You need a hobby.
This isn’t a bit of generic, feel-good advice. This is a tactical career move.
It’s crucial that you have some passions and pursuits outside of your work, and those things can also support your career in meaningful ways. By adopting useful hobbies that build skills and grow your social network, you give yourself an edge.
Being a workaholic is counterproductive. Practicing useful hobbies is a much healthier way to advance your career. Plus, you can even mention your skill-building hobbies on your resume.
The best hobbies to build your legal skills
All hobbies are valuable if you enjoy them, but some of them are more valuable to your professional skills than others.
In other words, although collecting spoons is fascinating and rewarding, it probably won’t enhance your litigation skills or help you develop as a leader.
This list of useful hobbies was built with legal skills in mind.
Some will sharpen your eye for detail, make you a more convincing communicator, or help you think more logically in high-pressure situations.
Others build your most important soft skills like emotional intelligence, organization, and creative problem solving.
Let this list inspire you. Your personal interests and passions are the most important reasons to pursue a hobby, so embrace that. Choose hobbies that you love doing. Otherwise, you won’t do them at all.
All of the same arguments for why you should enroll your kids in team sports still apply when you’re an adult. They’re active, you make friends, and those sportsmanship and teamwork skills are pretty much always important.
As a legal professional, there are even more reasons that team sports are valuable.
First, joining a team introduces you to new people. You’ll be exposed to new ideas, and you’ll need to work with people who have different perspectives than you to achieve a common goal. That’s crucial. Throughout your career, you’ll often need to work with people you don’t understand very well, and you’ll be able to draw on your team experience to help.
Making more friends grows your social network, too. Even if none of your teammates are in the legal industry, odds are good that as you get to know each other, they’ll send you leads, inspire new ideas, and introduce you to even more interesting people.
The competitive aspect of team sports is also important for legal professionals.
You’re in a competitive career, so it’s a good idea to explore all the different ways you react to that kind of environment. Use your hobby as a way to practice managing your emotional responses in competitive situations.
Team sports are all about coming together to win against an opponent. In individual sports, you’re often competing against yourself.
Sports like skateboarding, horseback riding, and golf are more about improving your own skills and performing better over time. Each of these can be social, and they can be competitive, but they don’t have to be either of those things.
Where team sports are excellent for building your people skills, individual sports can help you be more independent.
Think about all the times in your legal career when you had to dig deep to find the motivation so that you could finish something that needed to get done. You don’t always have someone else to keep you accountable to your goals.
Depending on the sport, you might find even more transferable skills.
- Golf is an excellent sport for networking
- Outdoor sports like hiking and canoeing place a heavy emphasis on planning ahead and being prepared for the unexpected
- Martial arts often include practice to help with focus, mindfulness, and inner strength
If you’ve ever seen live improv, you know that it’s unpredictable and fun. You’re probably also wondering what it has to do with legal skills.
Improv is all about thinking on your feet and performing under pressure. It also taps into your creativity, challenges your listening skills, and helps you become a more charismatic leader and communicator.
For trial attorneys — and for anyone else who needs to present to a crowd in the course of their career — improv is one of the fastest ways to hone those speaking skills. You can be much more intentional about the messages you’re communicating with your words, tone, and body language because you know how to read listener reactions.
It’s also a fantastic way to address stage fright.
From a business perspective, your improv hobby can help you spot opportunities and develop a more open mindset.
When you’re part of an improv troupe, your job is to notice all the ridiculous things your mates do, accept it, and then build on top. You can’t reject the unexpected things that come your way; you must have an attitude that says “yes, and…”
“Yes, and…” is exactly the thought process you need to stay innovative and competitive as the world changes.
Donating your time to a cause you care about is deeply satisfying. It’s also a fantastic way to hone your legal skills.
When you volunteer, you work with a bunch of people who are there by their own choice, not because it’s their job. That’s a completely different environment than a law firm where people need to get their work done in order to maintain their income stream. If you want to work on your leadership skills, volunteering is one of the best ways to do it.
As you donate time to a cause, you also build your empathy and emotional intelligence. If it’s something you truly care about, you’ll feel a sense of purpose that helps you connect with your community and improve your own self-esteem.
It’s a good idea to choose a volunteering opportunity that gets you out of your comfort zone. Personal growth happens when you adapt to new and uncomfortable situations.
A daily journaling habit might not sound like much, but the time you spend on deliberate introspection will pay dividends.
Journaling helps you slow down and focus on a single idea. You can fully explore your own thoughts and come to deeper insights about your feelings, your goals, and more.
