How Free is Our Free Time?

One of the best parts of starting university is having both the time and the opportunity to try out many different things and learn more about yourself – what you love, what you are good at (not necessarily the same), and what you really, really don’t like. Because it doesn’t matter, this is your time to experiment, and you can switch, back out or take another hobby any time. At least that is how it’s supposed to be.

During  Freshers’ week, while looking through societies, I noticed one constant in the majority of the descriptions. The well-known “It would look good on your CV”. Employers love people who do student (musical) theatre, volunteers working in schools in impoverished areas of Glasgow, people who do team sports, people who do individual sports, members of the European Society, … To be honest, I’m pretty sure employers would even like for you to join the Harry Potter society, if you then become a board member. Finally, and thankfully, employers love writers at qmunicate. And from one point of view, that is great, you can get extra references by simply doing what you love and later hanging out in Jim’s Bar. What more could you wish for?! It is kind of perfect.

But let’s take a step back and look at what this really means. It basically means that we no longer choose our societies/hobbies just out of curiosity or an already known affinity; the decision to join and/or to leave a society or start a hobby is quickly becoming a calculation, a mental pro and con list of how it would effect our professional life. Which hobby would be seen as an indicator of my ambitious nature and drive for success, yet show that I am a team player? I mean, I love art, but joining the Arts Appreciation society doesn’t do too well on that plus and minus list, as much I want it to. And how do I explain why I left the Student Theatre at Glasgow after only a month? While it shows both my great ambition and teamwork-skills, it is simply not my cup of tea.

Even if all of that isn’t on your mind yet, wait until your family ask you what you have taken up. After all, they may be paying for your educational experience, which includes for you to be somewhere that offers the opportunity to join societies and/or  take up hobbies on the side, so you better be worth the investment.

Furthermore, there are cases when people cannot afford to have a hobby. Taking yet another example from the university life – if you are a home student, commuting more than once a day can be very expensive, and so is constantly spending your gaps in Starbucks. That answer might satisfy an employer asking why you don’t have any societies on your resumé, but you still have to admit that this individual is at a disadvantage compared to other applicants. Just like when parents might not be able to afford to send their child to a music/ballet school, which in my home country of Croatia lowers your chances of getting into a good high school. Three years of music/ballet school can give you an extra point in the overall score (based on grades, and in specific cases, medical conditions) that very often is the deal-breaker in terms of which high school you manage to enroll in. And then high school education can influence which university you go to, and that in turn what your professional life will be like. So if at the age of 11 you don’t have dance/musical aspirations, and if you don’t go to the university that is either very close to home, or far enough away that you have to live in an accommodation, you might have a big problem that it is not at all your fault.

Unfortunately, as much as we try, we cannot escape the here and now, nor the culture it brings. And nowadays, obtaining a job is difficult, but essential. If something makes a difference in achieving a professional goal, I believe it is a good idea to take the opportunity. Picking up a hobby close to home, or even at home should suffice. Nevertheless, we shouldn’t let future employment be the only criteria, nor the most important one when it comes to how we spend our free time. Hobbies also matter because they help personal growth. And we have to admit, primarily to ourselves, that personal growth is not only seen in job-related qualities, but also in how creative, physically healthy, fulfilled, and broad-minded our future self will be. And after all, it might be just those things that in the end make the perfect individual for the job.

[Žad P. Novak]


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