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Why are Extracurricular Activities Important to Employers

Woman dancing in a circle on a stage against the setting sun.

Today’s employers are looking at more than just your degree. They are looking for a well-rounded candidate with a wide range of skills, some of which you may not get from academia. Some of the most-desired and important skills are developed outside of school or university from extracurricular activities. We're here to help you understand what these skills are, the importance of extracurricular activities and how to articulate these skills on your CV or in an interview.

What are extracurricular activities?

Extracurricular activities are any activities that are outside of your general studies or university work, (not counting evenings at the union bar!). Typically extracurricular activities are hobbies or interests that you’re passionate about and enjoy but they can also help you develop useful transferable skills for your future career. Here are some extracurricular activity examples for your job application, including some of the most popular we recognise here at FDM:

  • Societies
  • Sports
  • Mentoring Schemes
  • Fund Raising
  • Enterprise
  • Leadership Awards
  • Committee Positions
  • Representation
  • Volunteering
  • Exhibitions
  • Buddy Schemes
  • Community Projects
  • Student Ambassadors
  • Show/Performances

The benefits of extracurricular activities

Involvement in any one of these activities will help you develop soft skills that are crucial to succeeding in the business world - beyond book knowledge. These are the essential skills that employers are looking for you to bring into the workplace and apply to real-life scenarios.

According to a report by the Social Mobility Commission, 51% of all skill-shortage vacancies were attributed to a lack of soft skills, particularly the ability to manage one's own time and prioritise tasks. Extra-curricular activities can help you work on these specific skills, while also boosting your confidence, improving interpersonal skills and providing you with a diverse set of soft skills, such as interpersonal and time management skills. The same report also reveals that those who take part in extracurricular activities are more likely to have higher attainment levels, improved academic performance and more ambitious career goals. Here are a few more benefits you can gain from joining a club or society:

  1. Expand your social network
  2. Meet a diverse group of people
  3. Improve communication skills
  4. Develop teamwork skills
  5. Boost self-esteem
  6. Help with conflict resolution
  7. Heighten your emotional intelligence

Take for example the roles and skills that you can gain from being on a society committee. If you were to hold a Treasurer position, it would show that you are a logical thinker and have an acute attention to detail. If you were a coordinator, you would likely be able to manage time, stay organised and be creative. These are all things that employers look for in candidates, but go unrecognised when you only list your Computer Science degree on your CV.

Do employers care about extracurriculars?

According to a UK study involving 21 million job adverts, soft skills and non-academic achievements were considered essential for getting through the first stage of the job interview process  The report states that:

“Our analysis suggests that formal academic credentials play a relatively minor differentiating role in the UK labour market, as the majority of employer’s place greater emphasis on ‘job readiness’”.

What’s more, your activities show a lot more about your personality than your degree and give employers a better picture of who you are and what you’re passionate about. With millions of resumes being sent out every year, it can be tough to stand out from the crowd. A unique hobby or experience can help catch your employers eye and provide multiple talking points for job interviews.

Find out more about how to write a CV with no experience.

What's next?

Join a club! If you are not part of one of the activities above, get involved. There is a group or activity for everyone at university, and if there isn’t you can still create your own!

If you are already involved in an activity, start thinking about how you can tell future employers about why these skills are great! Write down the skills you have gained  from extracurricular activities in a STAR format. This format will really help you when you get to talk about these skills. Here is an example to get you going:

Course Representative:

Presentation Skills, Teamwork, Leadership, Organization:

S (situation): As a course representative I represent the view of the 200 students on my course. This is a key method for the university to understand how changes are affecting students, and whether there is any support they can give students during their academic studies.

T (task): At the end of the academic year, I had to feed back to the university student’s views on a new module on the course.

A (actions): I had worked with my peers to discuss the areas of the module they liked, and areas of improvement. From this I was able to create a power point presentation to clearly demonstrate to the university team what the students thought as a collective. From the feedback, there were concerns over the amount of assignments in the second terms.

R (result): As a result, the university team decided to change the assessment timetable to make sure assignments were more evenly spread throughout the year. 

All in all, extracurricular activities are the perfect way to differentiate yourself from other prospective job candidates. They are tangible ways to show the soft skills you have and will be able to implement on a daily basis once you land the job. Go join a club, run for student office or play a sport – it could be the key to getting the job.

Are you looking for your dream role in technology or business? We welcome graduates, returners to work, and ex-forces/veterans into our fast-track career programmes.

Read more careers advice articles from our blog:

Featured image credit: Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash 

Updated 23 November 2021


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