Last Updated: Dec 21, 2020
Applying to jobs is already stressful enough, and making a professional résumé that will stand out to your future employer is just another added thing to worry about. In fact, due to the ease at of mass applying to jobs online, nowadays many résumés are not even first looked at by a human, but rather by a computer software that scans for certain keywords. And even if a real person does look at it, recruiters from large companies who receive hundreds of résumés are unlikely to scan it for very long before making a decision. Therefore, creating a résumé is no doubt a challenge—but this article hopes to present you with a few tips on making it stronger.
While everyone knows to list paid jobs and positions on their résumé, not everyone realizes that they can list other extracurricular activities. Depending on how you format the document, these activities can be listed in another section titled something else like, “Other Experience.” Below are examples of top extracurricular activities employers wish to see on your résumé. While this is by no means an exhaustive list, it is a great starting point for those needing some ideas.
Clubs and leadership positions
Being a member of a few clubs is not only great for meeting new friends but also for giving you the chance to rise up as a leader. Better yet, holding a leadership position in a club that’s relevant to your career interests is a major plus. No matter the career, though, basic leadership skills are a must. Be sure to list how long you were elected to your position(s), what your overall tasks were, and any accomplishments the club(s) achieved under your leadership.
Research experience is particularly valuable for STEM fields as well for those who plan to pursue a graduate or doctoral degree. Research can consist of joint research with a professor or faculty member, or an individual project. If your research gets published or wins an award for your outstanding work, be sure to list that on your résumé too.
Part-time and work-study jobs
Whether or not your part-time job is relevant to your future career, having solid work experience is better than having none. Examples of part-time and work-study jobs include helping at the school library, working at a local café, or being an assistant in the admission office. Many employers understand that students need to work in order to provide for themselves, even if the job itself isn’t that “prestigious.” Don’t be afraid to list job(s) that you hold for at least a couple months; there’s always something valuable you can learn from a work experience.
Volunteer work for your résumé can consist of any position or activity that you consistently participate in for at least a couple of months. Some examples include being a tour guide at a local museum, volunteering at an animal shelter, or helping out in a classroom. Like part-time jobs, volunteer work doesn’t necessarily need to be related to your major or future career, but bonus points if it is.
Students should aim to have at least one relevant internship during their undergraduate career. A strong internship should last a couple months (or more) and be in the industry you plan on entering, if not somewhat related. Internships show future employers that you not only have work experience but that you’ve also “tried and tested” out what your future career may be. You’ll most likely develop the majority of your practical, hard skills before entering the workforce in these positions. And you don’t have to wait until senior year to get an internship; you should visit the career services office as soon as you settle in on campus to learn about all the internship opportunities available to you.
Many schools offer semester, year-long, or summer study abroad programs for credit. Students may also choose to study abroad privately with an outside program. Either way, studying abroad is great for showing your future employer that you have multicultural experience and can work well with people from different backgrounds. Did you learn a foreign language while you were there? Take any interesting classes? Participate in an internship? Make your study abroad experience stand out on your résumé!
While the degree of writing skill needed will vary depending on the job, no matter what position you are in, having the ability to write concisely and clearly is an asset. You’d be surprised how many people in the workforce today don’t have solid writing skills! Whether you write for a publication on campus, have your own personal blog, or have published academically, you should highlight your writing skills through your experience.
Being a tutor or a peer advisor shows employers a couple things: 1) that you were so strong in an academic area that you were able to help other students, and 2) that other professors and faculty members could trust you. Being a tutor at an institution for younger children is also a good position to list on your résumé. Remember to list exactly what subject(s) you tutored for and if you consistently helped increase students’ learning outcomes or grades.
Those who enjoy the college dorm experience and have a passion for community organization may excel as a resident advisor (RA). RAs live with students and directly address their concerns, plan community events, and offer advice and support when needed. This is no easy task, and it often requires students to forgo their spare time in order to be “on call” for their residents. But this position shows leadership and people skills, which are both valuable to list on your résumé.
There are plenty of extracurricular options out there that will impress any future employer—so you don’t have to worry about limiting your possibilities or participating in something you’re not passionate about. Good luck in pursuing worthwhile and résumé-boosting extracurriculars in the rest of your college journey.
For more advice and suggestions on extracurricular activities, check out our Student Life–Student Activities section.