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weeveeship's avatar

How important are extracurricular activities in helping me find a job?

Asked by weeveeship (3962 points ) October 19th, 2010

I am a student looking for a job. (Please no spam or links to monster.com)

It seems to me that an extracurricular activity is useful insofar that you actually do something useful. Like, to me, it is not enough to put on your resume that you were “Vice President of XYZ student association”. Rather, it would be much better to put on your resume that you “wrote a letter to Congresswoman X” or that you “managed the club budget.”

Some people say that you should do an activity regardless of whether or not it is useful. I question that as an interviewer might ask, “So what did you do as Vice President of XYZ club?” to which “I did nothing” or the classic “I network” might not be sufficient.

That’s just my take. It is a competitive job environment out there so every little bit counts, I guess. Anyone has any thoughts or comments on this matter?

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9 Answers

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

It shows that you have a lot of gumption just to ask this question and be thinking along the lines you are. You can still be vice-president of a club and have something to show for it. Just take on a task on the club’s behalf and make sure you keep records of what task you did and how it turned out. For example, you might be in charge of recruiting new members. Think up a campaign to enlist new folks, follow new enrollment closely, and voila, you’ve got a success story.

There are many other ways you could help a club, too. Just join one that interests you and ask what needs to be done.

augustlan's avatar

Anything you put on a resume, whether it’s a job title or a club membership, should have the skills/projects related to it listed along with it. It’s the skills and projects that really matter, the heading just gives it a context. Any extra-curricular activity is only as good as you make it, so be sure to take on challenges and projects, and pay attention to the skills you demonstrate or acquire in doing them. I mean, even if you’re a bench-warmer on the worst basketball team in history, you’re learning things… you just have to think about how what you learned is applicable to the job at hand.

As far as giving you an edge in a competitive job market, either focus on extra-curricular activities that pertain to your desired field or, if you’re not that far along in choosing your career path, go for a wide variety of pursuits. Being “well-rounded” can’t hurt!

Scooby's avatar

Any job in the public arena would provide a competitive job environment, try your hand at being a waiter, the experience not to mention the tips are fantastic plus you get to hone your people skills too in a real life situation, that can’t be bad……. :-/

BarnacleBill's avatar

This is a good question. In general, what you want to show with extracurriculars, is sustainability, advancement, and measurable outcomes. With that in mind, writing a letter to a congressperson is not an “activity” per se. For a law student, Writing a column for the college newspaper, being on Law Review, having legal articles published, doing 60 -100 hours of volunteer work vs. the required 30 hours, being a class officer and initiating x numbers of class activities, resulting in participation by x number of class members, becoming a member of the Federalist Society and working to bring speakers on campus, etc. You get the idea.

You could also blog about an area of the law that you’re interested in. Many law firms maintain special interest blogs, and if you could have demonstrated sustainable writing, that could be beneficial in looking for a clerking position.

marinelife's avatar

Extracurricular activities are considered very unimportant by job interviewers. Leave the mention of them very brief and at the bottom of the resume.

Don’t list so many that it looks like you would be distracted on the job.

wundayatta's avatar

I think it depends on how relevant it is to the job you are applying for. If it taught you skills or a subject area that are relevant to the job, it could help you, especially if you point out what you learned doing it. Otherwise deep six it, as @marinelife suggests.

mattbrowne's avatar

Very important. Employers don’t hire knowledge. They hire people.

food's avatar

It´s a controversial topic, especially when the extracurricular activity is a hobby. Sometimes your hobbies will impress recruiters positively; other times, they won´t help at all. I do agree with marinelife that they should be mentioned briefly of course. The most important question is, what extracurricular activities are you talking about? Are you only concerned about officer positions in organizations for the moment? If you´re only wondering whether you should bother getting elected for a position in an organization, I believe it could be useful for your growth and development, especially if you complete projects and accomplish things while you´re in that position. Recruiters will view the fact that you have a leadership position as something positive. At some point, however, you might have to explain what kind of results you obtained, or demonstrate leadership by telling an anecdote of something that happened while you were in that position.
I realize your question is a bit hypothetical on purpose, to generate discussion, but as wundayatta pointed out, one important point is how relevant is it to the job (and organizational culture) you´re aiming for.

BarnacleBill's avatar

If you don’t have much work experience, quality involvement with volunteer organizations can translate to work experience. For example, volunteering at the science center where you led tours, worked with children, and prepared lessons and exhibit materials demonstrates public speaking, organizational skills, command (herding children is tough), customer service and working as part of a team. Volunteering for 300 hours over a three month period vs. 30 hours of mandatory service demonstrates focus and commitment.

If a person is involved with too many organizations, they tend to look like they are prone to spread themselves too thin.

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