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Having a Hobby in College Can Pay Off — I'm Proof!

Guest Contributor

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By Vincent Zurzolo

When students start college, the questions are always the same: "What’s your major?" "What do you plan to study?" The focus is on academics. People hardly ever ask them, “What are you going to do for fun?” And that’s a shame.

Following their passions in college can be the key to students leading successful, happy lives.

Not only does pursuing a hobby give them a way to blow off steam and relieve stress, it could lead to a future career. I should know. That’s exactly what happened for me.

My passion was (and is) comic books. I first discovered a love of comic books when I was four or five years old. In my teens, I began buying and selling comic books with friends. As an undergrad at St. John’s University, I studied marketing. Then, shortly after graduating in 1993, I set up on the streets of lower Manhattan and sold comics to stockbrokers coming out of the Exchange.

My father wasn’t thrilled when I told him I wanted to make my living selling comic books full time, but he relented after I explained how I could put my marketing degree to use in this new venture.

I used the marketing skills I learned in college to help grow my business.

In 1999, I joined forces with Stephen Fishler to form what is now the world’s largest vintage comic book dealership, Metropolis Collectibles. Eight years later, we launched our online auction house, Our companies hold five Guinness world records for comics bought and sold. We also created the Metropolis Gallery featuring comic book art.

Getting to that stage wasn’t easy, but it wouldn’t have happened if my parents had forced me to give up my hobby and follow a more traditional path. And my success is far from a fluke. I recently heard about a man in his early twenties who belonged to a magic club in high school. He came to New York for college on a music scholarship. It wasn’t long before he visited a magic shop where he learned about a local club and, through that, made connections and began performing magic while still in college. Now, less than two years after graduating, he’s supporting himself as a professional magician in New York City, supplementing his income with a job at the same magic shop he visited in college.

Of course, not every student’s hobby will turn into a career, but you’ll never find out if you tell your kids to set aside their hobbies in favor of non-stop studying.

So, how do you let go?

First, remember, that a hobby can provide balance in your student’s life. A single-minded focus on academics may leave your student stressed and anxious. Encourage them to regularly spend time on an activity they enjoy.

Second, understand that it’s not just what your student does in the classroom that will help them land their first job. Internships and, yes, hobbies, can help them stand out from the crowd.

Third, know that when your student really loves something, they will work harder at it.

Fourth, talk to them about their goals. Is their hobby just something to do in their free time? Great; make sure you discuss how to carve out time for it without cutting into time they should spend studying. Do they think their hobby could lead to a career? Suggest they take classes that will support this goal and start to make connections with people in the business, industry or art form while they’re still in college.

Even a hobby that's “just a hobby” can teach valuable skills in areas like time management and goal setting.

The best advice I can give parents is to lead by example. Instead of telling your student what to do, demonstrate it in your own life. Show them the importance of writing down goals and planning how to achieve them. This exercise will serve them well academically and with their hobbies. Setting goals for a hobby they love can teach them just how much they can accomplish if they try. That’s a valuable lesson no matter what they choose to do in life.

Sometimes a hobby is just a hobby, but sometimes, it can lead a person to a career they never imagined.

Vincent Zurzolo is co-owner of Metropolis Comics, Comic and the Metropolis Gallery in New York City.
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