Matt Eastlake, Group Managing Director
November, 2015

Research shows that having a great academic track record might not be enough to secure a graduate job; so what else can help?

While there are many reasons to go to university, 85% of students said that their main motivation was to improve their career prospects. However, a study from World Challenge has revealed life experience is the factor that can prove to be the difference between a 'yes' and a 'no' in graduate job applications.

Why are extra-curricular activities important?

Research shows that 70% of businesses believe extra-curricular activities make job-seeking school leavers and graduates stand out from the crowd. In addition, nearly two-thirds feel that candidates with such experience tend to be more successful employees and progress more quickly in their careers.

This isn't because these activities make good conversation topics at the water cooler, but because of the attributes that they allow participants to develop. Skills such as leadership, communication and budget management are increasingly in-demand in the workplace, where new recruits are perhaps technically able but lacking the transferrable skills that are needed to succeed.

With UK productivity on the decrease (we're currently being overtaken by Italy, France and the USA), employers are worried that they'll soon be recruiting from a pool of people who have excellent grades but little real work experience.

Stressed students are being told to focus more on raising their B-grade to an A-grade, and are therefore dropping activities that take place outside of the classroom. The irony, however, is that such activities could be the very things that get them their first job out of school or university.

Poor management is one reason behind decreased productivity at work, so taking part in a hobby or pursuit that demonstrates good organisation could make the difference between rejection or acceptance.

How can I develop my skillset through my interests?

While you may think that you have to rush out and get a host of new hobbies equipping you with every skill under the sun, this isn't the case; it's more important to do one or two activities that are relevant to your chosen career.

Leading an overseas expedition, for example, would be a great experience to talk about when applying for a project management role. You could discuss how you planned and executed the project, as well as how you overcame various challenges and setbacks.

And if you're not sure what you want to do and are applying for any and every job you can find in the hope of securing something come graduation, look for those experiences that demonstrate attributes such as commitment, loyalty and diligence. This is where waitressing your way through university could give you more than just a bit of extra pocket money to spend at the students' union.

In any case, and whatever the activity and skills, you should refrain from telling your interviewer about how much fun you had on your gap year and instead consider the things that they want to hear.

Employers are looking for potential employees who are great communicators, can think outside the box and are able to perform well under pressure. All you need to do is demonstrate to them why you're that person.

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