Save your career. Get a new hobby

Save your career. Get a new hobby

Up there with the most frequent questions I am asked is this: “What should I be teaching my children to give them the best chance of a good career in the future?” Or for those people who have 20+ years of their career ahead, and who are concerned about the rise of robots, the question is “What should I be learning to save my career?”

I have a stock answer to this that I’ve articulated a few times on this blog. In short, I believe that the more processes and interactions we automate and digitise, the more value we will place on uniquely human capabilities. And that throughout our careers we will need to adapt frequently to changing markets, skill needs, and opportunities. I also think we are increasingly likely to have portfolio careers as the traditional job that employs you nine to five, five days a week, 50 weeks a year, for 40 years, increasingly looks like a thing of the past.

Given these beliefs, what are the core skills that are most important? The Three Cs:

Curate: discover and qualify information

Create: synthesise something new

Communicate: listen and share ideas with others

The question is, how do we develop these skills? We’re all busy people. The answer, I reckon, is to get a new hobby.

Hobbies are fantastic contexts for self-driven learning, a critical component of the ‘curate’ skillset. You need to identify the gaps in your knowledge and abilities, source and absorb materials to help you overcome those gaps.

Hobbies are also often creative. I don’t mean that we all need to take up painting or writing. Sports are creative. Coding is creative. Games are creative. The critical creative skills are more about practice, repetition and refinement than they are about lightning-strike great ideas.

And hobbies almost inevitably involve communication, whether you are chatting on shared interest forums, strategising with team mates, or negotiating at a swap meet.

Personally, I took up rollerskating two years ago. It was a humbling experience, being surrounded by kids — my own included, having introduced me to the sport — who knew more than I did. It has taken an enormous amount of practice, and a few injuries (including a broken rib and a very squishy elbow) to get to the stage where I feel pretty competent at a few tricks.

I’ve learned by watching others, watching YouTube videos, and practicing, over and over again — creative iteration. It has been a great exercise for these critical future skills, as well as for my general fitness. But perhaps just as important is that humbling. One of the most valuable things to be reminded of, is just how little we know outside of our own domains.

If you want to improve your future career prospects, go and get yourself a new hobby. And get humbled.

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Tom Cheesewright