During your time in college, you’ll do a lot more than just go to class. These experiences can be just as valuable as the time you spend in the lecture hall, but you have to know how to convey these extracurricular activities to potential employers and show why they were worthwhile. Sara, a hiring expert from Grace, sums up their importance nicely: “Extracurricular activities can tell you a lot about a person. They aren’t irrelevant, especially when you are just entering the workforce. We look for individuals who have been members of organizations, led projects, managed communications projects, and so on.” 1
Dan, a hiring expert from Mutual of Omaha, says “Turning your past experiences into skills is a great way to form a strong yet versatile resume! To start off, one should highlight past experiences that correlate with the position that they are applying for and show they are transferable.” 2 No matter what organizations you choose to get involved with, you are probably developing valuable skills that you can use once you enter the workforce and start your career. When including this experience on a resume, you should make sure it is carefully tailored to the position you are applying for and clearly demonstrate to future employers how that experience will help you excel in the future.
Extracurricular activities can show employers that you have a passion and have pursued it. This is becoming more and more important as recruiters look for people they feel will fit the company culture. Often times, they want to see that you are passionate about something, even if it doesn’t directly relate to their organization. Passionate employees are often the best employees, so showcasing that you pursue things that are important to you can make you stick out to employers.
One way to stand out from the pool of recent college graduates is to highlight the leadership positions you held in your extracurricular activities. As Steve, a hiring expert from Caterpillar, says, “What companies are looking for in collegiate candidates is something that will differentiate them from their peers. There are plenty of students with the same major and good GPA's, but the one thing that will generally help someone to float to the top is demonstrated leadership experience.” 3 Companies want to know that you are focused and driven, and that if you advance to a leadership position, you will ultimately be successful.
While this may seem overwhelming, it doesn’t have to be! Most college students are involved in at least one activity, club, or organization, so the hard work is already done. From there, you just need to perfect how you talk about your experiences, both on your resume and in interviews, to convey the transferable skills you gained. This will help you stand out from the pool of candidates and increase the chance that you will get hired.