Summer suggestions for professional development, part 2

 May 5, 2014

Sculpture by Professor Efraim Rodriguez Cobos of the University of Barcelona. [CC-BY-2.0]

We all look forward to summertime during graduate school–but the livin’ isn’t as easy as Gershwin and Heyward suggested. You might feel that you finally have time to focus on your research, without the demands of coursework or teaching. It may be a time for field research or international conferences that take you away from campus. Long as your summer to-do list may already be, let me suggest one more item to add: cultivate a hobby.

Recent research has found that adopting a creative hobby can hep you perform better at your job. Researchers discovered that creative outlets outside work helped people solve problems creatively at work. And, no matter what the hobby, they found that people who engage in creative practices off the job were more helpful to their colleagues at work. (Anecdotal evidence suggests that this correlation holds true among Graduate School staff.)

Moreover, developing a creative hobby can also help you position yourself as a flexible professional when you’re looking for a job. A 2010 IBM survey of 1500 CEOs from around the world found that they believed creativity was the most important factor in their future success. Creativity won’t just be needed in the C-suite, though, for organizations to achieve success; they’ll need creative thinkers throughout, which is where you come in. As a bonus, developing a creative outlet can help you combat stereotypes about PhDs as single-minded and too narrowly focused, especially if you’re contemplating a career beyond the traditional tenure-track.

Whether you decide to perform Porgy and Bess with an amateur musical theatre company, start a foodie blog from your field research outpost, or take a shot at exploring your interest in photography, make time to nurture your hobby this summer. Cultivating creative interests–and, if you can, sharing them–demonstrates that you’re an interesting human being as well as a compelling potential colleague, no matter what your career path.

Dr. Melissa Bostrom is Assistant Dean for Graduate Student Professional Development in the Graduate School, and an Alto 2 with Voices.