From the weird to the wonderful, find out how getting involved in extra-curricular activities can enhance your skills and boost your employability
When starting your university experience you'll have plenty of things to think about, such as settling in to new accommodation, exploring a new town or city, making friends and impressing course tutors, but leave some time to consider joining a student club or society.
Perhaps there is already a group which shares your interest in an existing hobby, or maybe this could be your chance to try something new. Becoming an active society member can benefit you in more ways than one.
'Student clubs and societies are a sure-fire way to get more out of your time at university particularly if you consider that university is a transformative experience that prepares you to succeed in the future,' explains Ian Cole, vice president of activities and employability at London South Bank University’s Student’s Union.
Leaders and active members of student groups learn a number of transferable skills, which they can take into their careers
Discover what's on offer
Higher education institutions house hundreds of clubs and societies so to make the most of the opportunities on offer do a little research into available activities.
There are three main types of societies. These include:
- social clubs.
'Activities cover everything from arts and crafts, drama, general interest, specialised interests, languages, politics, religious and cultural groups and sports clubs,' says Carolyn Benson, careers and employability coordinator at the University of Cumbria.
From hiking to hip hop and board games to Game of Thrones, there's something for everyone at The University of Manchester. Over at the University of Leeds you can get involved in baking or book club or if Harry Potter and Quidditch is more your thing then that's on offer too.
With so much variety you can't fail to find an activity to match your interests. However if your institution doesn't have a society to meet your needs and you'd like to start one, have a conversation with the activities/societies officer at your students union (SU).
The value in membership
Signing up to student groups can have a positive impact on your social life, personal development and employment prospects.
'Becoming an active member of a club or society is a great way for undergraduate students to meet new, like-minded people, particularly useful for students on the shy side,' explains Carolyn. Getting involved also provides you with opportunities to expand your network of social and professional contacts.
While academic development is an important aspect of your university experience, so too is personal development, and joining a student group is the perfect opportunity to try something new and gain different experiences.
Extra-curricular activities of this nature also add value to your CV. 'Listing clubs and societies on your CV highlights to future employers a number of skills that you will have developed such as: organisational skills, leadership skills and teamwork,' says Lena Bauchop, career development adviser at the University of Stirling.
'Joining a society that is linked to your career choice or becoming a student ambassador can really make your CV stand out from the crowd, especially if you've held a position of responsibility.'
As an added bonus membership can help you strike a balance between the pressures and demands of academic study by doing something fun and sociable.
How to get involved
Carolyn suggests attending your institution's freshers' fair as a starting point when looking for opportunities. 'These fairs and other social events are a great chance to meet the students running the activity and to get to know a bit more before you join,' adds Ian.
Keep an eye on department or faculty notice boards for information on subject-specific societies. Sports and general interest clubs are usually publicised via your SU. Your SU website should also contain a full list of available activities. Social media is a great way to keep up to date with what's happening with clubs and societies so try following your university and SU on sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn for all the latest news.
Getting involved is easy; most groups will have their own contact email where you can directly enquire about membership. Don't be afraid to get in touch, groups will be happy to welcome new members. Alternatively you could speak to your SU activities officer who will be able to advise you on how to join groups that interest you.
There isn't a limit on how many clubs and societies you can join but bear in mind your academic commitments and the fact that you may need to juggle your schedule to honour all group meetings, socials and practices. There's no need to be put off by the cost of joining either, in the majority of cases signing up is free. Some clubs may charge a fee but in this instance members are heavily discounted during events and socials, be sure to check before you join.
If you're left with any lingering doubt about whether to sign up Ian advises you to just go for it. 'Get involved in as many things as possible while at university, not only does it make your experience better it gives you skills employers are looking for and in some cases can even make you aware of a career path or sector that you had not given any previous thought to.'