Moneyish / Carlota Zimmerman

The Secret to using your side hustle to get ahead at work

March 14, 2017

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Mark Zuckerberg attributes a lot of his success to his hobbies.

You don’t need Harvard. You need a side hustle.

Harvard-educated Mark Zuckerberg attributes some of his success to his side projects. “I probably learned more coding from random side projects than the courses that I took in college,” he says in town hall meeting at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University that was broadcast via Facebook Live.

Now, the billionaire Facebook CEO says that he asks job candidates about their side hustles. “At Facebook we often ask [job applicants], ‘What is something that you’ve built that is outside of the jobs you’ve done?’” Zuckerberg says. “Often that’s one of the best ways people can show passion and leadership,” he says.

Experts says he’s onto something: “A side project can give you additional experience, in an area you want to pursue career wise,” says career coach Hallie Crawford.”It can make you more

qualified for those new positions you want, or the promotion you want, and make you more appealing to prospective employers.” Here’s how to make that side hustle work for you.

  • Get the skills you need to advance.

“A hobby or side project can give you new skills,”ays Cheryl Palmer, the founder of career counseling firm Call to Career. “This can be particularly useful for people who are looking to change careers or even focus on a different aspect of the same career.” Let’s say you want to get a sales job, and you currently volunteer at a charity and help them fundraise. That’s a tangible skill that could be leveraged.

  • Showcase skills that might not be obvious.

It’s tough for employers to determine “soft” skills like whether you’re a self-starter or have endurance and motivation. A hobby can help: If your hobby is difficult — say you’re a

marathoner or competitive trivia player — it may be worth mentioning to a new boss or prospective employer. “Certain activities are quite challenging–physically, psychologically and emotionally–and employers will safely assume that the people pursuing those activities are naturally self-motivated, goal-oriented, persistent and unafraid of facing difficult circumstances,” the career experts at Monster.com say.

  • Make it a bonding experience.

Most of you probably have hobbies that aren’t that unique: You’re more of the play tennis, love to knit, obsessively watch Netflix- kind of person. That too can be used to your advantage. Having common hobbies with another person like your boss can help you bond with them, says career coach Carlota Zimmerman — and that can help you get ahead in your career.

  • Pick the right hobby.

That said, it probably makes the most sense to pick a career-related hobby, like Zuckerberg did with coding. “Your hobbies/side projects have to be related to the career that you are interested in for this to have maximum impact,”

says Palmer. “If you like auto detailing, but you really want to advance your career in financial investments, then clearly spending more time on auto detailing is not going to achieve that goal.”

  • Expand your network.

Executive coach Marc Dorio says a hobby is a great way to network. In hundreds of jobs in hundreds of fields — from law to marketing to sales — finding new clients is a priority. Volunteering for a cause you care about, taking a class on something you love: These are all ways to meet those potential clients.

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