To find work, you need experience, but to get the experience you need to find work. Job seekers typically joke about this situation, without knowing that there is a way to get experience first, and job second. If there seem to be “gaps” in your skills due to being a fresh graduate, extracurricular activities can bridge that breach, and provide you with all the credentials that you may need to upgrade your professional CV.
Aside from being able to show your individuality and display your interests proudly, extracurricular activities can give recruiters an idea of skills and personal qualities that can be an asset to their companies. An extensive list of extracurricular activities in your resume may be tantamount to a feather in your cap.
A 2018 study for business graduates shows that a high GPA with 1 or 2 ECA (extracurricular activities) increases perceived employability. ECA with a moderate GPA can come off as a signal for lower stability traits but speaks volumes of your time-management and organizational skills–qualities that are perfect for a few specialized jobs that need less supervision.
HR recruiters and headhunters categorize extracurricular activities into three: volunteer work, athletics, and interest clubs. Great importance is given to extracurricular activities because they cultivate both soft skills and technical skills. Of course, an extra-curricular activity that can provide soft skills, as well as specialized knowledge, is preferred. Choosing any of the three extracurricular options can get you noticed by recruiters.
If you are looking for optimal options, knowledge of the two categories and their applications can make your future job hunt easier. Here are the three categories and their related extracurricular activities that can get you hired.
Table of Contents
- Volunteer, Fundraising and Charity work
- Charities You Can Volunteer In
- Athletics and Sports
- Most Popular Sports in US Colleges
- Roles That Are Associated With Athletic Extracurricular Activities
- Other Interest Clubs
Volunteer, Fundraising and Charity work
Volunteering, fundraising, and all sorts of charity work show not only your magnanimity of spirit but also your ability to function as part of a team. As you do your part in contributing your time and resources for the good of society and its different causes, you will be able to hone different analytical, communication, and people skills that will help you move forward with your academic and professional goals. Recruiters consider volunteer or charity work as the best way to improve one’s confidence – which is an important aspect of work.
Charity and philanthropic works also provide an opportunity to network with people from different walks of life. Soft skills, like adaptive communication, empathy, and a motivation for things other than money can make an applicant appealing to interviewers.
If it’s your first time getting involved, you can always start small: research local charities and volunteering posts in your area, and let them know that you want to help out! With the advent of the internet, it is so much easier to register to charitable activities and non-profit organizations, who usually have their own websites and/or social media platforms.
To make your volunteer work more impressive, you can make the extracurricular activity an avenue where both soft and hard skills can improve. A simple way to do so is by naming or getting a role that lets you function as a specialist. This can be done in two ways; either find a charity directly related to your dream job or “creating” a position that can utilize a specialized skill. You can coordinate with the groups you wish to work with for more information on this.
Students who are aiming to be veterinarians or animal behaviorists can volunteer at the local animal shelter or PETA. Future lawyers can join legal clinics and other organizations that offer pro bono work for the victim like the RAINN organization. Engineers can volunteer their expertise to non-profit water organizations, like Charity: Water and Lifewater International. Budding teachers and educators can always spend time reading and teaching at-risk kids at a local facility.
Having difficulty finding a charity related to your discipline? You can get creative by making a role.
A future web designer who wants to help the local church? Volunteer to create a website, which can also function as part of your portfolio.
An aspiring marketer or advertisement professional who loves mother nature? Making an ad encouraging people to clean up before leaving the local park can impact your community and your resume positively.
A history and anthropology major who loves the sea? Volunteer to any water conservation organization and offer to make an article or blog post about your discipline in relation to the cause.
Charities You Can Volunteer In
There are numerous charitable organizations championing a variety of causes. A few national charities with some local events are:
- Mountain, camping, and the great outdoors: The Mountain Institute
- Healing for both animals and people who need a helping hand or paw: Pet Partners
- Youth empowerment and leadership: Experience Bell
- Medicine in relation to aging: Aging Research
- Accuracy in media, especially news and stories: AIM (Accuracy In Media)
- Baking and feeding the hungry: Bread for the World
- Social change: Community Change
There are A LOT of charities that can use the heart of a volunteer, as they say. Google can help you find a charity or volunteer group related to your interest. Any local charity group can connect you to others, too. You can also find an avenue to express your specialized skills with a non-profit. it doesn’t matter if there is no direct connection between the organization’s goals and your interests.
Of course, there are big international organizations like the Red Cross, Doctors without Borders and PETA, but smaller charities can give you more flexibility and at the same time shows a spirit of giving back to the local community.
Try to go local first. It is highly recommended that you volunteer for a group near the area you want to work in. Chances are, companies sponsor and help these charities. This can add more visibility for you as well as open doors to the network, raise your employability, and enrich your options.
