For young professionals, the importance of networking can’t be understated. As they say, it’s not what you know, but who you know. And if you’re looking for ways to naturally network with other professionals, a hobby is your perfect intro. The only question is, which hobbies will you pursue?
The Importance of Hobbies
There once was a time when every adult American seemed to have some sort of hobby. Whether it was shooting hoops in the driveway, collecting sports memorabilia, or woodworking, hobbies were part of the norm. Hobbies served as healthy ways to differentiate between work and personal life. But times have changed.
Over the years, the availability of free time seems to have diminished and been replaced by more work. This is part of Parkinson’s Law, which states that work expands to fill the time available for its completion.
“More simply, things take as much time as you have. So, when the evening stretches out before you, unscheduled, you might find yourself laboring over that work project or answering emails into the wee hours,” psychologist Jaime L. Kurtz writes. “Chances are, if you had choir practice or a book club meeting that night, you would get those tasks done much more quickly. So, hobbies can seem to create more time by encouraging efficiency.”
But it’s not all about differentiating your day and promoting greater efficiency. For those in the business world, hobbies may also promote stronger networking opportunities and connections with peers.
When you’re part of a hobby, you join clubs, share experiences, shop at the same stores, and spend time in the same places. This creates a natural platform for developing relationships with like-minded people – people who may also be involved in business.
Hobbies That Are Ideal for Professional Networking
You should never get involved in a hobby purely for the networking perks. To genuinely enjoy a hobby, there must be some personal interest and connection.
That being said, there are certain hobbies that are more beneficial in the business world than others. Let’s check out a few of them:
1. Golf and Tennis
Sports are great for networking. They also provide physical exercise, which allows you to kill two birds with one stone. The only problem is that it’s hard to find sports where the playing field is fairly level between genders and ages.
Golf and tennis are two sports where gender and age aren’t very important. It’s possible for almost anyone to play and enjoy these sports together, thanks to rules that provide competitive balance. Golf, in particular, is beneficial for networking, as it provides lots of downtime between play for talking.
2. Cigar Smoking
Throughout history, there’s been a strong connection between cigars and business. Cigar smoking is seen as a regal hobby, and it allows for good conversation and natural networking opportunities.
As a beginner, you’ll want to get familiar with the cigar lifestyle and learn some of the basic terms and etiquette. But you also shouldn’t feel the need to fake your way through. More experienced cigar enthusiasts will be happy to help guide you along.
Spending time outside is great for your health. Studies have shown that outdoor activities help people function at their peak during the workweek – both physically and mentally.
“In fact, research shows that, compared to walking through busy urban and commercial streets, spending time in green spaces in particular results in lower levels of frustration and higher meditation for a group of walkers,” Rachel Gillett writes for Inc.com.
Having said all of this, you should give hiking a try. Not only is it beneficial from a physical and mental health perspective, but it can be a great networking activity when done in groups. It allows for long periods of conversation, which help you get to know people for who they really are.
There’s something powerful about working alongside someone to help improve the life of another. By regularly volunteering with a specific organization or cause, you’ll end up forming relationships with people. And because of the shared experience, these relationships will feel deeper than many others that you’ve had for years.
Try volunteering in an area that you’re particularly passionate about. For example, if you like building things, volunteering for Habitat for Humanity might be a good fit. Or if you like music, you may find fulfillment in teaching underprivileged kids music lessons. The options are limitless.
Find Your Next Hobby
Hobbies play an important role in networking and can help facilitate more natural and mutually beneficial relationships with people in your industry. As you look for interesting new hobbies to fill your free time, consider getting involved in one of the options discussed in this article. If nothing else, it’ll provide you with an opportunity to expand your knowledge and skillset.
Don’t be intimidated by the thought of adding something else to your schedule. As Parkinson’s Law suggests, you’ll make time for it.
“If you can designate an hour a day or even a few hours a week for something you feel truly inspired and enlivened by, don’t be surprised if some of that newfound zest carries over into your work and family life,” Kurtz says.
Hobbies are fun and beneficial, but they can’t be enjoyed from the sidelines. Get out there and make something happen!