Tag Archives: eric idle

Strangling Animals? Golf? What your hobbies say about you…

Paul Simon began “have a good time” with “yesterday it was my birthday…”. Well that was in the 1970s and you couldn’t get your LED watches to work properly, the batteries kept running out.

So we can forgive Mr Simon for being a day late with his birthday…probably waiting for Arty’s card to arrive. Anywhere where was I, yes, well, um, today it is my birthday, and I am still far younger than I look. I thought my age would one day catch up with my looks, but I have to take my hat off to my looks, they are doing a creditable impression of a 1970s kenyan long distance olympic runner – miles ahead of the pack before collapsing in an undignified heap shortly before being passed by the whole field – story of my life… How where was I? Yes,…well… everyone needs a hobby don’t they? They say that idle hands end up in front of the magistrate, or at least that was what my probation officer said, or was it my psychiatrist, I can’t remember… I am getting old you see. Anyway enough of channelling Frankie Howerd and on with the piece for today…no don’t, I thought of it too!! It’s on hobbies…enjoy. I will be in Melbourne when this gets published, I wonder if Jimmy Watson’s wine bar is open tonight…

If you want to get shortlisted for your next job, can I suggest that you take up Touch Football? However if you like camping or waterskiing, do not bother applying. These odd sounding recommendations come from some work that myself and a colleague in the recruitment industry, Kate Day undertook looking at the different hobbies that candidates had listed on their resumes and whether or not they were subsequently shortlisted for the job. We looked at a total of 999 candidate resumes that were submitted to a recruitment company for a variety of different jobs. Around 50% of the resumes listed hobbies, but it appears that there are differences across industry sectors in the tendency to include hobby information. For instance, Sales people obviously love their hobbies with 57% listing them on their resumes. In contrast only 32% of the Human Resource people those listed hobbies. Maybe the sales types have more spare time, or perhaps the Human resource people follow their own guidelines and stick only to the job relevant information.

A total of 159 different hobbies were listed across the resumes. The top ten most frequently listed were: 1st reading, 2nd travelling, 3rd Golf, 4th Tennis, 5th Swimming, 6th listening to, music,7th family ,8th rugby, 9th snowsking, = 10th fishing and going to the gym. Some of the least frequent included collecting cigarette cards, washing the car, tap dancing and keeping reptiles.

When it comes to getting shortlisted not all hobbies are equal. The ten best hobbies that were associated with resumes that got shortlisted were: Touch football, Squash, Cricket, Cooking, Wine, Rugby, Motor racing, Tennis, Socialising and Biking. When these hobbies were included, the chances of being shortlisted was increased by between 24% and 147%.

The worst ten hobbies to include turned out to be (from least worst to worst): Golf, Walking, listening to music, theatre, movies, art/craft, bushwalking, entertaining, camping and water skiing. Including those suckers on your resume was associated with a reduced chance of being shortlisted by between 28% and 73%.

So perhaps Monty Python were right and golf (along with strangling animals) is not that popular around here. Before the Camping Water Skiers Association of Australia confront me with a tent pole or “goofy feet”, I should point out that the survey although reasonably big may not be totally representative.

Interestingly, the desirable hobbies were on average slightly more likely to be included on resumes generally (average ranking 21) compared to the undesirable hobbies (average ranking 28). However, the most commonly listed hobbies such as reading and travelling were associated with only negligible impacts on shortlisting (+1% and -3% respectively). In other words, you are probably wasting your time listing these hobbies.

What are hobbies for? Are they an escape from the stresses of our day jobs, a coping mechanism to provide the rewards that our work cannot give us? Alternatively are they a dry run for a future radical career change, a try before you buy, or are they a means to an end? The answer is probably all of the above, and there is no straight answer to whether you should turn your hobby into work. For some it is likely to be a dream come true, and for others, it is a sure fire recipe to turn your escape into drudgery. As for whether you should include them on the resume or not, we found that overall including hobbies made no difference to your chances of getting shortlisted, but if you do include hobbies, some seem to be more popular for whatever reason than others.

