Whether it’s all about Harry Potter, kayaking or student radio, being involved in university clubs and societies can make all the difference when it comes to applying for internships and jobs. Taking part in extracurricular activities is a great way to develop key skills that employers are looking for, such as communication, teamwork and time management. Recruiters look for evidence of your abilities and your potential to succeed – and it doesn’t matter whether those abilities come from your social life or your work experience.
Indeed, having interests that go beyond your academic work will also help you to come across as a well-rounded candidate and will give you something to talk about at networking events with employers. Moreover, if you meet a recruiter who shares your interests then so much the better. Many companies have their own sports teams and social clubs and welcome candidates who can bring something to this side of their business.
Don’t just join: make a difference!
Being part of a student society is great, but if you’re just a passive member it won’t do either you or the club you’ve joined much good. Make the most of your involvement; actively helping out in some way is much better than just attending events. And, if you do play a part, ask yourself if you’re doing your best to make improvements and bring something new to the organisation and its work. You don’t have to hold an official position such as treasurer, secretary, president or team captain; even taking responsibility for organising some aspect of the society’s activities will stand you in good stead.
Getting involved in clubs and societies outside university can also help you stand out when the time comes to apply for jobs. For example, you could contribute to a community newsletter, help with youth work or at a play scheme for children. Joining in with groups that aren’t purely for students, either at home or near your university, is a good way to broaden your experience and recruiters will be impressed by your ability to work with people from different backgrounds and age groups.
What hobbies will look good on my CV?
All involvement in extracurricular activities will hone your time management skills and show recruiters you can juggle competing priorities. Here are some examples of the types of organisation you could join and the potential benefits.
Subject societies and professional societies. These typically offer a mixture of social events and opportunities for professional development and networking. For example, a student law society might run mooting and debating competitions, offer guidance on pro bono work and organise trips to law fairs and courts as well as holding an annual ball. If you are interested in a career in the City, your university’s finance society may offer trading games to help you develop your investment skills. Entrepreneurial societies typically provide access to mentoring and facilities to help would-be entrepreneurs kickstart their business ventures, as well as the chance to compete for funding.
Sports clubs. Whether you are committed to a particular sport or decide to try something new, organising matches and training sessions will help you to develop your leadership, communication and administrative abilities. Playing matches as part of a team will also provide you with plenty of examples of your teamwork skills.
Student TV, radio and newspapers. If you’re interested in a career in the media or publishing, getting involved at university will make a big difference to your prospects and could help you secure a place on a postgraduate training course. Even if you don’t want to work in the media when you graduate, it’s a good way to practise your communication skills. You could also provide support in areas such as IT, design, sales and marketing.
Campaigning or political societies. Committed to a cause? Eager to press for change? Your efforts are also likely to develop your negotiation and persuasion skills.
Volunteering, charitable and fundraising groups. Whether you’re manning a helpline for other students or wearing a onesie and shaking a bucket during Rag Week, you’ll develop your problem-solving ability, emotional intelligence and creativity by finding fresh ways to support good causes. If you are interested in a career in the charity sector, getting this kind of experience while you are at university is invaluable. Also, many employers place a high value on corporate social responsibility and encourage staff to get involved in volunteering, so they will welcome evidence of your interest in helping others.
Make the most of your interests and hobbies in your applications and interviews
Make sure that you write about all of the extracurricular activities that you have actively participated in on your CV, emphasising the skills you’ve developed and the contributions you made (get more tips on writing about your personal interests on your CV here).
You can also talk about your extracurricular activities in answer to application form questions such as ‘Tell us something different or unique about you’.
At both application and interview stage, you can use your extracurricular activities in answer to competency-based interview questions such as ‘Describe a time when you worked in a team’. You could also draw on them to answer the classic interview question ‘What is your most significant achievement?’. Graduate recruiters tend to hear a lot of similar answers based around students’ degree courses, so it will make you stand out if you use a different example in your answers.
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