Athletics and Sports
A sound mind in a sound body sums up an athletic applicant. The benefits go farther than just mental and physical well-being, though: a study by the Atlantic in 2015 showed that athletes earned around 5 to 15% more than their non-athletic peers. Additionally, a lot of people in higher management were or knew an athlete during their college days, so the reputation of applicants who were athletes would precede them in the workplace. The 5% to 15% premium exists for female athlete-applicants as well.
Athletics does not only take you a step closer to landing a job, but it also makes it easy to remain employed. A Gallup-Purdue study, which uses data from the NCAA, also shows auspicious results. It revealed that 48% of female athletes report a higher level of work engagement than 41% of female non-athlete workers. Work engagement is a valuable metric for HR personnel and headhunters. If an employee is engaged in the work, employee satisfaction rises. Engaged workers are also more productive and loyal to the company. Less workplace attrition also results in employee engagement. For these reasons, hiring personnel can be quite partial to student-athletes.
Engagement and staying power are not the only valuable traits that employers look for in student-athletes. Sports, especially cooperative ones, cultivate teamwork. As a result, team sports activities can make an applicant more attractive to employers. Additionally, with competitive play, it can drive athletes to greater heights and a solid objective – and this could be an important angle for employers in sales and marketing, aside from your competence and reliability.
In the same manner, camaraderie, cooperation, and thinking with a group over a shared goal makes athletes great contributors to company endeavors. Being a basketball or baseball player can rack up a lot of points for applicants.
Individual competitive sports, like wrestling or martial arts, denote discipline. They manifest an athlete’s level of diligence, discipline, and endurance–traits are immensely valued by recruiters. Taking an active part in competitions can also increase your chances of landing a job; such behavior and ambition show interviewers and resume reviewers that you have the drive and are a go-getter.
Most Popular Sports in US Colleges
A end of 2020 report lists the top 10 sports in college athletics
- Cross country
- Outdoor Track
- Indoor Track
Most colleges and universities offer a wide range of sports and fitness programs for their students – all you have to do is join in on the fun! The best part is that these groups do not necessarily require you to have previous experience in high school, although you may need some training and hours of practice to gain momentum. Nonetheless, the hours that you put into sports is always time well spent – and we’re sure your resume will agree with us on this!
You can barely find a college without a basketball team, but surprisingly Cross country is more popular than most people think. Either it is a team or individual sport, you can find a lot of avenues and opportunities to play in college. Traits that are favored by recruiters are not the only benefits athletes get; soft skills that directly relate to business roles can be nurtured with athletic activities.
Roles That Are Associated With Athletic Extracurricular Activities
Other than highlighting the traits cultivated by their active athleticism, applicants can show why they can fit perfectly into the whole company structure. Here are some roles where athletic traits are deemed invaluable:
- Sales and customer acquisition. A lot of businesses need to acquire and retain clients. Such roles can be quite stressful, not unlike training for competitive sports. Athletes have quite an advantage when applying for these roles; extracurricular activities may have already perfected their stress management skills.
- Brainstorming and planning. Sports games do not start out in the field or gym but inside hushed rooms as the strategies are being planned. Athletes are no stranger to strategic meetings, whether it be with a coach in a one-on-one session or a team huddle. For this reason, athletes are expected to have been exposed to various goal-setting sessions. In the boardroom or on the field, people with athletic experience can be confident that they can provide value to any discussions.
- Administrative work. Quite a number of hours are put into tasks for the management of any business. All documents need to have specific commas and clauses, and all paperwork has to be sent to the proper legal recipients. Adequate communication between all parties involved is a priority. Such details may bog down a lot of workers, but athletes have an edge. They have fostered discipline for years which translates to minor mistakes and efficient processing.
- Employee engagement. Athletic employees generally are more engaged and satisfied in their workplace. That infectious enthusiasm makes the workplace more harmonious and efficient. Since athletes have to deal with group interactions, whether playing on the court or talking with colleagues, athlete applicants have enough experience to maneuver social interactions professionally with a goal in mind.
- Leadership and management roles. One of the biggest strengths of athletes lies not just in their physique but in their mental fortitude. Leading people can be quite taxing, and communicating with shareholders and the business bigwigs take a lot of time to prepare. Athletes are naturally confident and charismatic. This charisma can translate to a confident company, which employers and shareholders would love to be engaged in.
Other Interest Clubs
Joining a club manifests not only your passion but also your ability to manage time efficiently. After all, college classes can be quite taxing. Recruiters love a passionate applicant who efficiently practices work-life balance. Having long-time interest also shows an enduring character, which should dwarf the fact that a lot of millennials change jobs frequently as per a LinkedIn 2016 study.
Work attrition is costly as the company has to pay for hiring, training, and retaining new talent. Because passionate employees do not burn out easily, interest clubs where they usually are attractive to recruiters.
What are good interest clubs to join in college?
