22 Jan How Hobbies and Interests Can Fuel Your Career Growth and help you in Career Transitions
Have you made time for your hobbies and interests this week? Do you consciously try to pursue hobbies and interests which aren’t related to your work? Though it is commonly believed that success only comes to those who work as hard as they can, it is not really true. Relaxing meaningfully or pursuing an extracurricular hobby outside work can make you more productive and lead to better career growth. In fact, a study conducted by an assistant professor of psychology at San Francisco State University shows that your performance at work might shoot up by 15% to 30% when you have a hobby. So, the trick to doing your best at work is being aware that there is more to life than just work.
Not only can a hobby unleash your creativity and passion, it can connect you with like-minded people who enrich you in different ways. The experiences you share with them can contribute to your work-life and make you a bigger success. And the best part is that, your hobby can be totally unrelated to your work, as long as it involves a certain skill and is enjoyable enough to indulge in regularly.
Thanks to the above study’s results, companies like Zappos understand the importance of hobbies and interests and are encouraging their employees to pursue the same and share their handiwork with colleagues. The praise and recognition not only gives their self-esteem and confidence a big push, but the employees also end up becoming more productive, focused and accurate with their work. Plus, the voluntary pursuit of a hobby makes you happier and relaxed, giving you the breathing room you need to be more innovative and optimistic. And that’s exactly what you need to scale greater heights in your career.
Why going beyond work to make time for interests, leads to successful careers
If my experience as a career coach has taught me anything, it is that life can get quite lacklustre and exhausting if you simply work all day and have no fun. It is essential to have a balance between the work you do to support living and the life you want to live outside work. Or else, even the best of professionals can burn out, run out of ideas, and end up performing in a subpar manner.
Here’s another reason why hobbies and interests are more important than you think. Your work is not the only thing that should define you as an individual or a human being. Your hobbies or the activities you enjoy during your leisurely hours add colour and depth to your personality. And this makes you more interesting to people. In other words, having a hobby paves the way for deep, meaningful connections with others and an exchange of ideas and feelings. If you are more than what you do for a living, you will be able to enjoy parties, events and meetings, and learn from others while sharing your two cents with them.
So, why don’t more professionals pursue hobbies or explore activities outside their work? To answer this question, I need to draw from my own experience. While coaching many individuals who are in the middle of their careers, I have observed that they yearn for something exciting, interesting or adventurous. Like, they usually want to work on new projects or venture into an unfamiliar domain, but don’t know what to do about it. Usually, these are the same people who hardly take any initiative when it comes to making their life outside work interesting. They have either given up on past hobbies or cannot take the time out to nurture them.
And unless you do something fun and inspiring yourself, you will always find it challenging to attract adventure (or thrilling projects or opportunities). So, take a cue from a friend of mine who has managed to add a little sparkle to his usual life by pursuing two passions. Mind you, both his passions help him earn too! When my friend is not teaching supply chain management, he is running a hill resort. And this unique combination makes him stand out among both his academic colleagues as well as hotel guests.
Hobbies recharge you mentally, physically and emotionally and ensure better performance
Remember what I mentioned about the positive correlation between creative activities or hobbies and work performance and career growth, in the beginning? Let’s delve deeper into it. It is no news that a fast-paced and highly demanding workplace compels employees to constantly perform at their peak. However, it leaves them with very little time to unplug, breathe and recharge their body and mind, before the next task or challenge comes in. This makes hobbies all the more essential.
In fact, as stated before, Kevin J. Echleman’s study shows that non-work and creative pursuits help employees to recover and relax better. And this boosts their performance levels. Essentially, hobbies act as a “break” from work, giving you the freedom you need to breathe easy, collect your thoughts, give your grey cells a rest and get back to work with renewed energy.
It also seems that the results of this study have made a lasting impact on leading organisations around the world. Many companies are educating employees about the importance of eating on time, getting exercise and taking breaks. They are encouraging employees to participate in creative activities that feed their psychological wellbeing and help them concentrate better at work. Like, Zappos, as mentioned earlier, offers employees the opportunity to deck their offices with their artworks, apart from signing up for music sessions, art studios and creative writing.
If you need more hobbies and interests ideas, here’s a look at what some of the most successful people do to hone their analytical skills, motor skills, mental acuity, and of course to de-stress.
- Richard Branson loves chess because it teaches skills like planning, strategy and even risk-taking.
- Bill Gates’ love for bridge helps him stay mentally agile and keeps his thinking skills sharp.
- The famous actress Meryl Streep swears by knitting for the soothing effect it has on her and for the way it makes her collect her thoughts.
- George W. Bush passionately pursues painting and his favourite subjects include world leaders, landscapes and adorable puppies.
- Sundar Pichai not only loves to watch and play cricket, which keeps him physically and mentally alert, but he also likes learning new things, like making pizza from scratch.
Hobbies and interests aid networking and offer a unique perspective
Unplugging from work is vital for busy professionals, which is why hobbies and interests deserve attention. These keep stress at bay and sharpen the skills that make you valued at work. Creative pursuits that have nothing to do with your work can broaden your perspective and world view too. For instance, something as simple as jogging or playing at a tennis club can help you network with potential clients or business partners and learn new things. It is a great way to find potential talent as well. And once you strike up a conversation, it might lead to dinners or a casual meeting over coffee. And to be honest, such meetings can lay the foundation for a brighter future for both you and the person you network with, through the exchange of ideas in a relaxed environment.
Whether you are planning to hire someone or hoping to expand your business with a powerful partner, spending some time away from work can clear the air and help you understand each other better. There is nothing like bonding over a common hobby even if everything is going well at your office. You can never have enough team spirit and solidarity, after all!
Experimenting with new things can be a great reality check
When you give something new a shot or experiment with a hobby for the first time, it not only helps improve your mental and physical skills, but it also teaches you the virtue of patience and humility. Why? Because you realise that getting good at something takes time, even if you had forgotten that truth over all these years. Naturally, you feel driven and try to achieve excellence through repeated practice – exactly what you need for career growth. For instance, sewing can instil patience, gardening can build a caring attitude, painting can make you thirst for perfection, board games can teach you strategy, camping can teach you to be flexible and resourceful, while reading (an all time favourite for many leaders) can expand your knowledge base.
To sum up
The importance of hobbies and interests lies in the fact that they don’t distract you from the work you do or waste your precious time. Rather, they give you the opportunity to:
- Improve skills like persistence, thinking power, imagination, motor activities, resilience, humility and creativity
- Create a unique identity for yourself, become more interesting, and bond better with others
- Connect with different kinds of people from various walks of life, exchange views, learn new things and broaden your perspective
- Engage your mind and body in pleasurable activities that help you achieve a work-life balance
As far as the future of work is concerned, both work and creative interests will need your attention, if you are aiming for a balanced and fulfilling life. In fact play in the sense of experimentation, pursuit of varied interests and active engagement, is going to be as important, if not more, than serious work . Remember that exploring interesting things makes you a far more interesting person, fuelling your career growth.
Kavita, an alumna of IIM Ahmedabad, brings 20 years of experience in Experiential Learning, Coaching, Personal Growth & Change. Her forte is Career Transition Coaching and Leadership Development for mid-senior individuals, helping them find success and fulfilment at work . She also teaches Career & Self Development courses at leading management institutes including IIM Kozhikode, IIM Udaipur, IIM Indore and at the IITs.