June 22, 2015
Every workplace has them. The obsessive long-distance runner traveling to Kathmandu for a 100-mile ultramarathon. The train collector taking a week’s vacation to visit the Colorado Railroad Museum.
But despite the fact that we all have special interests outside of our day jobs, these side passions don’t get a lot of credit in the workplace. Sometimes they’re written off as whimsical pastimes, and sometimes they’re disregarded entirely. After all, what does ultra-running 50-plus miles at a time really have to do with a job as a project management specialist?
It turns out that a deep interest in something unrelated to your career can actually have quite an impact on your skills and experiences in your day-to-day job. In fact, actively participating in new and old hobbies helps you develop important work skills that can benefit you in your career. Here’s a look at four different ways your hobbies help make you more well-rounded and skilled at your day job:
Hobbies teach you to embrace new experiences and new situations
Twenty-two percent of Americans enjoy cooking as a hobby, and 37.9 percent enjoy reading books. These might seem like low-key, private hobbies, but there’s more to these pastimes than meets the eye. Both of these hobbies encourage you to try something new and expand your worldview based on a new thought or sensation. In particular, reading novels helps you become more empathetic. This gives your brain practice in identifying something new and assimilating it the same way you would on the job, making new experiences more comfortable and less stressful when they do occur.
Hobbies help you develop social skills
We all understand that interpersonal work relationships are important, and yet many of us still struggle to feel comfortable networking. Having an active hobby such as attending hobby-based conventions like Comic-Con or HobbyTown alleviates this discomfort by allowing you to engage with people from a variety of different backgrounds over common ground. This lesson can be applied directly on the job when you find yourself needing to connect with new employees or new teammates on a new project.
Hobbies help you see more connections between seemingly unrelated things
Experience is experience, in and out of the cubicle. That’s why new information and experience through hobbies can help you see new connections inside the workplace, too.
One exercise that can help you see and explain connections is to play the metaphor game. If you’re having difficulty describing a situation or challenge to someone, share it through the lens of your hobby. For example, when trying to explain a central function of your job to a new employee, try to finish the sentence, “My job is like [hobby] in that it….” It may seem like a random exercise, but you’d be surprised how quickly your brain can shape an easy-to-understand connection when given the opportunity.
Hobbies improve brain function
Dancing is a preferred hobby of 9.2 percent of Americans, and that’s great news for those individuals on the job because dancing enhances brain power. Learning new dance moves activates your brain motor center, in turn forming new neural connections that help you think quicker. The result is that you’re faster to think, problem-solve and communicate your thoughts than you otherwise would be.
Hobbies force you to cope with a wide variety of people
Finally, having a hobby also puts you in a position to cope with the behavior of a wide variety of people you might otherwise never meet. Constantly interacting and communicating with different people will help you navigate diversity in the workplace, too. For example, managing a difficult member of your book club or sports team can directly translate to managing tough coworkers or employees.
Hobbies are worthwhile endeavors on and off the job. Don’t discount your hobbies as child’s play. When you invest time in your off-the-job hobbies and pursuits you are learning valuable skills that you can apply to your career.
Do you have a hobby that’s helped you perform better on the job? Share below!