The things that everyone tells you you should do to get ahead in your career are usually so boring or soul-sucking you can’t bring yourself to do them without feeling like a complete corporate robot.
From networking events where everyone has rubbery smiles plastered onto their faces to mind-numbing seminars where the speaker seems more interested in examining carpet lint than the audience, doing something for the sake of your career in your downtime isn’t exactly fun.
Unless, of course, one of your actual hobbies can help you to boost your career, letting you have fun while secretly making you more employable. While your World of Warcraft addiction is probably best left unmentioned, here are four that can do just that.
1. Learning a Language
While taking ten lessons in Swahili might not really give you much of an edge, becoming proficient in certain languages can, especially if you’re working for a multinational or a company that deals frequently with foreigners.
Even if your current post doesn’t require you to use any foreign language skills, eventually the opportunity will arise, and you’ll be able to dazzle everyone with your glib tongue
Take my old job at a (very local) law firm for example. Documents in French, Indonesian and even Thai had to be translated at times, and most of the time a translator had to be brought in. I dealt with many of my clients exclusively in (faltering) Chinese, which made me glad that I had picked up KTV all those years ago.
Here are some more common language classes that Singaporeans gravitate to
- For French classes, try Alliance Francaise
- For Spanish classes, try The Language Academy (they offer other classes too)
- For Korean classes, try Lingo ( they offer other classes too)
2. Web Design
True, some old-school companies might be a bit undecided as to whether they need a Facebook account or glossy brochures. But these days, every single business no matter how modest needs a website.
If your company doesn’t have a website yet or does have one with “blogspot” in the URL, your web design skills just might come in handy.
Unless you’re particularly good at your job or particularly ingratiating, it’s likely your boss thinks of you merely as a pawn who’s been hired to perform particular tasks, rather than part of the business.
That’s why getting involved in the marketing of the company using skills like web design can be so useful—your role in the company becomes broader, and you’re no longer just a monkey who performs one single trick.
Plus, if you can save your company’s website from pre-1999 hell, you’ll probably get a raise.
Toastmasters isn’t just for people who like hearing the sound of their own voices. The organisation helps people improve their public speaking and communication skills which, as many employers will tell you, is exactly what the average Singaporean employee lacks.
If you have a knack for giving killer presentations or your stint as an emcee at a company event makes everyone pay attention for reasons other than an unzipped fly, your employers are going to start thinking of you as an asset rather than that guy who embarrasses everyone at an external meeting.
If you work in a big organisation, the ability to give a good speech will help you stand out and make you seem much smarter than many of your less-articulate colleagues.
Disclaimer: not all blogs will get help you get ahead in the corporate world.
And quite frankly, if I were you I would keep my blog a secret from any boss who wears a tie or a really big diamond to work.
That being said, in certain industries, maintaining a blog is a great way to gain recognition and even jobs, particularly if you’re in the creative, marketing or public relations lines, industries in which an actual personality is an asset.
If you’re a writer or photographer, maintaining a blog serves the same function as putting your portfolio up online, with the added advantage of allowing you to build an audience—some of your readers might actually have jobs to offer.
Has a hobby ever helped you get ahead at work? Share your experiences in the comments!