A recruiter once told me, you should do a lot with your life to ensure that you have something to put on your resume. Maybe we should just aim to do a lot with our lives and not worry about putting it on the resume!

What’s so bad about being Idle? It worked for Eric.

Earth hour recently, has got me thinking about the good that can come from doing the career equivalent of switching off the lights for a while. One of the most talked-about issues for employers is the war for talent. You dear reader are in historically short supply, which means that now has never been a better time to take your pick of jobs, or to negotiate a great package. Alternatively, what better time to take your foot off the pedal and give yourself a much-needed break from the incessant pressure to achieve?

At least since the “greed is good” 1980s we seem to have been on an upward trajectory of do more, play less. A close friend of mine working in the finance industry recalled in the early nineties, her boss would get in around 9:30am, make a few a trades until 1pm, and then either disappear, or reappear tired and emotional at around 5pm to collect his car. He was a huge success on all objective financial performance measures. Another good friend also worked in the financial sector throughout this period. She would get in at 8am, and stay routinely until 7pm and often much later. She thought nothing of going into the office on a Sunday morning to work for at least five hours, every week, almost without exception. Sure it got her promotions, until her boss and mainstay was made redundant, and then she lost her job pretty soon after. All those hours seemingly counted for nothing.

However those were the good old days when employers had the upper hand and there was a limitless supply of well-qualified and eager young professionals clamouring to be part of the success story that was the “designer brand” of the top corporates. Sacrifice was expected if you wanted to succeed with some of these employers. In one case I know of, a twentysomething aspiring consultant working for an international firm of management consultants was seen out with her boyfriend. The following day she was instructed directly by her managing partner to drop her boyfriend because he was not employed by the company and so he would not understand the pressures and expectations placed upon her.

You have to ask yourself why do people sacrifice so much in the pursuit of being busy? Is it the financial rewards they believe will follow, or is it the prestige and recognition that they are striving for? Either goal is generally wrong-headed and merely puts you on an hedonistic treadmill, where no matter how fast you run, you never seem to get anywhere. Dr Johnson was an early fan of idleness writing “Every mode of life has its conveniencies. The Idler, who habituates himself to be satisfied with what he can most easily obtain, not only escapes labours which are often fruitless, but sometimes succeeds better than those who despise all that is within their reach, and think every thing more valuable as it is harder to be acquired.”

Some people are born idle, some achieve idleness and others have idleness thrust upon them. For the born idle, it must feel like the golden years have finally arrived. If they have partied (in an idle fashion) through youth/ university, to their delight they have probably ended up employed almost as readily as their swotty colleagues for whom youth/ university flew by in a fog of industry, rather than merely a fog. Others are more recent converts to idleness. The moment of conversion takes many forms, but often will be sparked by a critical moment at work usually on a Monday. Having worked for fifteen days straight for 15 hours a day to meet a deadline they had no personal attachment to, they are subjected to a memo from the their boss noting that they arrived at work today fifteen minutes late. At this moment they make a solemn declaration to withdraw from the workplace psychologically without giving the mandatory 14 days notice, and discover a life outside but still in the office such as internet chequers, chat rooms, pot plants, Puzzler magazine, joke of the day/week/month/minute and the romantic possibilities to be had in the stationary cupboard.

Finally some have idleness thrust upon them by a reversal of health or job or both. During recuperation there is plenty of time to consider their purpose and to realign it to matters beyond occupation, such as their family, their hobbies or their health.

It is no coincidence that almost without exception all religions and all self-help books on stress and relaxation emphasise the importance of silent meditation and quietness as a way of being better people. We should all give ourselves a guilt free earth-hour every day as a start to using our energies more efficiently.

Jim Bright is Professor of Career Education and Development at ACU National and a Partner at Bright and Associates, a Career Management Consultancy.