Extracurricular activities are not only a great way to engage in campus life and build community, but they also can help students build a strong resume that signals to employers your unique skill sets and passions. Due to the ease of online applications, many resumes are first scanned by computer software and don’t ever make it into the recruiter’s hands. While everyone knows to list paid jobs on resumes, it may come as a surprise that you can also list certain extracurricular activities. With the new semester in full swing and summer fast approaching, we’ve compiled a non-exhaustive list of top extracurricular activities recruiters look for on resumes. For those students who are beginning to formulate a plan for post-grad life, these experiences—the skill sets gained from them—will broaden your horizons both on campus and post-graduation.
Try to align them with your prospective primary and career interests when picking clubs— looking to get into politics? Join a political club or start a campus activism group. If you’re a business or sports marketing major, look for creative ways to join societies or help out in your school sports team’s social media department. Better yet, see what you can do to actively lead or influence the organization or society in which you’ve joined. Joining a club or holding a relevant leadership role and aligning with your career interests is a boost for recruiters. On your resume, list how long you held this position, overall tasks included, and accomplishments, events, or changes made under your leadership.
Research is particularly valuable for those in STEM or looking to pursue STEM or humanities advanced degrees. Positions as a researcher generally consist of joint projects with a professor or faculty member or an individual project. Try to get creative here. If your school doesn’t have any formal or paid research opportunities, see if you can connect with a faculty member that shares similar interests and ask about researching with them. Further, if you plan enough ahead, you may also use your thesis as both publishing and research opportunity. Collaboration with faculty is key! Does your class have a final paper? Meet with your professor early in the semester and discuss how you might turn this final paper into a research experience. If you can amass a couple of research experiences, create a category for such experiences on your resume. Make sure to list any awards or publications that you receive and, whenever possible, link them within your resume.
Whether or not this job is relevant to your career goals, having solid and stable work experience is better than having none. Employers want to see that you will be able to transition from student to employee; an early commitment and demonstration of accountability—while juggling coursework—reiterates this. Examples of part-time work-study jobs include anything through your university—working in admissions, the university café or library, or working as a professor are all examples of work-study. Not sure how to find work-study jobs? Contact your program director or student services to find out what opportunities the university can offer you. Even if these jobs are not “prestigious,” employers understand that college students have living expenses beyond tuition. Any position you hold for a couple of months always has something valuable to add to your work experience and employability.
Volunteer work consists of any position or activity that you consistently participate in for at least a couple of months. Campus tour guides, working at an animal shelter, or helping in the classroom are valuable ways to gain volunteer experience. Better yet, look for opportunities to align this work with your interests whenever possible. Say you’re interested in becoming a STEM educator. Is it possible to volunteer in a local science classroom? Establish a mentorship program for youth interested in science? Conduct a monthly classroom lesson that relates to science? By aligning your work, you’re demonstrating intentionality while also doing something you love—a win-win for everyone
If you have a career interest but aren’t sure how to turn it into a meaningful volunteer experience, get in touch with the student resources office, career center, or program director.
Particularly for research experiences, you may not always receive monetary compensation for your work. However, that doesn’t mean that you should turn the experience down. For research, see if the faculty member would be willing to write you a strong letter of recommendation in exchange for good and consistent work with them.
Students should find at least one relevant internship during their undergraduate career. A strong internship is usually a couple of months or more in the industry or related field that you plan to enter. Internships demonstrate to employers that you have work experience and have also tried out your future career. Internships Bringing Colleges & Students Together allow prospective employees to develop and gain practical, hard skills before entering the workforce in these positions. This way, employers can count on the fact that you’re already familiar with the big things, which helps them maximize your potential from the first day in office.
Most importantly, do not wait until senior year to find an internship. Visit the career services office as a freshman and map out and learn more about the potential internship opportunities available to you.
Many schools, particularly our SAGE Member Institutions, offer phenomenal opportunities to study abroad. Through these programs, you can earn college credits. You can also choose to study abroad through a private non-affiliated program—make sure to check with your university first to determine how and if you can continue to earn course credits. Either way, studying abroad provides valuable experiences that build independence, community, communication, and responsibility. It also shows that you can work with people from different backgrounds, valuable in our increasingly globalized and interconnected worlds. Better yet, if you learned a foreign language to study abroad, indicate this on your resume, accompanied by a proficiency test score—if possible. For advanced degrees and the workforce, multi-linguistic individuals bring immense value to any community or workplace. Maximize your study abroad work by seeking volunteer and even small employment opportunities to help enhance your skill sets and knowledge.
If your professors or peers consistently indicate that you have strong writing skills, consider finding ways to elevate this on your resume. Regardless of what career path you pursue, writing in compelling, clear, and concise ways is an asset. In today’s world, many people have not developed their writing skills. If you are a strong writer, consider starting a blog that you can consistently publish that elevates this skill set. You can link these publications on your resume for employers to look at. Further, seek out opportunities to write for the school paper, magazine, or other publication outlets on campus. Remember to link all published work on your resume when you find these opportunities.
Whether paid or volunteer, taking on tutoring or peer mentorship work indicates a couple of things to employers. First, you were proficient enough to help other students adequately in an academic area. Tutoring or mentorship experience demonstrates that professors and other faculty members could trust you. Seeking out tutoring experiences at nearby schools is also a way to help alleviate the strain on teachers who can’t always invest the time and attention students need to succeed. If you choose to take up tutoring and highlight it on your resume, make sure to list what subjects you tutored. In addition, list what age ranges and how you specifically helped increase students learning outcomes or grades.