Updated: Sep 4, 2020
Looking back, I realize I have always been given the same piece of advice. Right from primary school, I have been encouraged to get involved in different activities. And I did participate in a lot of things; sports, art, dance, music, drama or writing, anything that looked fun or interesting. And I have seen this trend continue with me to university where I have been encouraged, and still am, to get involved in societies or activities on campus beyond my studies.
Clearly, there has been a lot of fuss. But what for? From my personal experience, I can honestly say I have found these activities highly beneficial. Being involved in things outside my degree has been essential helping me relieve stress. I have met lots of people I wouldn’t have interacted with if I had not gotten involved in different societies. I have developed new skills and learnt how to relate with different people. But much like exams, I have found that my activities seem more irrelevant the further in the past they become, which sometimes makes me wonder if they were really important.
The conclusion I have come to is that the most important and beneficial part of getting involved in all these activities is the opportunity to learn about oneself. I have discovered how I work in teams, my likes and dislikes, my talents, my abilities and my weaknesses. I have learnt how I enjoy working and ways to tackle issues which I would not have come across by focusing on just my degree. The resulting experiences and self-awareness are crucial in terms of employment pursuits.
Having a record of your activities on your CV shows employers that you have certain skills and abilities, including teamwork, resilience, time management, communication and all the usual skills companies look for. In interviews, you may be asked questions directly about what you do outside your studies or you may be asked to give instances where you exhibited a certain trait, so being involved in extracurriculars gives you concrete examples and scenarios to draw from.
However, despite all these positive aspects, it is not always possible or even necessary to get involved in many extracurricular activities. First, it is important to always remember that we are in university, ultimately here to get a good degree, which is a time commitment in itself, and activities equally take up time. This means it is important to always think about how much time you have to spare.
Society involvement does not have to be all or nothing. While it is great to be on executive committees, if time does not allow for that, you can still attend events where you can be actively involved. It’s all about good time management and setting your priorities. The reality is in life you will hardly ever have the opportunity to focus on one thing at a time and so employers are looking to see that you can manage multiple responsibilities which can be demonstrated by being able to successfully keep up with your degree while participating in other things.
However, you risk burning out if you take on too much at once, so it is not advisable that you just jump head-first into every society or activity you come across. It’s all about sustainability. Before deciding to get involved, think about whether you have time for it. Don’t just do things because you see that everyone else is involved. Really consider whether you will enjoy it and if you will benefit from it. Additionally, if you are involved in too many things, there is a chance that you may not fully engage with any of them and so not have any significant experiences to point to.
There are also no specific extracurriculars which are better for you CV than others, so do not worry about that. Often times, the skills you learn are transferrable. So, you can be on the executive team of a university society, have a position of responsibility, play on a sports team or play a musical instrument. What is important is that you present these activities in a way which shows what you have learnt and the skills you have gained.
So, are extracurriculars important? I would say yes. Just remember to be smart and deliberate in your choices.