National Honor Societies
Each college has its own honor students’ group and entry can be difficult. If you want to impress recruiters at first glance, having a membership in these kinds of groups really helps. However, you should also acknowledge the fact that there is an accrediting body for honor societies known as the Association of College Honor Societies.
Whatever your major, there are always governing bodies spearheaded by students. You can start your career and pursue additional after school commitments by running for a slot in your department’s student council, which really sits well in anyone’s resume. You will be able to wow recruiters with your leadership skills, as well as your sense of responsibility – and these are truly important qualities in a leader.
Music and Performing Arts Clubs
Expression through performing gives confidence and hones important soft skills like communication. With music and the performing arts, you will not only have a very memorable college life but also an impressive resume. Recruiters love expressive applicants, and membership in a glee or drama club enhances your ability to express. Additionally, companies love it when their employees are able to express a certain kind of confidence that can be developed through groups like these. With these kinds of experiences, you are able to present yourself effectively and collaborate well with others.
Foreign Language Clubs
Learning a second, or even third, language opens up a whole lot of doors for upcoming professionals who wish to explore more job opportunities. There are various roles in companies looking for people who can communicate in different languages to reach various global markets who don’t speak English as a primary language. This would also prove to employers that you are dedicated and willing to learn more about different aspects of the job (as evidenced by your drive to learn another language).
Subject Societies and Profession-oriented Groups
It may already be common sense for students under a certain discipline to engage in their own subject societies and groups which allows them to be more in touch with their degrees. It would also be a good point to start while you’re still looking for additional after school commitments you can add to your schedule.
For example, you can join the debate team and student law society if you’re on the path to law. If you’re taking up International Studies or Political Science, you can join Model UN and tackle important international issues. If you’re studying commerce and finance, you can opt to join an investment and savings club, which could help you apply actual concepts and put them into practice.
Tech and Robotics Clubs
Joining a Tech and Robotics Club would be especially useful if you’re planning to pursue a career in Information Technology, Programming, or other related degrees. Otherwise, if you’re taking another path but still consider it as a hobby, by all means, go for it! Some tech clubs even focus on programming languages and building websites, which could come in handy whatever the field you’re in. This bit in your resume could translate to a plethora of great qualities, including sharp analytical and critical thinking skills.
Media and Journalism Clubs
If you would like to pursue a degree in mass communications, publishing, or journalism, it’s best to gain ground and start as early as you can. Joining the school newsletter/newspaper team, announcer club or campus radio team can earn you some pretty decent exposure, with the huge possibility of earning invaluable professional prospects in the future. Even if you’re not looking to pursue a career in media, having this kind of academic experience is a great way to display your ability to work well in a group, be on your toes for the next assignment, and of course, your communication skills.
Joining other newer and unconventional clubs, like K-pop Club, Filmmakers’ and Movie Society or Comic Relief Club, can still be a great idea as long as you can justify how the experience can make you a good fit for the company. These culture clubs show your sense of diversity and sensitivity towards diverse themes today, as well as your uniqueness and individuality!
Wildcard Groups: Subject Clubs Unrelated to Your Major
Membership in an intellectually stimulating club that is not wholly related to your subject can be quite an attention grabber for recruiters. For example, you can be in an art history club while studying for a business major, or perhaps an investment and savings club if you are a programming student. Having multiple disciplines can make you flexible. Also, you may get more opportunities for employment because the academic club can be a great avenue to find and nurture future contacts and networks.
Internships are an important aspect of education that a lot of students are able to experience in their lives – some people even get internships while in high school, which is definitely an impressive feat. Essentially, internships (or “on-the-job training”) are an exchange of service between a student and a specific company, with some posts offering paid internship positions. Companies will allow you to develop corporate and organizational knowledge in terms of team collaboration, business etiquette, and practicing your communication skills. This will definitely stand-out in your resume, especially if you do a good job at it and get recommendation letters! There’s even a great chance that you’ll get absorbed into the company, meaning, you’ll be offered a job once you get your degree.
Of course, not all of us have the privilege of spending our free time to join tons of extracurricular activities on top of a normal school load – and while a lot of students do part-time jobs during school breaks, a lot of them actually maintain one to pay off living expenses (or in a lot of cases, support their families). Don’t feel too bad if you’re missing out on all of the fun, or lack ECAs because you’re working on the side. You can always include that in your CV, as this shows that you are responsible and reliable – a potential asset to any company, so to speak.
Lastly, maintaining a respectable work-life balance even while you’re still in college is one of the most important things that you should master. Maintaining your social life, acing your academics while keeping-up with your after school activities can be draining, that’s why you should put your priorities in order and make the most out of the experience! Additionally, because we have such diverse interests, there may be clubs that won’t fit into the cohesiveness of your resume. If you think that adding the club in your resume will not do you any good, you can always omit them.