Why Playfulness is Important for Your Career

If you walk through the Google Headquarters, you’ll find brightly colored bikes to help employees get around campus faster. Keep walking and each of the Android statues greets you, from the huge Donut to the enormous Ice Cream Sandwich.  It's weird...and cool.

Not that all tech offices are like this but a thread of playfulness runs through Google’s top spots and at those of...

Lego (you know...)

Zynga (video games)

Moo (business cards)

Dropbox (online storage)

Skype (online phone calls)

LivePerson (marketing)

How about your current workplace?  Is it playful?  Is every wall off white?  Does everyone dress like they are the most boring people on Planet Earth?  You can check out some of the most fun workplaces here.

I’m feeling very guilty about this because my work is pretty vanilla.  In a traditional field like education, bold colors and indoor slides are well, unheard of.  If I’m honest, I need to do a better job of promoting “play” and being a more playful person.  Still, it's not exactly clear how I should do this.

The quality of "play" is important for a number of reasons:

  1. People tend to be drawn to organizations that are fun and playful.
  2. Play makes you less boring as you get older.
  3. Play gives you a wonderful set of interests that will come in handy for your next interview.

Let’s take these apart, one by one:

  • Job seekers want to get paid for doing meaningful work.  But, and this is at least true for younger workers, they also want to be a part of something cool, something fun.  Companies like Google know this.
  • Most of us wear khakis and drive Camrys and Accords as we get older (at least speaking for the guys reading this).  Playfulness says “hold up” to this trend.  When I see an old guy driving a Harley, I smile and realize that he’s on to something (and I need to save more cash for that bike!)
  • Playful hobbies are really important for your next interview.  At some point, they will either ask you or you’ll bring it up.  The bottom line inquiry is this, “What’s the rest of your life like outside of work?”  As a hirer, I always ask this and find the responses typically dull.  

Take inventory this week- how playful are you?  What can you do that’s fun and makes you smile?