Your interests and hobbies can define you in your personal life. But they’re also crucial for your professional life and career. Leveraging your hobbies and interests for your brand can differentiate you from your competitors and add to your relatability.

If you’re in the job market, employers commonly look for a “cultural fit”. If you’re a freelancer, you understand the importance of building rapport. Your interests and hobbies play an essential role in both these areas. Whether you get a job or close a sale can come down to what you had in common with another person or how interesting they found you. It’s great to hire someone with the proper credentials but could be even better if you know they’re a part-time skydiving instructor!

In this article, I explain how to leverage your interests and hobbies to develop your brand equity and why it’s important to do so. This is especially important to job seekers and freelancers.

What’s your ‘thing’?

It’s hard to stand out from the crowd. Whether you’re one of one hundred in a pool of job applicants or a freelancer trying to pitch your services, the people on the other end may see similar resumes or pitches again and again. Selling yourself ultimately comes down to your credentials and presentation. But your interests can make you more memorable. After a long day of interviews or discovery calls, decision makers may remember the “person who coaches soccer” more than anyone else.

Hobbies also make you more relatable. By discussing your hobbies and interests, you may find out the other person has the same interest. This point of commonality can set the whole tone of your conversation in the right direction.

For example, I once had an interview where I spent half the time speaking to the hiring manager about cameras because we both enjoyed photography. We discussed different brands and our editing process. Our common interest ultimately helped me land a job offer.

Whatever interests and hobbies you have, it doesn’t necessarily need to be related to the job. The point is not to add to your credentials but to make you more memorable and relatable.

Not all interests and hobbies are appropriate

Not all interests and hobbies are equal. It’s essential to stay away from interests that may seem controversial, such as political ones. It’s also important how you portray your interests. For example, describing yourself as a “vegan who’s against eating meat” may be risky. But it’s unlikely that someone finds a “passion for animal welfare” as controversial.

You also want to ensure you’re able to discuss any interests or hobbies you claim to have. If you say you are interested in classical music, prepare yourself to discuss your favourite Mozart piece or Baroque composer. Although interests and hobbies aren’t usually related to a job interview or discovery meeting, an inability to follow through on how you brand yourself can decrease your overall credibility.

How to portray your interests and hobbies professionally 

I always keep an “interesting facts” section on my resume and reserve the last line of my LinkedIn summary for interests I have beyond my career. In job interviews, the interest and hobbies section is an excellent place for interviewers to turn to if there’s an awkward silence or if they’ve run out of questions.

A dicier move is to use your LinkedIn headline to list an exciting bit about yourself. There are dozens of financial analysts and marketing managers on LinkedIn. Sometimes having that riskier tidbit in the headline can help you stand out.

Don’t be afraid to use your hobbies and interests to improve your brand. They’re an essential asset that can differentiate you from crowds of other job applicants and freelancers. Selling yourself is about not only your credentials, but also what you’re like on a personal level. And there’s nothing better than your passion for boating or succulents to show that you’re not just another “suit”.