The importance of extra-curricular activities

Author
Rachel Swain, Editorial manager
Posted
June, 2019

When you're looking for a job you need to have more on your CV than just your academic achievement, so make the most of any opportunities to pursue extra-curricular activities

Getting involved in sports clubs, societies, volunteering and part-time work is a great way to meet new people, enjoy your time at university and ensure you strike a healthy balance between studying and your social life.

But it will also make you a better candidate for graduate roles, by giving you lots of practical examples you can use in job applications to show off your skills.

‘Extra-curricular activities help students to learn about themselves and develop and use their skills and knowledge in different contexts,’ says Chris Davison, deputy director of, and careers adviser with, the careers and enterprise team at Durham University. ‘Such activities are an essential element of the university experience.’

Sports clubs and societies

Universities and students' unions typically host countless clubs and societies that you can join. The three main types are:

  • sports teams
  • subject-based groups
  • social clubs organised around a shared interest.

‘All employers are looking for students and graduates who have a range of skills, personal qualities and experience, which will help them to be productive in the workplace. Extra-curricular activities give you the chance to develop these by doing things you enjoy. This is the best opportunity to have fun and make yourself more employable at the same time,’ says Ian Hodges, careers and employability manager at the University of Exeter.

There will often be different groups for different abilities too - for example, separate sports clubs for those who want to play competitively and for those who want to play more casually for fun or to get fit.

Whether you aim to continue with a hobby you've been enjoying for years or try something completely new, you're almost certain to find a club or society that fits the bill. Attend freshers' fair, check faculty notice boards and browse the students' union website to discover what's on offer.

Don't be put off by cost - some clubs and societies are free to join, and while others do charge a small fee you'll generally get discounts on events and socials in return.

By taking part you'll build long-lasting friendships and connections, meet students from different backgrounds, and gain transferable skills such as communication, teamwork, organisation, problem solving and time management. It will also improve your confidence.

If you want to go a step further you could become chairperson, treasurer or secretary of your club or society to develop your leadership abilities. Having held positions of authority will really impress graduate recruiters. Learn more about what skills employers want.

Alternatively, if there's nothing available that matches your interests, you could set up your own club or society. Your students' union will be able to advise you on how to do this.

Other options include:

  • becoming a course ambassador
  • volunteering as a representative for your hall of residence
  • contributing to the student radio or newspaper
  • standing in student elections.

Volunteering

Giving your time to good causes for free is another way to develop your skills and connect with potential employers. It can increase your knowledge of a particular type of work, help you decide what you want to do and give you 'real life' experience of hard-to-enter sectors such as conservation.

You could volunteer with a charity or non-profit organisation, a school, a hospital or a local community centre. Volunteering is possible in most roles; however bear in mind that some organisations require experience, training or knowledge, so conduct thorough research before applying.

In addition to giving back to others and allowing you to meet new people, volunteering also gives you the opportunity to boost your CV with real work/life experience. You’ll also gain valuable skills such as decision making, build your confidence and explore different areas of work.

Whether it's just a few hours a week, a couple of days a month or the entire summer break there is no limit to the amount of time you can spend volunteering. Be realistic and ensure that any voluntary work doesn't interfere with your university studies, part-time job or other extracurricular activities.

Explore the different types of volunteering you can do and search for opportunities.

Part-time work

Working during university allows you to earn money while trying out different industries and gaining insight into the various roles. It’s also a great opportunity to make friends outside of your course or halls of residence.

A part-time job can give you the work experience that is sought after by employers and provide excellent examples for you to use in future interviews. It’s a great way to demonstrate a number of skills including responsibility, time management and your ability to work in a team.

You need to make sure that your academic work doesn’t suffer and so it’s recommended that you don’t work more than 20 hours a week.

When applying for a graduate position never undersell your part-time job. Never refer to this experience as ‘only working in a shop’. Instead focus on the responsibilities you carried out, for example, cashing-up, opening and closing the store, or deputising for the team leader.

You can search for part-time jobs at your university careers office. Find out more about student jobs at university and how to balance work and study.

Whichever extra-curricular activities you choose to pursue, don't forget to include the details of the skills and knowledge you've gained when you complete job application forms, as it could make all the difference.