Are there holes in the ‘experience’ section of your resume? Your experiences outside of study and work can offer more proof of your job readiness than you realise — especially if you’re a student, an entry-level job seeker, or a junior pivoting to a new career.
Extracurricular activities are often added to resumes as an afterthought. Yet, they can showcase key skills that will impress hiring managers.
Let me show you how.
What Is An Extracurricular Activity?
Extracurricular literally refers to activities that fall outside a course of study.
Generally, anything you do beyond coursework or work settings that provides some level of development or lets you apply your knowledge and skills can be classed as an extracurricular activity.
They typically fall into one of these categories:
- Community service and volunteering (can demonstrate communication skills, language skills).
- Physical activities like team sports or athletics (can demonstrate teamwork skills).
- Involvement in clubs, governance groups, and committees (can demonstrate leadership skills).
- Non-academic competitions, prizes and projects (can demonstrate work ethic, grit and discipline).
The more senior you are, the less prospective employers care about your extracurricular activities and the more they want to see solid professional experience and achievements.
While manager-level resumes may feature a few extracurricular activities, they shouldn’t be a focal point.
Extracurricular activities differ somewhat from hobbies and personal interests. Rather than solely revealing something you like to do or feel passionate about, extracurriculars showcase how you’ve chosen to commit your time and energy towards a particular outcome.
How Extracurricular Activities Help You Stand Out.
Your desire to achieve or participate in something outside your study or work obligations demonstrates extremely valuable traits to a prospective employer.
This is particularly important if you don’t yet have much work experience to showcase on your resume.
Extracurricular activities demonstrate:
- Established networks through the alumni connections and community links you’ve made, which can add value to your new employer.
- Commitment and good time management skills. Successfully completing your studies and juggling multiple extra responsibilities means you know how to prioritise and follow through.
- A well-rounded, empathetic personality shaped by more diverse and nuanced interactions with people from different backgrounds.
- A broader, more agile mindset. You’ve got both book learning and real-world examples of how you’ve deepened your perspective, solved problems and followed processes.
What Are The Best Extracurricular Activities For Your Resume?
Just because it happened doesn’t mean you need to include it. Include the most relevant extracurricular activities only to avoid diluting the overarching narrative of your resume.
Great examples of experiences to consider including:
- Student government: Such as serving on student council, or being a key member of a union, collective or association. Or perhaps you contributed to the student newspaper or were chosen to be its editor.
- Non-academic competitions or prizes: For example, writing competitions, debates, drama club, project-based challenges, hackathons, moot law simulations.
- Sports and physical activity: Emphasise the teamwork, organisation skills and dedication that comes from belonging to a team, helping out in a club, or through regular training. Also valuable is volunteer work as a coach to lower grade teams, or as a referee.
- Clubs, societies and online communities: Any pastime involving a group member where you’re expected to contribute and work together is a potentially useful addition to your resume. Perhaps you’re part of a choir that visits aged care homes or the moderator of an online forum about sustainable design.
- Volunteering and fundraising: Both ongoing and one-off volunteering can be a powerful way to demonstrate your values and community-mindedness. Fundraising activities can also convey business and marketing savvy.
- Cultural experiences: Have you learnt and practiced a foreign language through a club or volunteering activity? Maybe you participated in overseas trips, studying abroad, that expanded your global insights or cultural awareness.
- Peer tutoring and mentorship programs: Sharing your knowledge or experiences with others is admirable, even if it’s a peer-to-peer support program.
- Personal projects: Works you’ve developed as a side gig or to practice your skills such as IT/coding projects, multimedia presentations or personal websites.
Some additional tips for selecting the right extracurriculars for your resume:
- Focus on higher education. Unless you’re a recent school leaver, your achievements during your high school days are ancient history.
- Emphasis on quality over quantity. Put yourself in the hiring manager’s shoes — what would they be most interested to see?
- Favour the most recent examples if you need to cut back. The skills you developed last month are more useful than the experiences from two years ago.
