Extracurricular activities during university or school are a great way to meet new people and try new things. They are avenues to finding new passions and hobbies, and for reinforcing old ones.
Extracurricular activities are also important when it comes to searching for a job, as they teach you useful transferable skills, including teamwork, leadership, and problem solving. These are all highly valued in most careers. Recruiters are on the lookout for graduates who have these skills and can give examples of when they have used them effectively.
Extracurricular activities can help you build and develop these skills. You will then be able to demonstrate these key skills on your CV and in interviews. If you have recently graduated and have little work experience then this will be even more beneficial. Your activities will also show good time-management skills and that you can handle multiple commitments and responsibilities.
To break it down more, here are the main reasons why extracurricular activities are important:
1: It helps with building your CV
Extracurricular activities are important in rounding out your CV as they can help set you apart from other candidates with similar experience and achievements, prove you can manage your time, and tell the employer you have passions and interests outside of work and academia.
It will also add more character and personality to your CV and help individualise it, amongst many others. If you have been a captain of a sports team, for example, this would help you if you are pursuing a leadership role as the employer will see that you can handle a team and take responsibility.
When employers receive dozens and often hundreds of CVs with similarly qualified candidates, your extracurricular activities might give you an edge, if they indicate the type of personality they are after.
Whilst extracurricular activities are important to your CV, you don’t want to over fill it with too many that are not relevant to the position. You should tailor each CV and mention activities and interests that are relevant. Focus on a few with a bit of detail, rather than a long list, as this will add personalisation and character.
For example, perhaps you have given a talk or presentation at a certain society that would be relevant if you are applying for a client-facing role.
You should try to demonstrate how your enthusiasm for a particular extracurricular activity can transfer to the role. Perhaps you have organised complex events for a cultural society or been a key team player for a sports club.
2: It can create new opportunities
Taking part in extracurricular activities is important as it increases your opportunities of landing a graduate job after university. Employers want to hire a well-rounded individual who has a strong academic performance, some work experience, and hobbies and interests.
Recruiters and employers may warm to you if you have similar interests and hobbies as them or if you have relevant interests to the job advertised. It could help you break the ice during interviews.
Engaging in extracurricular activities can also open doors for you as you meet new people. They give you the ability to network with people with similar interests and the contacts you make might lead to you getting work opportunities after university.
3: It helps you to prepare for interviews
A critical reason why extracurricular activities are important is that they help in answering competency-based questions in interviews. These could be questions such as ‘Talk about a time when you worked as part of a team’, or ‘When have you demonstrated good time-management?’
Extracurricular activities will give you examples that you can use when answering these types of questions. You can use the STAR method to put your examples into coherent stories with a beginning and an end.
For example, if asked a question about demonstrating team-work or leadership, you could draw on a time you were in a sports team or a time when you had to organise a fundraiser or event for a society.
Extracurricular activities can also come in handy when answering traditional interview questions, such as ‘What is your biggest achievement?’. If you answer this with an example from your extracurricular activities instead of academia, it will differentiate you from other candidates.
4: It shows your commitment
Being involved in extracurricular activities is a sign that you are proactive, enjoy meeting new people and can commit to things that interest you.
It is also a great way to show your passions and commitment to various causes and ideas. For example, if you want a job in law, taking part in the debating team will demonstrate that you care about arguing and debating ideas outside of your academic work. If you want to work in politics, it is a good idea to partake in the student government or if you want to work for NGOs then you should consider doing volunteer and charity work.
Volunteering is always beneficial to a CV and you should always include it. Volunteering or community work shows that you do not just care about making money and that you value helping other people.
You should also outline what you accomplished during your time. For example, apart from the cause that you supported, write about if you did administrative work, accountancy tasks, delivered training or other work.
5: It shows your leadership skills
Leadership is always a highly valued skill in the job market. Experience in leadership can include times you had to manage a group project, captain a sports team, or any time you’ve had to guide or motivate others.
Many employers are looking for you to demonstrate leadership skills with examples from your life. This is because they want to recruit people who might be able to take on more responsibility in the future and lead a team within the company.
Showing that you have embraced positions of responsibility in the past will make you an attractive candidate, whether from work experience or from extracurricular activities. If you have been the leader of an extracurricular activity, that will look more impressive than just participating.
Even if you do not have the opportunity to be in charge, you can gain leadership experience by asking to be responsible for organising a particular event or perhaps welcoming new members. This will also show employers that you are proactive and have initiative.
6: It develops interpersonal skills
Extracurricular activities are important in developing social skills and making relationships with new people and employers values this. They want people who can quickly fit in with a new group of co-workers.
Interpersonal skills are crucially important and are desired in any job and are critical for presenting and working in teams. Through extracurricular activities, you will learn how to get along with different types of personalities and build your confidence.
If an employer sees that you have actively engaged with clubs and sports teams, they will trust that you will be able to settle in quickly with new people and can work towards a common goal. It is also a great way to expand your network, which is invaluable when it comes to working.
7: It prepares you for work
Some extracurricular activities might give you relevant experience that will help you when you begin working. Volunteering for an organisation can give you an idea of work as you will have various tasks and responsibilities. As well as improving your time management and organisation skills, it can help you with interviewing skills and administration.
Volunteering in a relevant field to the one you want to work in would look great on your CV. For example, if you want a job in healthcare, then volunteering in a retirement home or a hospital would not only impress interviewers but also give you an idea of what your future career will be like and prepare you for it.
8: They help employers to determine if you are a cultural fit
Lastly, extracurricular activities are important because they can help indicate to employers that you are a right fit for them.
Companies care about their culture and values and want to find candidates that understand them and can fit in. Extracurricular activities will help employers decide if you are the right fit for them.
Demonstrating your passion and commitment for a particular extracurricular activity will allow the employer to understand more about you as an individual. Your passions and interests might indicate that you have the right type of personality they are looking for and can be the difference between landing the job or not.
The job market is very competitive for graduates and employers are looking for candidates who stand out and have more than good grades. They want developed individuals who can demonstrate passion.
Your extracurricular activities are invaluable in learning new skills and reinforcing old ones that companies look out for. You will be able to draw on them when writing your CV and during interviews.
Written by Harry Gorvin from Graduate Coach. Graduate Coach is the UK’s leading graduate career and interview coaching company.