How Extracurricular Activities Can Help You Land Your Dream Job


extra curricuar

It’s hard to envision how your academic career will translate in conversation at networking events or interviews. You may be wondering what employers are really looking for in their next intern or employee.

We asked some of our Student Career Days sponsors what they’re looking for in SCD participants. We got lots of great responses (which you’ll get to read more about as SCD comes closer!), but what stuck out to us was when Noel Dubak, manager of global recruitment and development for the Bartlett Tree Experts mentioned, “Being part of a sports team is very valuable.” As it turns out, all types of extracurricular activities can make you a more desirable candidate when it comes to applying for internships and jobs!

Let’s be real, as a student it has been your “job” to learn, so maybe your relevant work experience is a little thin… employers understand this. But being involved in athletics and other activities such as band, student council and FIRST Robotics offer you opportunities to develop key skills that employers are looking for in entry-level candidates. These are activities that could help you land your dream job! Here are some reasons why:

You’re a team player. There’s something to be said for being able to interact well with others. Activities which require teamwork help you build important interpersonal and communication skills. When you join a crew in treecare, you will not be a lone ranger. You’ll be working with a team every day, and employers want to hire people who will work well with the team they already have.

You have time management and analytical skills. Juggling school, homework, a part-time job, family and fun with friends can be hard… and then throw a team sport or other team activity into the mix. Sports teams need you for practice after school, or for games on weekends. Same goes for band, FIRST Robotics and even student council. Being able to analyze what needs to be done and prioritize tasks is appealing to employers because it shows that you’re able to make decisions and manage your time well.

You understand accountability. Alex Julius, associate director of educational goods & services for the International Society of Arboriculture, an SCD sponsor, has actually been an SCD participant herself. When asked about how her team prepped for the climbing competition, Julius says, “Preparing alone is not only dangerous (don’t climb alone), but also there’s less accountability. We worked as a team, set a campus tree up with cowbells, and practiced.” Ultimately, showing up and working together makes your team stronger because you know your teammates’ strengths and weaknesses and can balance them. Employers like people who have proven that they can be held accountable to show up and get the job done.

You are coachable. Whether you played basketball, ran track, played the trumpet in marching band or learned how to work with tools building a robot, you likely received guidance at some point. The key idea here is that you took the feedback and applied it the next time you tried. This translates well in a work environment, especially when you’re the new guy on the team. No one comes in knowing it all, but being flexible enough to learn is valued.

You have the mental toughness for defeat. Sometimes you take the coaching and you try, but you still didn’t get it right… were you able to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and keep moving? Or did you crumble and stop trying? Employers are looking for your capacity to learn from a situation and adjust for the next opportunity.

You have demonstrated leadership skills. Those who were team captain, student body president or in some other leadership role, this one’s for you. These types of roles helped you refine your communication skills, as well as build your mentoring skills and help you become a better decision-maker. Did you organize a calendar or manage a budget? Did you delegate tasks to others? Did your team experience a big success under your leadership? These are the things employers will want to hear about!

As a student with little or no work experience, you have the flexibility to work your extracurricular activities into your resume and into conversation with potential employers. At interviews, employers may ask you questions which require you to provide a specific example of an experience you’ve had. Your experiences don’t have to be based solely from work! Make a list of all the things you did when you were part of a team or club and think about how those will translate to the job. When asked, this list will help you be prepared to give real examples of problems you faced and how you reacted.