Why Personal Hobbies Can Boost Your Professional Development
Myth: the key to success in the workplace is working long hours and having irreplaceable talent.
Yes, these are valuable attributes that almost any organization would like to have. But as you look to develop in your career, it is a huge mistake to focus simply on work ethic and building your expertise in a single area.
Your career is a major part of your life, but it does not define you as a person, even if you have a job you love that never feels like work.
You’ve heard the phrase “work-life balance” before, and it’s something you should take seriously. After all, most organizations view it is an important component of their workplace culture and integrate the concept into their formal policies.
They do this because they see real value in fostering healthy and well-rounded employees.
There are two major reasons why work-life balance and having hobbies outside of work is important. Let’s explore both.
Simply put, it’s healthy to have balance in your life. When you work all the time, you are more likely to compromise on sleep, eating habits and physical exercise. It is also a major drain on your mental health.
The stresses of work aren’t always obvious to people, which is why they keep working until they eventually “burn-out.”
Having hobbies to retreat to on a regular basis can ease the mounting pressure people feel from work.
Some pursuits are done alone, providing “me time” for people to focus intensely on something other than work or allowing them to relax and recharge their battery.
These can also contribute to a sense of fulfillment that work alone cannot provide.
Other hobbies are done in groups, but again provide psychological benefits by way of socialization. Meanwhile, some people find pleasure in physically demanding pursuits, providing them with both physical and mental benefits.
Whether it’s painting, dancing, collecting antiques or playing on a sports team, all contribute to personal health, which transfers over to the workplace.
Personal Development = Professional Development
The value that having hobbies can have on your working life goes beyond just personal health.
Employers value healthy employees for the sake of productivity, but they also want well-rounded employees that offer diverse perspectives, creativity and personal connections.
As an employee, or someone looking to get hired, you need to recognize the power that having hobbies can have on your professional development.
Being involved in a variety of activities outside of work makes you a greater asset inside of work.
Think about it in these terms. If a hiring manager had to decide between two candidates, each with the same skill set, work history, and education, what do you think the decision will come down to?
Personality will play a factor, but so will the candidates’ experiences away from a formal work setting. The abilities and knowledge you gain through hobbies can differentiate you from others – maybe even making the dreaded “Why should we choose you?” question easier to answer.
Taking time away from work to pursue your interests contributes to personal growth. You are building your creativity and learning new skills and subject matter.
If you use your spare time to travel, you experience new cultures and gain a broader perspective, helping you see certain issues in a new light. All of this can be relevant in the workplace at some point.
But there’s more. If you engage in a hobby that involves playing or working with others, you carry even more appeal.
Because you are interacting with a range of people, you are serving as an ambassador for your company.
Assuming you are fond of your job, there is potential for you to market your company to others, including job seekers or potential clients/partners.
Employers recognize the power of employees’ personal networks. New business opportunities are generated through peoples’ connections, and these connections need not be professional.
If you are on a team or take part in a club with 25 other people, there’s a good chance that someone you share your hobby with works in a similar field or knows someone who does.
Simply put, having hobbies can help build your network and make you an asset to your company.
There is plenty of proof that employers want their employees to be involved in hobbies.
For example, some organizations implement mandatory vacation minimums, effectively forcing their employees to unplug and focus on their health or personal development.
Many organizations also offer health incentives through benefits packages, and they provide paid days off for volunteer or community work.
Life After Work
There is one more reason why you should prioritize developing your hobbies.
Ask yourself what you will do with all your spare time once your career is coming to an end.
It’s easy to think that by the time you are ready for retirement, you will be so fed up with work that all you will want to do is kick back, relax and do nothing. But nothing gets boring faster than you think.
Without hobbies to occupy your time in retirement, your mental health is more likely to deteriorate faster. Thus hobbies are means for achieving longevity as you age. You can wait until retirement to try to discover a new passion, but as they say: “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Better to start exploring new hobbies today, especially since they can bring immediate benefits to your personal and professional life.