The importance of extra-curricular activities

Author
Dan Mason, Senior editor
Posted
June, 2017

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.

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.

'Activities cover everything from arts and crafts, drama, general interest, specialised interests, languages, politics, religious and cultural groups and sports clubs,' explains Carolyn Benson, careers and employability coordinator at the University of Cumbria.

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.

Research suggests that volunteering can also benefit your mental health by boosting your self-esteem and sense of purpose. Being confident is a fantastic asset to have when you're applying for jobs as it makes it easier to sell yourself to recruiters.

'Students can benefit enormously from volunteering,' says Janice Montgomery, senior careers adviser at the University of Aberdeen. 'It expands students' networks, builds self-confidence, and allows them to develop the key skills sought by almost every graduate employer.'

She adds that as well as enhancing an academic-focused CV, employers will appreciate your willingness to engage with unfamiliar contexts and groups of people, demonstrating that you'll be able to fit in more effectively into the workplace. 'Overall, it allows for crucial self-development, while enhancing future employability and therefore your graduate job prospects,' says Janice.

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

Part-time work

Working while at university will provide a useful income as well as making your job hunt after graduation easier. Don't overdo it though - remember that your studies should always come first.

'Graduate employers actively look for work experience on CVs and application forms, and part-time work demonstrates responsibility, time management, and a whole host of other transferable skills that are valuable,' says Jay Russell, campus jobs manager at the University of Reading.

It's important to make the most of any part-time work you've done. Don't think that work in a coffee shop or behind a bar is irrelevant. 'Tell employers about your responsibilities - for example, cashing-up, opening and closing the store, or when you deputised for the team leader,' advises Jay.

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.