Even if you’re naturally a reflective person, keeping a journal gives you an advantage.
As a legal professional, you probably don’t have much time in a regular workday to just sit and think. This hobby can give you that.
Plus, people who journal regularly build their emotional intelligence, self confidence, critical thinking skills, and goal-setting abilities. You’ll find it easier to examine problems from all angles. Similarly, you’ll be more inclined to think through an emotionally-charged situation before you react.
Your journal doesn’t have to be a diary of your thoughts. Journaling can focus on fitness, food, gratitude, goals, your dreams, your daily moods, or more. Bullet journals are excellent if you’re concerned about finding the time to add something new to your routine.
Learn a new language
Being multilingual has obvious benefits for any professional that works with clients. The more languages you speak fluently, the better you can communicate with potential clients who don’t speak English as their native language. There’s more to it, though.
Did you know that learning a language actually changes your brain?
When you learn a new language, it’s like exercising your neurons. You’ll find it easier to learn new things and adapt to new situations. Plus, your memory will be stronger and more accurate.
There’s some evidence that multilingual people are better at multitasking, too.
As you learn a second (or third, or fourth) language, you also learn about different cultures and ways of thinking. Empathy becomes a lot easier.
That same skill translates into problem-solving ability because you’ll be better able to look at challenges from multiple angles.
Learning a language is much easier when you have other people to practice with. You can treat this as a solo hobby, but finding a practice group, a teacher, or a pen pal will give you extra social benefits.
Get more out of your hobbies
If you’re looking for useful hobbies that make you better at your job, there’s a right way and a wrong way to approach them.
Start by choosing your leisure activities strategically.
- How much time do you have to devote to this?
- What skills are you most interested in building?
- What interests do you find the most exciting?
- Do you have the budget to pursue this hobby fully?
Pick just one thing at a time, then set aside the time to get into flow with it. You’ll reap the benefits faster and very likely enjoy it more.
At the same time, the whole point of hobbies is that they’re not work.
The most important thing is that this activity energizes you and gives you a space to relax, be creative, and feel accomplished. It’s okay to be dedicated. It’s great to be challenged. Just make sure that you’re not turning your leisure activities into another set of chores.
How to include your hobbies on your resume
Picking a hobby that enhances your legal skills is a great way to improve your work performance. On top of that, you can include those hard and soft skills on your resume to make you a more appealing candidate.
Unless you’re just getting started in your career, your work experience should be the main focus of your resume. Make sure that you include all the relevant details in those sections.
Hobbies on your resume can help prove your skills, show your versatility, and give hiring managers a more personal way to connect with you.
However, that doesn’t mean that you should always list all of your hobbies at the bottom of your CV.
When you should (and shouldn’t) list hobbies on your resume
In the legal industry, there are still a lot of people who might find it unprofessional to talk about your personal life on your resume.
There are also people who want to see candidates as complete, multifaceted humans, and these kinds of employers appreciate the extra context.
Before you opt to include hobbies on your resume, consider what kind of firm or company you want to work for.
If you’re aiming for a law firm or corporation with very traditional values, it’s probably better to focus on your work experience and leave off the hobbies.
There are some exceptions — for example, if you’re a new graduate and you don’t have much work experience yet — but use your best judgment and consider the message you’re sending. If there’s a chance that the hiring manager might think you’re trying too hard, leave the extra information for the interview.
On the other hand, if you want to work in a more modern environment where work-life balance is a high priority, it’s probably a good idea to mention more personal details like hobbies on your resume.
If your hobbies are obviously related to your work and you’re applying to jobs where a less traditional approach is appropriate, go for it. Here’s how to do it right:
Adding hobbies to your resume
When you put extracurricular information on your resume, make sure that it looks like supporting information instead of the main point.
Your skills and work experience should be the first thing that a hiring manager sees. After that, you can include a section at the bottom or in a sidebar that lists your relevant hobbies.
If you have room, consider adding a few words that give extra context about why you added this information. For instance, if you included your fencing hobby, you might add a note that you’re a team captain with good people management skills.
This is also a good place to include any memberships, accolades, and certifications.
The big picture
We’ve talked a lot about how your hobbies fit in with — and ultimately enhance — your professional life. It’s pretty cool that you can do something you enjoy and sneakily upgrade your legal skills, isn’t it?
Just remember that your personal time outside of your career is important. Respect yourself enough to dedicate time and energy to your happiness and health.
Oh, and there’s one more sneaky benefit when you adopt a new hobby:
When you’re out networking, you’ll never get stuck again when people ask what you do for fun. You’ll always have something interesting to say because you’ve always got something interesting to do.