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What do employers think about extra-curricular activities?

Watch this video to hear employers' perspectives on the value of engaging with extra-curricular activities at university.
I think the advantages of taking part in a society or a club are great and amazing, and it’s definitely something that we should encourage and you should do it if you can. You could be a member of something like the hockey team or the netball team or maybe a football team, which shows that you’ve got really good team-working abilities and leadership skills. But if you’re not that way inclined, it might be something that you want to do yourself. You might want to sell some clothes on eBay, or you might want to set up your own business, maybe selling cakes or doing some charity work. So again, show some leadership and entrepreneurial skills.
Sport is one of those things that really promotes resilience and team building, and it’s one of those competencies that you really, like, build up and you take over for the rest of your life, really, so why not doing it at the very beginning and then use it in your first job as a team. I think it’s a combination of having work experience, relevant work experience, and some sort of extracurricular activity. So whether that be the sport or whether it be societies or whether it be charity work or whether it be setting up your own online business, whatever it might be, there’s always applicable and transferable skills that you can gain from anything.
As I say, it becomes a bit of a benchmarking process. So just having additional things alongside your studies is really important, wherever that might be. So I had a candidate who wanted to become one of our graduate buyers, and they set up their own buying and selling company online, come up with their concept, what they wanted to sell, what they wanted to do, and this was all extracurriculum. And what we found quite encouraging was their business was quite profitable, and they could actually show how they did this from start to finish. And was really, really quite important for wanting to be a buyer within Lidl. So that person was interviewed and that person did get the job.
I think sport is always helpful, but particularly, within commercial environments where it’s very competitive, it’s very profit and loss driven, having played within a team is always helpful because, generally, people who’ve done that to a high level are quite competitive. And so it’s a really transferable skill set and something we would always, always look for. Yeah. It’s also about time management. Again, so showing that you can not only balance your studies and your societies and your sport, et cetera, but also project management. So actually arranging events, arranging meetings. Those are really helpful too.
Having a part-time job alongside studying is really, really valuable for a number of reasons. One is it shows that people are able to time manage effectively. And let’s be honest, when you come out of university and you start in the workplace, your career and work is never linear. So you’ll always have other things that you need to try and manage, whether it be family or even further study, alongside that. And so, having shown that you’re capable of studying and working at the same time is a really good way of showing that you’re capable of time management. Having work experience, and particularly, transferable work experiences, is really, really key.
Any work experience is useful because it always correlates over into any job you’re applying for because, I think, sometimes if you come out of university and perhaps you haven’t done any work previously, stepping into a new role, it can be sometimes be quite a steep learning curve to get used to that professional environment. And so, if you’ve done any work experience prior to that, I think it can set you up in quite good standing in that sense. And again, it’s just useful in learning all those skills. So even having professional work conversations, for example, dealing with massive amounts of emails, all those things, they’re very useful skills.
And any role that you do prior to applying, I think, can be useful. It’s just a question of understanding what skills you’ve learned from that role and then being able to translate that into the role that you’re applying to. It doesn’t have to be paid work. It can be volunteering work, absolutely. Volunteering is great, be that working for charities, local organisations, 100%. Yeah, that’s definitely valued. I do feel that they do have better communication skills because they can adapt to a different environment. They’re not just solely within a study session. They’re actually putting themselves outside of the box and trying to deal with different people from all different walks of life. Absolutely love volunteering.
I think it’s always nice to see people that take the time to help society and put their time and interest in causes that really matters to them. I think it helps you develop not just as a professional but as a human being. And I think the two things go hand in hand together. So very important, not just for you and your professional career but for yourself. You want to learn about yourself, and through volunteering, you are definitely going to do that. I find part-time work really, really valuable. It’s so important. I mean, what’s most important for them is their communication skills. They’re actually able to adapt in a working environment.
They’re able to learn some new skills to bring to a role, whether it’s customer service experience or it could be administration or it could be how to organise yourself in a working environment as well. So those skills are really important when looking for work. We do like a student who’s done a placement year. Again, it shows that they can show their own independence, and that they’re actually keen to work in an environment that’s out of their normal comfort zone. It also shows that they are adaptable, and they actually come with some skills, whether they’ve worked in one particular industry but they can actually adapt those skills into a different industry. So we do like a placement student.
I think one of the things that is important, especially when you are at the university, is to take time to do the things that you like. It’s one of those amazing times, universities, when you’ve got time, yes, to do a course and to explore a more academic subject and you have to write your assignments but take time to really discover who you are. And be yourself and do those things that really challenge you. Try to get out of your comfort zone because there’s never going to be another time in your life when you’re going to have that time. And that was–so, like, peace of mind to do it and explore. So absolutely, like, challenge yourself and explore.

As you’ve seen, getting involved in activities at university can open up a whole range of other opportunities for you which can help you develop and explore your strengths. But did you know that employers value these kinds of experience in their new recruits too?

In the video, you’ll see a range of employers talk about why they value activities and work that students undertake outside their degrees, and how this can make a difference to the graduates they hire.

Reflect on the video

  • Were you surprised by what the employers had to say?
  • Can you see yourself engaging with any of the activities mentioned, e.g., sport, part-time work or volunteering?
  • Think about something that you enjoy doing. Can you identify how this activity might develop a transferable skill?
Write a post to the comments area below, and discuss these points with other learners.
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