What If Your Hobbies Hold the Key to Your Dream Career?

Most people hope to find a job they like or even love. But when I ask students what they do for fun, they often look surprised at the notion that the things they enjoy might have anything to do with their college major or career. If you want to find work you really like, it only makes sense to start with the topics and activities you like the most. What do you choose to do when you could be doing anything at all?

I’m not necessarily suggesting you should literally make your hobbies into your career–though sometimes it does work out that way. But the things you do for fun contain clues we can use to find work that might be a great fit for you. You don’t become a different person at the beginning of your workday. The things you like to do outside of work probably have a lot in common with the things you’d enjoy most in a job.

Interests and Career

One way to think about this is through the RIASEC model. This is a system developed by John Holland, a psychologist and influential career theorist. The idea is that there are six major occupational themes out there–vocational personality types that describe people as well as the work settings where they do best. Here’s a quick summary.

  • Realistic types are doers who like to do concrete work that is hands-on and practical, like carpenters.
  • Investigative types are thinkers who like to observe, problem-solve and analyze, like researchers.
  • Artistic types are creators who like to innovate, think outside the box and express themselves, like designers.
  • Social types are helpers who like to work with people and provide assistance, care and guidance, like teachers.
  • Enterprising types are persuaders who like to perform, lead, and influence people, like sales agents.
  • Conventional types are organizers who like to work with data and details, like accountants.

We can describe career paths using these themes–usually two or three in combination–and we can also identify one to three themes that describe our interests in both work and play.

So how do you figure out your theme code? There are a few ways. You might find that right off the bat, you know a couple of these are things you enjoy while others you’d run away from as fast as possible. At UNM Career Services, you can take the Strong Interest Inventory, a formal assessment based on the RIASEC model. Come and see us if you’re interested!

You can also try the free Interest Profiler from O*NET (a great occupation database), which will give you the same type of code. Both assessments just ask you a bunch of questions about things you enjoy. Then, you can connect it back to career by using the Interests search on O*NET to explore occupations with similar codes to yours.

So How Does it Work?

Let’s look at a few examples. Say a person likes to play rugby, fix up bicycles, and participate in Toastmasters. She might find that her theme code is RE (Realistic, Enterprising). Looking at occupations coded RE and similar, we can see that she might really like working as a Forester or a Real Estate Appraiser.

Let’s say we know another person who likes to read National Geographic, watch How It’s Made, take photographs, and do origami. He might find that his theme code is IAR (Investigative, Artistic, Realistic). Plugging IAR into O*NET, we learn that he might enjoy being a Landscape Architect or a Geographer.

Finally, consider a person who volunteers at a local food pantry, enjoys teaching children’s classes at her house of worship, and loves to color-code her schedule every week. Her theme code might be SC (Social, Conventional). We can take a look at occupations coded SC and see that she might do great as a Religious Activities Director or working in Human Resources.

You Are Who You Are

The takeaway here is that we like what we like, whether we’re at work or at home. Your hobbies and interests are a great place to look for ideas about what you might enjoy in school and work. The key is to identify the common themes–the patterns behind the passtimes. The RIASEC model is one way to do just that.

Want help connecting your hobbies and interests to your education and career? Come see us at Career Services!


Shalom Leo Bond
Career Development Facilitator
UNM Career Services

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