Extracurriculars: A Professional’s POV

The world constantly reassures us when we are young that we are special, and then spits us out when reality hits. How can we differentiate ourselves from the rest of the world in today's highly competitive job market?

The world is a tough place.

It constantly reassures us when we are young that we are special, and then spits us out when reality hits. I find this is a common trend that happens with students, and it becomes a struggle to make a place for yourself in this world.

Having been on both sides of the interview process, it’s easy to distinguish people whose extracurriculars are solely padding for their resume, and those whose extracurriculars have impacted who they are. That being said, I am a firm believer that volunteering and being involved in extracurriculars creates that impact within your life which makes you distinguishable in a job setting. Most likely when you apply for professional jobs, there will be other candidates with a similar educational background, so having that club you were a member of or details of that one cool thing you did can really set you apart from everyone else applying. As Sean Billingsley (Director, Marketing & Creative Design at Lassonde School of Engineering) says, seeing the fact that someone isn’t solely academic based but someone who also applies themselves is a huge bonus in employers.

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“The world constantly reassures us when we are young that we are special, and then spits us out when reality hits. How can we differentiate ourselves from the rest of the world in today’s highly competitive job market?”

The positions I held challenged me to become an individual who can take on that responsibility, and that’s exactly what employers need.

However, it’s easy to distinguish between a candidate who pads their resume with any small thing they did (we all know those people…) versus a candidate whose work and volunteer experience, as well as extracurriculars, impacted the person. Colleagues of mine, who hold positions such as Local President and Marketing Communications Director for AIESEC (the world’s largest youth-led network for shared global experiences), have outlined their process in hiring students for their organization. The biggest factor for their hiring is personality. “Being a competent, intelligent person is important, but personality is definitely important. Personality forms through someone’s experiences they’ve had, and I definitely think extracurriculars factor so much in someone’s character. You can teach people technical skills, but you can’t teach people how to be passionate or how to be someone people would want to work with.” As someone who was sheltered, I can relate as during high school I made myself volunteer every single day afterwards, and I believed it really shaped who I am today. In fact, in my recent interview, I was only questioned with the extracurriculars I was a part of rather than my academic standing. The positions I held challenged me to become an individual who can take on that responsibility, and that’s exactly what employers need.

“You can teach people technical skills, but you can’t teach people how to be passionate or how to be someone people would want to work with.”

Don’t get me wrong, academics are definitely important in a professional setting – competency in your field is needed. However, extracurriculars can make a big impact on you as a person, and whether or not you get that interview.

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Theresa Nguyen is a second year Mechanical Engineering (w/ dual specialist in International Development) student. She has a passion for science, biology, films, design, fashion, international relations, politics, world issues, and all things cool. She is currently the Editor in Chief of Lassonde Media Group, and is afraid of ketchup.
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