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Jul 01 2017
by Natasha Beauchesne

11 Hobbies to Take Up that Build Useful Skills

By Natasha Beauchesne - Jul 01 2017

Summer is officially here, and with the return of warm weather and flip flops comes a lot more free time. Though many college students have summer jobs, we no longer have 10-page essays or lab reports to write like we do throughout the school year. What should we do with all this newfound time? Though sitting on the couch and binge-watching Netflix is tempting, it might be more productive to take up a few new hobbies. Hobbies act as a creative outlet that engage your brain and give you something to look forward to. This is not to mention that many hobbies can help you to build up skills, many of which may become helpful in the future at work or school. Here are 11 hobbies you could start today that will help build up useful skills.

1. Endurance Sports

Endurance sports like running or biking will not only contribute to terrific physical fitness, but will also require you to develop mental toughness. Skills such as mindfulness, focus and awareness are essential to endurance sports and will come in handy not only in school and future jobs, but also just in day-to-day life. Plus, employers look for these skills in jobs related to business and sales.

Check out the basics of running here and the basics of cycling here.

2. Blogging

Blogging is an especially useful hobby to take up if you are interested in a career in marketing or communications. It builds up writing skills as well as providing you with more in-depth computer experience, depending on what website platform you choose to use. These skills will come in handy for practically any job and will look impressive on a resume. Just make sure your blog is articulate and error-free. 

Starting a blog is a bit different now than it used to be back in 2005, so check out this article here or click here to figure out which sites host blogs for free.

3. Acting

Anyone who has been in a play or musical will tell you that acting is a very versatile hobby with broadly applicable skills. It stretches your ability to memorize, since acting involves not only memorizing lines but also characters, settings and stage directions. It also forces you outside your comfort zone and improves your improvisation skills. If you are shy and quiet, acting will improve your speaking skills and make you more comfortable in the spotlight. All of these skills will contribute to your resume in a positive way.

Use this site to find acting classes near you.

4. Painting

Painting — and any kind of art form, for that matter — will allow you to express yourself creatively. If you stick with it long enough, it will teach you patience and creative problem-solving and will develop your eye for graphic design. It can also be a great hobby for winding down after a long day, which is helpful for keeping stress in check and ultimately boosting your productivity.

Angela Anderson on YouTube has some great painting tutorials, as well as Painting with Jane and, of course, Bob Ross.

5. Foreign Languages

Obviously, learning a new language will help you communicate better with people you couldn't previously talk to. But besides from that obvious benefit, learning foreign languages is terrific for your brain. Studies have shown that bilingual or trilingual people are better able to make decisions, to memorize different material and to multitask. And even without all these useful skills that you develop from learning a new language, you don't have to be a genius to figure out that knowing a language other than English looks impressive on a resume or application. 

Try the app Duolingo or this website to learn more.

6. Playing an Instrument

Learning how to play an instrument (and no, Patrick, mayonnaise is not an instrument) teaches you a wide range of skills. Some of these skills are more practical, such as learning how to read music, keep time and develop your rhythm. But some of the skills gained from musical experience are more abstract. Panos Panay, the managing director at Berklee College's Institute for Creative Entrepreneurship, has this to say about the important of playing an instrument:

"Learning how to play a musical instrument and becoming a musician is an exercise in developing good listening skills, experimenting, overcoming repeated failure, self-discipline and successful collaboration."

If you can, try to look into taking music lessons or practicing an instrument that you can already play. The benefits are immense. Find a local instructor for yourself here.

7. Starting a Collection

We've all heard of "stamp collecting" as an example of a hobby and probably rolled our eyes. After all, how much skill does it actually take? Well, as it turns out, collecting things just might be a worthwhile hobby to pick up over the summer. After all, Charles Darwin himself was once a small boy with a beetle collection. Collecting things improves your observational skills, boosts your creativity, and makes you more likely to notice patterns. It can also improve your organizational skills as you attempt to organize your collection. Employers like to see unique hobbies listed on your resume and there's no shame in claiming your collection as a hobby. Just make sure your collecting doesn't slowly evolve into hoarding.

8. Caring for Animals

Learning how to take care of another living creature is maybe one of the most useful skills you could have. There are many places to practice this hobby. If you have any kind of pet at home, that's a very easy way to practice caring for animals. But if you do not own any pets or cannot have pets in a college dorm or apartment, fear not. Many animal shelters are happy to take volunteers who are eager to work with and clean up after the animals. There are also specific activities and sports that involve animals, such as horseback riding and showing animals like sheep, dogs, and cows. Hobbies that involve working with animals require a vast skill set. Learning to interact with other humans (such as veterinarians, farriers and other animal technicians) is essential, as are science, thinking, administrative and motor skills. 

9. Carpentry

Besides being an incredibly practical hobby to take up, carpentry can lead to many job opportunities in the future. Basic carpentry requires a lot of hard work and time, but you will be rewarded with a great variety of new abilities. Among these are newfound mathematic skills and mechanical skills, as well as critical thinking and computer skills. Plus, you'll be able to build basic things and have a keener eye for details. 

Learn the basics of the tools here or try some projects for beginners here.

10. Geocaching

This is one of those hobbies that may have been looked at as lame or useless when you were younger, but it is definitely one of the cooler hobbies to get into as a college student. In this day and age of GPS and, "Siri, get me directions to the nearest Taco Bell," learning how to read a map is an essential yet seldom-taught skill that many people lack. Geocaching teaches you how to do this, in addition to reading a compass and learning how to solve problems. Also, you will get the bonus of teamwork skills if you join a geocaching club. 

Start your geocaching journey off right here.

11. Photography

Not only is photography relaxing and creative, it is a great avenue through which to begin exploring the world. Many people find themselves much more at ease with a camera around their neck taking pictures than they are just standing around observing. Photography allows you to sharpen your technical skills with the camera and to gain greater confidence when handling the equipment and editing your photos. It also provides you with more general skills such as the ability to market your work and to interact with people. 

This site here offers free online photography classes for beginners.

Rather than just falling into the rut of sleeping, working and watching Netflix this summer, why not try something new? The trick with hobbies, however, is you have to keep up with them. Try to practice your hobby a little bit each day, and before you know it you will find your skillset improving. 

Lead Image Credit: Unsplash

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Natasha Beauchesne -

Natasha Beauchesne is a sophomore at Le Moyne College majoring in English with a concentration in creative writing. She enjoys reading, running, yoga, and cuddling with her cats. If you have any leftovers, she will most certainly eat them all for you. Follow her on Twitter @tashabeau

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