How To Describe Extracurricular Activities On Your Resume?
Every section of your resume should sing, and create a compelling story about your career and your future potential.
With the job you’re applying for squarely in mind, select and describe extracurricular activities for your resume based on how they:
- Demonstrate core attributes/soft skills such as leadership, people management, communication, teamwork, problem-solving, and creativity.
- Convey knowledge of, or alignment with, a company’s industry or values such as your time spent volunteering with a community visitor’s scheme when applying to work in a large aged care provider’s head office.
- Prove you have specific skills the employer wants. Forexample, if a job ad indicates the position involves some financial management, you should definitely mention you acted as the volunteer treasurer for the non-profit you volunteered with and talk about how you managed the budget.
Don’t exaggerate but put experiences in context. For instance, simply stating you helped a charity run an event is meaningless. Instead, explain how your online promotion skills helped attract an audience of 1,000 people to the event, enabling the charity to raise more than $10,000 in a single night.
How To Format Extracurricular Activities In Your Resume.
Consistency is key. Make sure write extracurricular activities into your resume using the same formatting as you apply to other sections.
Typically this means:
- Include the name of the organisation.
- Clarify your position or role, even if you didn’t have a formal title.
- Include the dates the activity occurred and/or the frequency.
- Describe major responsibilities, achievements, and learnings.
- Include references or testimonials where possible.
Completeness of details and neatness signals conscientiousness and helps recruiters verify the facts quickly. Recruiters are busy people, and many candidates miss out on jobs because their resumes look like “hard work”.
You should list activities in descending chronological order and keep the format consistent for each extracurricular activity you include.
Where Should Extracurricular Activities Be Listed On Your Resume?
There’s no correct spot to add extracurricular activities. In fact, you might add different experiences across various sections where they make the most sense.
For instance, you might include:
- University-based activities such as co-curricular clubs ad competitions in your ‘Education’ section. Adding extracurriculars here makes sense if you’re new to the workforce and your academic record makes up the bulk of your resume.
- Role-based volunteering in your ‘Experience’ section. Such as if you held a leadership position in a student association.
- Community volunteering in a separate section about your personal interests/passions.
Another common place to draw on extracurricular activities is a section that highlights your skills or achievements.
Instead, create snappy sentences, like:
- “Good at independently following processes.”
- “Skilled in using software to develop e-newsletters.”
- “Effective at creative collaboration to generate new ideas.”
You might prefer to have a specific Extracurricular Activities section. How impressive these experiences are should determine the prominence of this section in your resume.
You don’t have to use the label of extracurriculars — you might call it something like ‘Community leadership skills’, ‘Community contributions’, ‘Civic Participation’, ‘Achievements’, ‘Volunteering’ or ‘Personal projects’.
Resume Example With Extracurricular Activities.
Remember to provide meaningful context about how you performed or the skills and attributes gained through your experiences.
Here is an example of how you might include extracurriculars alongside your educational experience when applying for a position as a science communicator:
2021 Bachelor of Science (Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Major)
University of Queensland, Brisbane
Relevant fields of study: Genetics, molecular biology, chemical biology, analysis of scientific data, biostatistics, molecular genetics in health.
Extracurricular activities and achievements:
Awarded SCMB Academic Excellence Awards in Biochemistry in 2019.
Created agendas, led monthly meetings and prioritised goals as President of the UQ Judo Club Executive Committee 2019-2020.
Curated content and led discussions on best practice writing as volunteer moderator of the Wordsmiths UQ Writing Society Facebook group from 2018-2021.
Include Extracurricular Activities For Resume Impact.
If your work experience is thin on the ground, pay attention to the transferrable skills you’ve gained in your personal time.
Extracurricular activities can both complement and supplement your education and career history to present a more compelling case for hiring you.
Stand out during shortlisting for entry-level or graduate roles by selectively and persuasively showcasing extracurricular activities on your resume.