How extra-curricular activities have increased my employability

The struggle is real

“85 Applications For Each Graduate Job” and “Graduates Often Feel There Is No Hope In Finding A Job After University” are just some of the articles I have come across this year. One article that really stood out to me is the story of a particular graduate who had applied for 70 jobs within 3 months and had not been successful. Now that’s not meant to dishearten you, but hopefully it does highlight that times have changed.

Various people I have spoken to from Course Directors and HR Representatives of UK Top 100 Employers to friends who have recently graduated have all told me the same thing – a degree alone is not enough regardless of the classification i.e. First Class/2:1.

Since embarking on my Business Management degree and researching the graduate job market alongside networking and getting the chance to speak with various employers at Careers Fairs, i’ve devised something that I call the ideal mix which I have applied my University Life to, it consists of:

–       A degree classification of 2:1 or above

–       Work experience relevant/closely linked to what you want to go into when you graduate, ideally a 12 month placement or a series of summer placements.

–       Extra-curricular activities; which allows you to have great talking points and answers when you go for a one to one competency based or chronological based interview.

Imagine getting to the interview stage of an application process and being asked something along the lines of “So tell me about yourself?” or “Why should we pick you over the other candidates?” How exactly are you going to respond alongside backing up each of your points with a variety of real life examples?

Today as you can guess my focus is on Extra-curricular Activities.

For those of you who are not familiar with the term; an extra-curricular activity is an activity/form of work that you can pick up alongside studying for your degree. Extra-curricular activity is a bit of an old school way to describe it, my own personal way of describing it is: Participating in an activity, form of work or project that adds value to yourself or to your CV whilst undertaking studies.

Examples of extra-curricular activities within the University range from being a Course Rep for your respective course/department to being a member of a sporting team or society.

Not convinced yet? Let’s explore some of the benefits…

Interview talking points: One of my favourite benefits of participating in extra-curricular activities is that having a bunch of extra-curricular activities under your belt gives you an advantage at interviews. This is because you actually have something else to refer to/talk about other than your degree.

Being able to talk about your involvement in extra-curricular activities is great as you can give a variety of examples and it also shows that you can juggle studying for a degree and maintaining a good grade/mark average alongside participating in other activities.

Boost to CV and employability: Having some form of an activity/project will boost your CV by enabling you to write about your experience as a form of work experience.

Skills: Through participating in extra-curricular activities you get the opportunity to learn new skills and enhance skills that you may already hold.You also get to develop your interpersonal skills such as working as part of a team, communication skills and other sought after skills such as problem solving.

Networking and meeting new people: In every new activity/experience that you participate in you usually get to meet new people; this is a great opportunity to network and establish relationships. Never underestimate the power of networking.

So by now you may be interested, it’s never too late to pick up an extra-curricular activity, below are some examples of how you can get involved in an extra-curricular activity whilst studying.

Examples of Extra-curricular Activities within the University:
Being a Student Mentor within your faculty and mentoring First Year students on your course.
Paid jobs within various departments of the University such as being a Student Ambassador for your faculty or for the RAO.
Click here to look at CU Student Vacancies link on the Student Portal homepage.
Being a Course Rep for your respective course and department. Click here to find out about becoming a Course Rep
Volunteering within the University community or within the local community or creating your own student led project.
Joining a sport club or society.
Click here to find out more about Volunteering

This list is by no means exhaustive, anything could be classed as an extra-curricular activities as long as it adds value to you or your CV.

Personal Experience

This year I have picked up five, yes five extra-curricular activities, the reason behind it is because I am currently in the midst of applying for placements and I simply wanted to impress and stand out. One of my extra-curricular activities is being a Deputy Faculty Chair for my department, which is Strategy & Applied Management.

I recently had a one to one interview for a placement that would be based in Germany for a Business related role, after getting past the usual awkwardness of the interview, we got to the question that I had been waiting for which was “Tell me more about yourself?”. Due to the amount of extra-curricular activities I had taken on this year, naturally this was a question I was confident about answering.

When I began speaking about my Course Rep related work the interviewer asked me more about it and we ended up talking about it for about 20 minutes, now bear in mind the interview was only meant to be 30 minutes long, we had talked about just one of my extra-curricular activities for 20 minutes straight. The feedback I was given after the interview was that the interviewer was impressed with the work that I have done and that they wanted to progress my application to the next stage.

It just goes to show that putting in a little bit of extra effort on top of studying for my degree has worked for me in this case, I can’t guarantee that this will be case for every interview but being able to confidently talk about my involvement in University life aside from my degree has paid off.

And that kind of brings what I am saying to a conclusion, remember that University is probably going to be your last major stint in education (unless you of course go down the Postgrad route) so why not make your experience count and get a head start on employability by picking up an extra-curricular activity or two?

 If you have any comments/questions/feedback relating to the above article please do not hesitate to leave a reply.

Naomi Smith (Student Employability Coach) 29/11/2013

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Posted on December 19, 2013, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Hey Naomi, this is Fran 😀 Just a quick question which is somewhat unrelated..but anyway. I am in the same situation applying for placements and so on and the most frustrating thing for me is having everything checked in terms of language. Sometimes it may be a lengthy process and can delay an application. Who do you suggest to contact or what would you do to have this problem sorted asap considering that we are near holidays now as well?

    • Hey Fran, thanks for leaving a comment. 🙂

      I agree that getting things checked over is a lengthy process. My placement application for my first choice took me about 4 days to do on its own and that was to ensure that I was 100% happy with the quality of it, so I totally understand.

      In your case with it being Christmas and with the University closing at the end of today (Friday 20th). I would recommend calling the Careers Team on 02477652011 before 4PM and booking in an appointment to see one of the Careers Consultants in early January when we reopen.

      If that is too late for you, then I suggest getting someone who you know to have a look at it to assist you in the short term.

      I hope this has answered your question, if it hasn’t please let me know.

      Have a good Christmas break and good luck on your Placement Hunt, please keep us posted.

      Naomi 😀

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