Hobbies Help at the Job
      Author:Dennis Nishi     Source: http://cn.wsj.com     Release Time:1/28/2011 8:58:42 AM     View Times:10554

The training budget may have been slashed, but you don't have to wait for a complete economic recovery to get ahead. You can turn other parts of your life, including any volunteerism, into applicable work experience that can be used to enhance your current career or even start a new one.

Volunteering your time also is a safe way to explore different job possibilities, says Carol Ross, an executive coach in Denver. You can try out different roles and find out what you're good at. Because it's a nonwork environment, and thus the stakes are lower, it's a good way to build confidence.

The first thing you should do is determine whether anything that you've done outside of work can be applied to your professional life. Or find something that interests you. Your company may already support a roster of charities that you can volunteer for.

Whatever activity you pursue should offer skills and experience that can relate to your work.

Answering phones during a fund-raiser probably won't help you get that management job. But managing a call center of volunteers during a fund-raiser is something you should mention during a performance review or put on your resume.

'Cross Pollinate' Experience

Hobbies and personal interests can be valuable if you can show a strong benefit to your employer, says Ms. Ross.

She cites a client who has successfully cross pollinated his experience as a part-time percussionist with his management job. By learning to deal with the many different, and often conflicting, personalities in the orchestra, he's become a better boss of 100 staff members.

Promote your new experiences and skills wherever you can, especially during performance reviews. When the opportunity arises, mention to your boss ways that you can leverage your new experience, says Peggy Klaus, a workplace consultant in Berkeley, Calif., and the author of 'Brag: The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn Without Blowing It.'

'Anytime you accomplish something noteworthy, just update your boss and co-workers about your successes, obstacles overcome [and] good things that people have said about you,' Ms. Klaus says. 'It can help build a case for that promotion. You can even offer your volunteer work as a positive PR opportunity for the company.'
Step Up After Layoffs

When companies lay off employees who handle special events, they'll often ask the remaining workers to help organize corporate training sessions, meetings or even the company picnic. This is a good opportunity to step up and demonstrate your event-planning acumen or fund-raising skills, says Ms. Klaus.

'You want to make yourself visible to managers and show them that you are able to do so many more things,' she says.

But avoid discussion of activities that are antithetical to the culture of your workplace or industry. Be sure to research any possible conflicts, since you don't want to, say, bring up your role in planning environmental protests if they ended up affecting an important company client.

You also should divorce any extreme viewpoints that your off-work organizations may represent. Stay neutral by highlighting your achievements over any dogma.

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