The activities you plan for yourself during your downtime might be your escape from work, but don’t hide your hobbies completely. In fact, certain hobbies can really help boost your career, indirectly or directly. From improving conversation and communication skills to making yourself indispensable to your boss because of a rare skill, these hobbies might be even more helpful to your career than the degree you earned in school.
- Web Design: Nearly every competitive company — or business that wants to be competitive — has a great website. If you’re able to create attractive, user-friendly designs, use HTML coding and CSS, and manipulate images and even video so that content, products and services are clearly communicated to customers, you can greatly increase your chances of getting hired or getting a raise. Smaller companies that don’t have in-house designers and developers should be especially happy to snag your talents. Also think about learning how to design mobile- and iPad-friendly sites, too, if you can’t already.
- Blogging and Journaling: Blogging isn’t just a way to increase your own personal brand or start your own business. It’s a valuable opportunity for you to network and collaborate with others in your industry, amping up your chances of getting a great job. Additionally, all kinds of businesses are looking for employees who can blog on their websites for marketing, PR and customer service purposes. If you’re able to demonstrate that you’re familiar with writing for the web (and can use basic blogging software) by creating SEO-friendly, interesting and succinct posts, you’ll be a great add-on to any business, even if your principal specialty is in finance, HR, or consulting. Journaling is another helpful hobby, as it improves your communication skills and can help you articulate your feelings and goals.
- Acting/Improv: Besides working on your public speaking and confidence skills, acting and improv can be a valuable hobby for those interested in propelling their business career. As an actor, your job is to consider situations, people and feelings from a new perspective, constantly keeping an open mind as to how to solve problems and deal with others. Improv especially prepares you for real-world curveballs, and by practicing with a group of friends or a formal troupe, you can train yourself to be actively engaged in any conversation or situation at work. Patricia Ryan Madson, author of Improv Wisdom explains in an interview with Brand Autopsy that "to "improv" or "improvise" is a way of doing things, a methodology that involves paying attention, responding supportively, and acting constructively." You’ll quickly become accustomed to using positive feedback and listening more attentively.
- Reading: Reading gives you a broader perspective on how the world works, from human nature, motives and actions to historical and current events to emerging cultural trends to contrasting cultural ideals. Whether you read magazines, novels or blogs, you’ll be constantly replenishing your mind with fresh ideas that you can apply to work. Creative problem solving skills, insight into public opinion, and possibly even tips about your competition’s strategies can all be positive effects of reading. Scientists believe reading is also one of the best ways to relax and reduce stress.
- Photography: Photographers — even amateur snappers — train themselves to look beyond the obvious and capture people, landscapes, animals and other subjects that reveal hidden emotions or messages. Being able to uncover these layers is a useful skill in dealing with other people and analyzing projects, ideas or problems. And besides your insightfulness, your boss may like the idea of hiring in-house when your company needs a professional photographer to cover an event or take official portraits.
- Computer repair: For some techie minds, there’s no greater pastime than taking apart and putting back together computers and other gadgets. And if you’re particularly adept at computer repair or smart phone maintenance, don’t hide your hobby from your boss. A full-time IT guy could be expensive for a small company, and you could earn extra money — or at least, valuable brownie points — if you’re able to quickly patch up computer problems at the office in addition to your regular duties.
- Party planning and hosting: Party planning isn’t a frivolous past-time. In fact, if you’re able to pull together an attractive, budget-friendly dinner, office party, happy hour or major event that impresses clients and makes your boss look good, your skill can be extremely important to promoting your company’s overall brand. Getting stuck with guest lists, invitations, menu and venue selection, RSVPs and other party planning details can be a real pain, but if you love it, are good at it, and have a repository of valuable contacts, you’ll make everyone’s lives easier.
- Bargain shopping: If you have a healthy appreciation for finding a good deal, you know how to quickly shop around to save money. Your boss should appreciate this frugality, especially if you’re put in charge of booking flights, arranging conferences, or refilling office inventory. Some people might be too lazy or overwhelmed to look for deals, but if you can save your office money — without sacrificing quality — you’ll be greatly appreciated at work.
- Travel: Traveling in any capacity can really boost your career, proving to your boss that you’re open-minded, organized and up for new challenges. If you can speak another language besides English, that can greatly help your business expand to new markets and clients, too. Extreme travel, backpacking and hostel hopping demonstrate your penchant for being adaptable and budget-minded, and most frequent travelers present themselves as being social, confident and lifelong learners, too.