The 2015 NRL Grand Final goes down as one of the greatest grand finals in rugby league, which ended with a dramatic golden point victory.
I was there on the field that day as one of the cheerleaders. It was my first year as part of the squad and running on to the field with a crowd of 82,000 fans was the greatest adrenaline rush of my life. To have the best seats in the house and be so close to the action made every gruelling training session worth it.
A few days later, still high from the buzz of the game, I came back to work at my full time job as an Accenture consultant.
There are very few similarities between my hobby as a cheerleader and my career as a consultant but I believe the benefits of having a hobby that is completely unrelated to your job are numerous:
Keep your childhood dream alive
Not everybody is in the career they dreamed they would be in as a child. But having a hobby that’s completely unrelated to your work can help keep that childhood dream alive.
For me it was dancing. I’ve been a dancer since I was 3 years old and when I was little dreamed of being a professional dancer. After high school I moved to Melbourne and did a full time dance course - jazz, ballet, tap, contemporary and hip hop. It was a full on year but very rewarding. However, soon after that I made the decision not to pursue a career in dance and instead I finished my business degree and became a consultant.
Although I’m happy with my decision, I always knew that I wanted to keep up dancing in some form. So I auditioned and got a place on an NRL cheerleading squad.
Cheerleading is so different to what I do every day, and for me it’s holding on to that dream just a little bit. To have that one professional dance contract that I’m able to continue with while I pursue my consulting career helps to fulfil that other part of me – the more creative and active side of me.
We train every Wednesday night and go to every home game which could be every second or third week between April and September.
Accenture emphasises the importance of avoiding burnout. My project leads are very much pioneers for the Truly Human movement so they encourage me to go to those training sessions and make sure I don’t stay back or get tied up in meetings late on a Wednesday. They have been hugely supportive and it’s been really helpful.
Having that ‘other thing’ about you that is not just your job is important. If you have training or a class one night per week and everyone knows you leave on time that day, it’s a deliberate day in your calendar where you break from work – no matter how busy. MDs and senior managers within Accenture have days when they go to Yoga or on a run and they emphasise how it’s an important habit to get into to help achieve better work life balance.
I made my project leads aware of my what my cheerleading commitments would be even before I auditioned. Everyone has been very encouraging and it hasn’t been a problem so far.
Clear the mind
Focusing on a hobby is a great way to give your brain a break from work and clear the mind. Doing something creative or active will get the other side of the brain working. When your mind is focused on something you really enjoy or find fun it’s likely to start thinking more creatively, which in turn can help you focus when you are back in work.
Since joining Accenture I’ve had some challenging roles and projects within management consulting in Government with some of the projects involving extensive travel.
So to have the release and outlet of cheerleading has been so important for me and I hope to continue while also pursuing my consulting career.
Although cheerleading might not be for everyone, I’d encourage everybody to have a fun hobby to focus on outside work – the benefits are huge.