How Hobbies Can Advance Your Career

Meghan Played Guitar by Emily Mills of Flickr

Meghan Played Guitar by Emily Mills of Flickr

Can hobbies hold the key to landing a job faster? Most of us have hobbies we enjoy. In addition to being a great way to unwind, hobbies can also be a valuable asset to your career in numerous ways. Think about it this way- hobbies can impress employers, allow you to make new connections in your network, and hobbies allow you to focus on passions outside of work. For example, mountain climbing can demonstrate your ability to take risks to employers, while playing Sudoku may show your ability to think strategically. Hobbies may be deeply ingrained in the corporate culture of some employers, while other companies may not care. Fortunately, hobbies have benefits that go far beyond impressing potential employers.

 

Impress employers

When it comes to landing a job, hobbies can be one of the deciding factors. Some hobbies strike a chord with a hiring manager and others can be seen as a cultural fit for the company. In the past, I worked for a firm who stated the fact that I played on the intramural softball team and sing in a band marked me as a good cultural fit. They considered themselves as a “work hard, play hard” company. Employers may find the fact a person loves to golf or hike as a valuable asset. Or an employer may be impressed with a person who competes in triathlons, restores cars for fun, or even plays Dungeons and Dragons. These kinds of activities can show initiative, dedication, and creativity.

In terms of office culture, there are employers who take recreation seriously. A company may consider it worth their time to have pool tables, foosball, ping pong, and air hockey in the office. Google’s offices are legendary for their recreational areas. Some employers have added these extras to be trendy and as a way to enhance creativity via play. According to the National Institute for Play, playing engages the creative side of your brain, allowing creative ideas to flow more freely, which in turn can boost productivity.

 

Networking interests

I often explain to my clients why they would want to include hobbies and interests on their LinkedIn profile. Since LinkedIn’s inception, it has included a section for interests. I recommend that you fill in the interests section because it makes you more open and approachable. A completed interests section also makes it easier for people to start a conversation with you and to build rapport. I have yet to have a client refuse to fill out this section after I explain the benefits.

When it comes to networking, I’ve often talked about how shared interests can make it easier to connect with others- especially at events. It is possible to use your hobbies to strike up conversations while networking. There’s nothing like the burst of joy you feel when you converse with someone who partakes in the same hobbies and passions as you. Shared interests can increase likability, and form or deepen relationships. Imagine being sought out for employment because of your shared interests, or meeting the next person who may be able to help you land a job while at a blogging workshop, or playing basketball.

 

Learning skills and transitioning to new careers

Hobbies can become the catalyst for learning new skills or improving skills that can aide you in the workplace. For example, playing video games can sharpen your ability to solve problems and work with others. In corporate America, gamification has earned credibility as an effective training tool. Cisco uses gamification to provide global social media training certification to their employees. Before implementing a gaming program, employees had a difficult time figuring out where to start in the 46-course program. Gamification allowed Cisco to split the program into levels, as well as fostering competition, which ultimately resulted in higher social media certification for employees.

On a personal level, activities such as baseball can teach you teamwork, and volunteering can teach you leadership. If you’re really passionate about your hobbies, you may consider a career transition to pursue your passion. MilkCrate CEO Morgan Berman wanted to make a large contribution to society. She turned her passion for tech and sustainability into a career by creating her own startup. You can listen to Morgan’s entire story in our May 2015 Epic Career Tales podcast. Another example is Helen Wan, a lawyer who decided to leave law and became a novelist.

 

Relaxation and mental well-being

Pursuing hobbies can give your mind a much needed break and serves as an outlet for your passions during your off hours. In turn, this helps you focus when you return to work. According to a study published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine, hobbies can reduce stress and increase overall mental well-being. Hobbies allow people to feel relaxed and confident because they provide a healthy distraction from stress. Gaming in particular can provide amazing stress relief. Video Game Developer Jane McGonigal explains in her TED Talk how games can increase resilience and even add 10 years to your life. She goes on to assert many of the things people often regret later in life such as not giving themselves time to be happy, not staying connected with friends, and worrying too much about what others expected of them, can be partially solved by playing video games. Games have the power to change how people interact and solve problems. Accelerfate is my own way of using mobile gaming to help change the job search. Even if you don’t use hobbies directly in your job search the stress relief and mental well-being they can provide are reason enough to pursue them.

 

If you haven’t been spending as much time as you like on the activities that bring you joy, hopefully this article will give you some great justification to fit joy into your life. Hobbies can be a means of connecting to and impressing employers. In some ways, your hobbies may make it easier for you to land because potential employers may see you as a great cultural fit. In some cases, sharing your hobbies on social media sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest, and Periscope can make it easier for you to expand your network and may take your career to interesting places. If your hobbies are never mentioned directly at work or in your job search, they still can be a great way to reduce stress, increase creativity and boost productivity, giving you an edge in your career.

 

 

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