How Your Seemingly Random Interests Can Actually Benefit Your Career
I keep busy overseeing an insurance agency, but my interests aren’t confined to the skills and topics related to my industry. Over the course of my career, I have realized that all of my seemingly unrelated interests and habits — from collecting antique hood ornaments to studying 18th-century explorer Captain Cook to managing a company — complement one another to make me a more powerful, well-rounded, and overall content executive.
The concept that creative outlets improve work performance applies across industries and hobbies. A survey from San Francisco State University found that workers who pursued creative activities outside of work — from writing novels to playing video games — brought more innovative thinking and positive habits to the office. Dedication to mastering a pursuit that’s seemingly unrelated to one’s job can spur self-discovery that benefits career advancement.
In other words, pursuing personal passions makes you a stronger candidate for the professional role you want.
Connections Between Work and Play
Among my interests, I have long been fascinated with copper pots, the kind used for hundreds of years to create jellies, jams, and candies. Recently, I found in Europe the largest copper pot I had ever seen. Naturally, I had to have it.
The research I did to discover the copper pot, evaluate its value, negotiate a price, and transport it was similar to the process I use for many work projects, such as studying business competitors. I’d had some due diligence practice that helped me secure the pot, and the research and negotiations I undertook to complete the purchase gave me practice that translated to negotiating value at work.
Every job seeker has heard that continuous learning makes you a more appealing candidate, but have you ever thought about your hobbies as learning opportunities? Regardless of whether you realize it as you pursue your avocation, dedicating free time to a non-work passion project can mold you into a better potential hire. Here are some career benefits you may reap while practicing your pastimes:
1. Sharpened Smarts
Hobbies not only help us expand our vocabulary and general knowledge, but they also help us form neural connections essential to learning new information. Hobbies that require outside reading, for example, improve vocabulary and overall brain activity. Additionally, performing research on your own helps you grow accustomed to doing due diligence before making decisions.
2. Enhanced Problem-Solving
Embracing your extracurricular interests can help you develop skills which help you find answers to puzzling situations you encounter on the job. A study in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology found that embracing creative hobbies led to more creative problem-solving at work. The curiosity that propels you to pursue your hobbies will also help you devise creative solutions at work.
3. Defined Goals
Passion underlies every hobby and pushes you to get in touch with the interests and motivations that drive you. Embracing that passion helps you wake up each morning and take a different approach to reach your goals for the day.
Playing video games is one of the most common hobbies among the younger working generation. Research suggests that video games can help players build workplace skills by encouraging them to flex their mental muscles to achieve predefined goals. Passionately exploring ways to reach goals in your personal life means you’ll feel more practiced and prepared when faced with a difficult problem at the office.
4. Purposeful Behavior
Generations of kids received early education from the characters of Sesame Street, showing us how valuable TV could be in helping us learn and retain information. When I watch television, it’s with purpose. I turn to Discovery or the History Channel to glean new information that I can often apply to my work life as well.
Of course, all work and no play can be dull, and a good Will Ferrell flick is worth a stress-relieving laugh occasionally. I purposefully choose viewing options that help me sharpen my mind, recharge my batteries, and prepare myself for my next round of work.
Feel like your hobbies get in the way of your career? Rethink your perspective. When people accuse me of spending too much time tending to my collections, I explain that I’m merely polishing my credentials.