Whatever you enjoy doing with your leisure time, you may not have considered the impact hobbies can have on your career.
There are many ways the activities you love can contribute to and advance your professional life. Here are the top seven:
1. Find Out What You’re Excited About
The most direct way for a hobby to advance your career is for it to become your career. Just about anything, from baking to a love of animals, can be turned into a business with the right combination of inspiration, passion and hard work. So quit dreaming and start making it a reality. Even if you don’t want to start a business, find an existing company in your field of interest and make it your mission to work for it.
What if you’re a long way off from turning a hobby into a career? It still pays to discover your interests. Hiring managers will be impressed with your energy and zeal, as well as your diverse knowledge.
2. Meet Other People in Your Field
A hobby doesn’t have to be a solitary pursuit. Even an activity like reading can be made social through a book club. Bonding with others over a shared passion is a great way to meet friends and dates, as well as colleagues in your profession.
Sometimes it will be obvious; for example, if you join a writer’s group you will meet other writers who may also have an additional career such as teaching in common. People in the same career may be harder to spot in other activities, but by engaging in casual conversation before and after the class or meeting, you’re bound to meet others in your field. For example, chatting with other students after a yoga class could introduce you to a fellow designer, entrepreneur or coder.
A foundation of shared interests is a great way to network and build professional relationships. This networking can happen outside of the actual activity, too. You might strike up a lively conversation with a fellow painter at a professional happy hour, or discover the person interviewing you is also an avid hiker. People love to talk about their hobbies, which is why it’s a great way to generate feelings of warmth and friendship.
3. Experience Personal Growth
Many of the same qualities that lead to success in the workplace can also be learned through a hobby. Confidence, resilience and commitment are just a few of the traits you can develop while pursuing a side activity that will boost your professional life.
According to the Huffington Post, hobbies are a great way to increase self-esteem and give your life a sense of purpose. When you feel confident and empowered, people will notice and want to be around you. You can also expand your sense of possibility by completing a specific challenge such as writing a novel in one month or training for an athletic competition.
Such an experience will also give you a story to tell in interviews. Potential bosses will be impressed both by your well-rounded personality and your ability to overcome challenges in multiple areas. This may be especially helpful if you’re interviewing for a job in a field you don’t have much experience in.
4. Exercise Your Imagination
The best thing about being creative is anyone can do it. You don’t have to be the next Picasso to take a painting class and you can use your imagination in just about any activity. For example, picking flowers to plant in your front yard doesn’t have to just be a chore. You can be creative with the colors and varieties you choose, and have fun arranging them in an eye-pleasing way in your garden.
The more you get in the habit of using your imagination in your leisure time, the easier it will be to bring creativity into your job. Innovation and creative problem solving are two important professional skills that apply to all fields and are fueled by imagination.
5. Get Organized
Do you struggle to keep your physical and digital workspaces neat? With a clear link between organization and productivity, the ability to categorize and the discipline to keep things in order are skills that apply to more than a cluttered desk. These can be important job functions of scientists, analysts, business owners and many more professions.
Hobbies that let you practice these skills—such as volunteering in an administrative capacity for a nonprofit organization or collecting rare vinyl records—will help you stay organized at work. Even something seemingly unrelated such as meditation can help with organization by improving your ability to slow down and focus on one idea or task at a time.
6. Learn How to Manage Multiple Responsibilities
Of course, there will be times when you need to keep more than one ball in the air, so hobbies that help you learn to multitask will improve your ability to do the same at work. Great activities for multitasking include cooking several dishes that all need to be ready at the same time, doing an exercise like yoga that requires coordination between breath and movement, or playing an instrument while singing.
7. Keep Your Brain Sharp and Challenged
Regardless of the field you’re in, learning new skills and continuing to challenge yourself are important both for your professional success and your personal well-being. Don’t shy away from activities that seem scary and new. Give that rock climbing class a try, or pick up a guitar and learn a few chords.
You will also develop empathy for the feeling of being new at something, which will make you a better colleague or boss, especially with new employees in need of mentoring. Learning critical thinking skills through hobbies that include building and repairing are a great way to broaden your knowledge and improve your performance in other demanding situations.
In our time-crunched, results-driven society, hobbies can be dismissed as silly or even a waste of time. With so much to gain, both personally and professionally, there are many reasons to take time out from your work and home responsibilities to have some fun and learn a new activity.
Sarah Landrum (author) is a freelance writer and founder of Punched Clocks, a site dedicated to professional development and the quest for happiness and success in life and at work.