Education and work experience are often used as the ‘go to’ places for demonstrating key skills. But did you know that what you do in your free time can also be valuable when marketing yourself to an employer?
Ok, we’re not talking about Friday night house parties or duvet days binge-watching boxsets (although that can demonstrate a level of commitment I suppose). But many of the top skills that employers look for in candidates can be developed and evidenced through your extracurricular activities.
Interests that impress employers
"I work well in a team" may seem like a bit of a CV cliché. But if you can provide genuine evidence to back up this well-used claim, you’ll stand head and shoulders above many candidates.
Participation in team sports such as football, rugby, netball, or hockey are excellent ways of showing your ability to work cohesively with others in order to achieve common goals.
Being a member of a sports team can improve your interpersonal skills and your ability to support fellow team members when needed. And if you’ve ever been a team captain you’ll also have some leadership experience under your belt.
It’s not just sports where teamwork comes into play though. Group fundraising, putting on an event, or holding a committee position in a Students’ Union society can also demonstrate that you are able to successfully work with others.
2. Public Speaking
You might think that public speaking is the preserve of politicians and lecturers, but many aspects of working life require the ability to address groups of people.
An interest in theatre could help you here, as taking part in stage performances in your free time is a great way of developing the communication skills needed to deliver strong presentations – something required in many modern graduate roles.
Even successfully speaking up in meetings can require a level of confidence and poise. So the ability to transfer these skills from the boards to the boardroom could prove useful in working life.
Employers are always keen to see tenacity and determination, and it can be difficult to prove such qualities at application or interview stage. If endurance sports are your thing though, you're in luck.
Regular participation in sports such as cycling, running, and swimming can demonstrate to employers that you can go the distance, work towards targets, and put in the hours, even when the going gets tough.
4. Creative Thinking
Creativity is perhaps an attribute associated with some careers more than others, however most jobs require an element of creative thinking from time to time. From playing a musical instrument to photography, there are many activities that demonstrate a creative flair.
Draw on these interests when highlighting your ability to generate ideas and offer new perspectives. In addition, a passion for creative activities can signify an eye for detail and a critical mind, attributes necessary to produce high quality work.
5. Written Communication
This skill ranks highly in the eyes of most graduate employers. In fact, strong written communication skills are an essential prerequisite of many jobs.
Whilst a degree may give employers a clue that you’re at least fairly competent when it comes to putting pen to paper (or hand to keyboard), you may need more than this to set you apart from other applicants.
Writing a blog is a great way to hone your writing style, and providing links to your work on a CV or job application evidences your skills clearly. You can write a blog about pretty much anything that you are interested in. But if you intend to show employers your work it’s a good idea to steer clear of anything too controversial.
An industry related blog could make you stand out even more to employers. But as long as you write well, (almost) any subject matter can provide a good example of strong written communication skills.