Making Your Personal Life Work For Your Business

by Shonali Burke on April 30, 2010

Think your hobbies can’t grow your business? Think again.

I am a wine aficionado. I also love to write fiction, am a total dog person, and often find myself giving career advice to colleagues, especially those new to the workforce.

Why does this matter to anyone other than me? Because I try to make my personal passions and hobbies a part of my business life. And it’s worked out for me.

Example #1: My love of wine – and the fact that my husband is a total wine buff – led me to a freelance job.

My husband signed up for a wine certification course and I met the owner of the wine school that was running the course via his connection to my husband.  He mentioned he needed to do a better job with marketing and PR for his business.

I mentioned my background in this field, we chatted more about it and what I would do for him… and – voilà – for the next year, I spent my evenings and weekends helping him promote his business.

The connection never would have happened if not for my (and my husband’s) passion for wine, and he probably wouldn’t have hired me if not for my love of the subject.

Example #2: My unofficial “career counselor” role – and my recognition of how many “career newbies” needed advice – led to my collaboration with Network Solutions on the new What’s Next, Gen Y? blog.

NetSol Social Media Swami Shashi Bellamkonda and I know each other through various social media circles. We have coffee on occasion, and on one such occasion we got to talking. It turned out some of his goals and my enjoyment of helping “career newbies” navigate the working world and job search process overlapped. I suggested the idea for the blog. Shashi loved it. Now I’m editing that blog.

It never would have happened if I wasn’t open to sharing that part of my life with a work colleague.

My point?

You shouldn’t always feel you need to keep your personal and professional lives separate. And you can take it a step beyond what I’ve outlined above when it comes to marketing and PR for your business.

Do you like to rock climb? Find a way to get featured – or mentioned – in an outdoor/sports publication or blog about your passion. (But don’t pitch your business if it isn’t the topic of the publication. Just ask that they identify you as CEO of XYZ company that does something cool.)

You never know what other CEOs / executives read that same publication… and might reach out to do business with you because (a) they found out you even exist via that “non-traditional” publicity channel, and (b) you all share the same interests.

Think about it…

When you go to a cocktail party or networking event, do you spend the whole time talking business? (If you do – and I know people who do – that’s a big fail right there and the topic for another blog post.)

Do you really want to spend your time talking with someone who does just that? Or do you want to hear about the great recipe someone made for dinner last night, their last trip to an exotic location, or their spelunking adventures?

Probably the latter. And once you’ve made that personal connection, aren’t you more likely to turn to them when you need professional assistance or advice about which they’re experts? I know I am.

Everyone wants to do business with people they think are “like them” in some way and people with whom they’ve made a personal connection.

Your hobbies shouldn’t be something you keep hidden away. Tweet about them. Post to Facebook about them. Find a way to work them into your LinkedIn and Google profiles. Blog about them. You never know where they just might lead you!

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Image: Steve Corey, Creative Commons

Robin Ferrier is the editor of What’s Next, Gen Y? and Communications Manager for the Johns Hopkins University Montgomery County Campus. She is also the President of the Capital Communicators Group and the co-chair of the Marketing Committee for the Tech Council of Maryland. She has inadvertently become a frequent career / professional / job hunt resource for friends and colleagues due to a career path that has included five jobs in 12 years.

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