By Mia Casey
Regardless of what industry you’re in, tackling a passion project outside of uni and work commitments can be really rewarding. Whether it’s writing a paper to be published, trying out new software, creating an interesting concept project or doing research into a new field – the benefits can be far reaching. Read on to see how a passion project could take your career to the next level!
Set yourself apart
A passion project is the perfect opportunity to stand out from the crowd. Having self-initiated work is a great idea, especially when you’re looking for a new job. It shows that you’re ambitious, willing to put in the work, passionate, and dedicated to your field. Depending on the industry you work in, companies may not ask for an example of your work, but the experience of completing a side project can be great to draw on in an interview.
Outside of this, a side project can help build your professional reputation. If you’re in a creative industry, setting up a website or blog where you can post content you’ve created is a great way to get noticed (see our article on creating an awesome portfolio for more tips!). If you’ve got business cards, include the link to your blog or website as well as your professional information. Do the same on your LinkedIn profile.
If you’re in a more analytical field, try doing some research into a particular topic or development that interests you. If you can get a paper published or even write an article or two exploring these concepts for a blog or website, it can help your professional reputation. Curiosity, passion and the ability to communicate effectively are all worthwhile skills to develop for any career. Further, if you are able to get a piece of work published, others in your field may come across it and share it with their connections. This form of content networking can help build your reputation for driven and intelligent contributions to your field, which could lead to real opportunities further down the line!
Experiment without punishment
A side project also gives you a great opportunity to try out new ideas in your field without serious repercussions. If you’ve come across a development in your field through study or work, that you’re interested in exploring – give it a shot!
This also provides a relatively risk-free way to increase your understanding of complicated concepts or techniques you haven’t previously explored. For example, if you’re in the science or IT industries, developing your understanding of a new technology can help keep you ahead. Impressing your colleagues by utilising this new knowledge in class or at work is just an added bonus (one that could potentially help build connections and promote opportunities later on!). Check out this pretty cool article by Paul Jarvis on the benefits of treating passion projects like experiments.
Develop relevant skills
Working on a passion project also stops your skills from going stale. Maybe you worked with particular software at the beginning of your studies, and now want to try using it again? Or your work doesn’t involve much creativity but you’ve always fancied yourself a bit of a writer? Tryit! These are the sorts of skills that you need to use every so often – the longer you leave between utilising them, the harder they can be to pick back up.
Side projects give you the freedom to develop skills that your studies or work may not currently require of you. Try using tools you’re already familiar with in new ways. Or check out what innovators in your industry are predicting will be ‘the next big thing’ and look into it! What have you got to lose?
If you’re still studying, now could be one of the best times to take on a passion project for yourself! Many (although not all) students work part-time, so mayhave some free time each week – take advantage of this. Further, you’re currently in a position where you’re surrounded by others who share your passion so why not reach out? Working on a side project with a fellow student can be hugely rewarding! It can help develop your teamwork skills, is a great networking opportunity, and invites new perspectives on your idea. Also, if life gets particularly stressful, you can divide the work rather than dropping the project completely.
So why should you start a passion project sooner rather than later? – Well, why not? Fear of failure, or worry that you’ll run out of time a few weeks down the line can be overcome. Just remember: you won’t be letting anyone down if things don’t work out, and you can pause the project to come back to if need be. Side projects can lead to such exciting opportunities, so why not get started?
And remember, as Wayne Gretzky once said: ‘You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.’
So start brainstorming today!
Featured image courtesy of Death to the Stock Photo