning your job search. Why not combine the two?
If you can find some time (and your search isn't dire), there are ways that even a budget-conscious job seeker can pick up some skills, make new contacts or glean new knowledge. Consider it a crash course in your job or industry of choice. You can make your job search your summer vacation.
Take a Tour
Trying to break into a particular industry? Go on a fact-finding mission. Opportunities abound to tour manufacturing facilities, corporate offices and industry centers. Many large manufacturers offer public tours. Find a facility in the industry you're interested in at Factory Tours USA.
Tours are daily business at many breweries, wineries and food manufacturing plants. Looking for work in television or film production? Tour CNN Studios or Warner Bros. Studios. If you've got a nose for news, you can see newspapers roll off the presses at The Seattle Times.
Many tours are free, but not all. Always call ahead to find out how much a tour costs, if reservations are required and, when traveling with the tykes in tow, if children are allowed.
Visit the Capital
Plan a trip to the capital of the industry in which you're looking for work.
If you're interested in a government job, you may want to start in Washington, DC. But you can also visit your state capital, which may be easier and more cost-effective.
Into advertising? Blow into the Windy City (Chicago). Is big-time finance your bag? Set your sights on New York City. Into entertainment? Head for Hollywood.
Set up some informational interviews in advance. Industry publications and company directories can help you determine who holds jobs in which you're interested. Next, contact people to explain that you're visiting and are interested in an informational interview.
You'll gain lots of insider information, have a familiarity with the "heart" of your chosen industry and perhaps make a lasting connection with someone who's well-connected. Try to arrange to take tours or attend a relevant conference, too.
There's a do-good getaway for almost any budget.
Volunteer vacations can be related to a career you're pursuing or a way to network with people from different walks of life. You can participate in vital humanitarian and preservation projects across the country, around the world or even in your own backyard.
In you want to stay close to home, Habitat for Humanity builds simple, affordable houses in partnership with those who lack adequate shelter. You may even find yourself hammering side by side with a CEO or a celebrity.
Vocation vacations are the gold standard for gleaning new skills on holiday.
They're ideal if you've had a hankering for a completely different career and can't make a dramatic switch or commitment right now. Vocation vacations allow you to see a job for what it really is. You'll get to do the fun stuff as well as the dirty work.
The company VocationVacations arranges for people to pursue their dream jobs while under the attentive eye of a mentor.
If you're intrigued by a vocation vacation but find it financially implausible, create your own. Ask someone who has your dream job if you can work with him for free -- even for a day. An understaffed innkeeper, for instance, might be open to the idea of having an extra pair of hands to make beds in exchange for letting you see how a bed-and-breakfast is run.
After all, there's no reason why you can't vacation and look for a job at the same time.