It’s hard to find someone whose life consists solely of their 9-to-5. Most people have a wide range of interests beyond their day jobs. And thanks to social media and the Internet, it’s easy find ways to dabble in something new. You might even discover a passion that turns into a full-time career. Regardless of the type of interest you decide to pursue, having a side project outside of work has a number of social, professional, and personal benefits—here are a few:
Expand your network.
A side project will open up your world to people, events, and experiences outside of your normal circle. It’s hard to meet new friends once you’re juggling life and work, but a side project is a great way to expand your network while also learning something new. Better yet, you’ll connect with people who share common interests—and who doesn’t love making new friends?
Become more interesting.
Whether it’s a first date or an interview, how many times have you been asked the question, “How do you spend your free time?” Instead of admitting your unhealthy relationship with Netflix, a side project will give you an instant topic of conversation. It will help you find common interests and forge new, meaningful relationships.
Learn new skills.
Pursuing a side project will give you new skills that you can use to excel in your current job or prepare you for a new career path altogether. It’s also an opportunity to try out a new career before diving in headfirst. For example, if you want to pursue marketing roles at your company, offer to market a friend’s freelance services. Not only will you be able to build your portfolio, but you’ll also know if marketing is something you really want to pursue further.
Launch a business.
Want to start your own business? Working on a side project is a great way to “test-drive” an idea or product before you leave the security of your 9-to-5. This is exactly what I did when I created Career Contessa. Ultimately, I decided to leave my cozy 9-to-5 and pursue the unknown world of entrepreneurship. The decision was less intimidating because I had already been working on Career Contessa for over a year.
When you accomplish a goal, learn a new skill, or tackle a fear you inevitably become more confident, whether it’s in that specific skill or in your general ability to learn something new. A side project provides numerous opportunities for you gain confidence that will trickle into all areas of your life.
Stimulate your intellect.
When I started building Career Contessa, I became more engaged in my 9-to-5 work. Being intellectually stimulated by my side project encouraged me to stop being so “business as usual” in other parts of my life. And a funny thing happens when you’re happier at work: you become happier in life.
What are you waiting for? Get out there and pursue your interests—can’t wait to see what you come up with!
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Lauren McGoodwin is the Founder and Editor-In-Chief for Career Contessa, a collection of informational interviews with women across a variety of occupations that provide career inspiration, direction and information.