Learning. You might default to thinking it’s all about reading boring books, sitting in boring class, and taking boring notes. But - it may just be your idea of how you learn, since you’re used to learning in the classroom or from the textbook. What if learning was fun? What if it was like that amazing TV show, where you couldn’t sleep until you finished the entire thing? What if I said you could find your next favorite hobby - and use it to help your chances of getting hired? Make learning your best friend, and you’ll realize that networking and interviews become a worry of the past - you can connect with almost anyone with a positive mindset toward learning. Here’s how:
1. Get Lost.
Sometimes, the best way to find your next big hobby is to just go onto YouTube and watch video after video, as we’ve all done before. But, rather than choosing videos that may seem funny or entertaining to you, choose things that you’ve never seen before, or things that spark your interest. Maybe you’ve always thought of woodworking as boring and uneventful - find Diresta’s channel and you’ll be told otherwise.
After a while, you’ve probably found something interesting. Whether that’s cooking, carpentry, or music production, start watching videos on it. Find free ways to learn the skill (legally, of course). If your school has a woodshop, go step inside it, rather than smelling that all-familiar smell of sawdust everytime you walk by. After just a few videos, Google searches, and just general interest, you’ll be able to have a conversation about the topic with ease. Let’s say you’re networking for your next job. It’s common knowledge that well-rounded people have a better chance of getting hired, so why not have that attitude? When networking, find a common connection point you can talk about. Whether it’s something you know a lot about or something you know very little about, as long as you can show that you have passion or interest in something relevant in the conversation is all that matters.
And who knows - maybe that one video about Efren Reyes’s best pool shots gets you hooked on playing billiards. Whatever it is, and even if you’re not particularly interested in it, someone might be. That someone might be your boss someday, or any person you’re trying to impress.
2. Break Down the Fundamentals.
Another key in learning something well is knowing the fundamentals of the skill like the back of your hand. It’s common sense that you can’t major in math if you cannot add, right? In order to learn anything, you must have the basics down as a solid foundation before you attempt to build anything upon it - so therefore, study the basics. If you really enjoy it, you’re going to struggle with this part, because you know the cool fun stuff that everybody hears about seems within reach. Trust me on this - you’re going to want to know the basics before you delve too deep.
LeBron James makes basketball look too easy. To even be a functioning part of a pickup game, you have to know the rules of the game, how to dribble, and probably how to pass and shoot. You can’t just skip to dunking the ball. That applies to any and every skill out there - some more or less, but think of any skill. You’re not handed paint and a canvas and randomly paint Starry Night - there’s obviously intensive learning that precedes greatness.
What does this all mean in terms of your career? Well, you probably want to impress people at companies you want to work at, so one way to do so is to not only know a lot of stuff about a lot of things, but also how to explain said things in a consumable manner. Consider the “Teach me something” question that may arise in an interview. If you’re a constant learner, you could approach the question as you did previously when trying to learn something new. If you can explain something so complex and foreign at a consumable, high level, then you shouldn’t have any issue impressing even the most prestigious of companies.
3. Enjoy Yourself.
If you’re like me, you obsess over something for a short period of time. For me, it’s music. Every time one of my top 1000 artists puts out a new album, I listen to it and only it for over a week. Yes, that’s annoying, but it feels so good. It’s kind of like tasting your favorite food for an entire week (at least for me). Again, if you’re anything like me, when you find a new hobby, you get obsessed with it. Take Rubik’s cubes for example; I picked one up for the first time at my girlfriend’s house and learned how to solve it right then and there. Only a week later I had learned how to solve it without any help and had probably 5 or 6 cubes either at my house or en route. Sure, that could be considered unhealthy to move at such a pace, but knowing a lot about something surely does help when connecting with people. Also, having Rubik’s Cubes under my interests section at the bottom of my resume usually comes up in interviews. Since I know so much about it and the fact that it’s different usually works in my favor. And who knows - maybe I’ll encounter a recruiter one day who has a similar cubing passion, in which I’ll not only make an acquaintance, but a friend as well.
The biggest key here is to enjoy yourself. If you find yourself learning a skill just to help yourself in the job without being truly interested in it, then you’re wasting your time. When you talk to someone about the things you’re passionate about, your eyes should light up and you should be told to shut up, rather than to speak up.
4. Think About What You Already Know.
Since we’re on the topic of using quirky hobbies and skills outside of your professional background to help you advance in your career, think about the things you really enjoy. You may not have to learn anything new (although I definitely recommend it) - you may know your way around many different skills and hobbies. Even if you think they’ll seem weird or uninteresting to the average Joe, twist the little things that make you so passionate about the skill to your advantage.
In my case, take bass fishing. The general public may think fishing involves leaving bait sitting in the water under a bobber, and only when a fish bites does the fun begin. To me, fishing is a connection to the outdoors, an escape in which I can think about nothing else other than casting and reeling. I can go out on the water all day and not catch a fish (which has happened more than you can imagine) and still be content and glad that I did so.
Given this example, you may think I’m crazy for liking a hobby seemingly boring. But, once you discover how complex it really is, once you feel what a bite actually feels like, and how much there is to learn, you respect the amount of work and experience needed to have a simple conversation about it. This applies to nearly everything - even things that seem like a waste of time to most professionals can be an outlet to create, learn, and develop a passion towards.
All in all, learning is an extremely useful skill to have in itself. If you learn how to learn effectively, you can converse about or even do anything (unless you’re limited by physical ability, of course). Remember, when it comes to learning something new, consider the reason why. If it doesn’t follow the purpose you intended, then you may be wasting your time.
If you’re looking to learn something new, check out our other blog posts here. Backlight is a resume-writing service that provides AI-optimized resumes and custom, industry-specific templates for a fraction of the cost of competitors.