Fun extracurricular activities to improve your CV
The job market may feel scarily competitive at times, but we know of plenty of ways to help you stand out – try these extracurricular activities and make your CV too good to overlook.
It's not enough to simply tell employers that you're interested in their industry – you need to show it. And the best way to do this is by boosting your CV while still at university with extracurricular activities.
One of the main things that employers look for is experience. Having extracurricular activities on your application will prove that you're not only serious about your chosen line of work, but you're also willing to go out of your way to develop and learn.
With the suggestions in this guide, you can find the best extracurricular activities to help you land a job in your dream industry.
Choose your career field from the list below
Animals and nature
Volunteer with animal charities
If you hope to work with animals in your future career – whether as a vet, in zoos or even for an animal charity like the RSPCA – one of the best things you can do is offer your services as a volunteer at a local animal shelter.
Most charities manage work experience students and volunteers on a branch-by-branch basis, so the best way to get more information is to get in touch with the charity directly. Their contact details can be found by a quick Google search for 'animal charities near me'.
Work on a local farm
Volunteering or working at a farm isn't just useful if you want to work with animals – it can also be a great addition to your CV if you're interested in any kind of outdoorsy career.
Farm work can vary widely depending on the sort of farm it is but (spoiler!) it tends to involve getting your hands dirty.
City dwellers will obviously have fewer options to choose from, but it's worth looking online to see if there's an urban farm in your area. Failing that, there may well be some stables nearby which are a bit more common in towns and cities than farms.
As a bit of inspo, one student took extracurricular farming a step further and began running her own alpaca farm.
Volunteer with the National Trust
Volunteering with the National Trust is basically a win-win situation. Not only are you boosting your CV, but you're doing it by spending time in some of the most beautiful areas in the country.
Plus, as a volunteer, you'll also receive training, get your expenses covered and have free entry to most National Trust properties. Sounds pretty perfect, right?
Head over to the National Trust website to discover the opportunities near you.
Art and culture
Work part-time at museums, galleries and stately homes
To get a good graduate job in the art and culture industries, it will really help if you not only visit art galleries, museums and stately homes in your spare time, but also work or volunteer at them.
Although a lot of cultural work opportunities for students are (annoyingly) voluntary roles, paid part-time jobs occasionally pop up. Keep your eyes peeled for job adverts on big institutions' websites, and reach out to smaller places directly to ask about vacancies.
If you work at a museum or gallery, you'll likely get invited to fun events like exhibition openings and talks. These events are great opportunities to meet industry leaders and get your name out there. Plus, events like this usually have free food and drinks, so it'd be rude not to go, really...
Organise your own exhibition
Setting up an exhibition will show loads of skills which employers look for, like teamwork, initiative, organisation, self-motivation and timekeeping (the list goes on...).
There are a lot of different factors you'd have to think about, like hiring an exhibition space and sourcing, transporting and looking after(!) the artworks/artefacts. With this in mind, it's a good idea to not do it completely by yourself, especially as revision and exams are still a priority.
Universities with a big focus on art will often have a society for curating exhibitions, so be sure to get involved if you can.
If there isn't a relevant society to join, you could always get a group of university friends together to work on it as a team. You can each have your own roles and responsibilities, and work together to organise an exhibition to be proud of.
We asked Francesca Fiumano, co-director of Fiumano Clase, about the importance of extracurricular activities for finding work in the art and culture industries. She said:
Extracurricular activities show the person looking at the CV that there is more to the candidate than their academic qualifications.
Showing a breadth of interests, both within art and culture but also on a wider scale, always makes a candidate look more interesting to prospective employees.
Francesca Fiumano, pictured with work by artist Sam Burford (image: Fiumano Clase)
Consultancy and finance
Start your own business
Uni is the perfect time to start a business – you're unlikely to ever have a working schedule as flexible as you do now, so you can make the most of it by setting up and running a new business. We have loads of business ideas to start at university in case you're stuck.
By starting a business, you can show that you've got what it takes to succeed in finance and consultancy – you're innovative, business-savvy and (a big one!) you can independently manage money.
It's even better if you can also demonstrate that you've got good people skills through the business, as this is a very important part of succeeding in business, particularly as a consultant. For example, you could think about starting a tutoring business, or a social enterprise which helps the community in some way.
Join consulting and investment societies
If your university has a consulting or investment society, join!
Societies are great opportunities to learn more about your industry and develop relevant skills. It's a massive bonus to also take on leadership roles within them, like club treasurer, social media manager or even president.
Your work in these societies will show more to employers than you might realise – not least, how serious you are about your chosen industry.
Work hard at your hobbies
In consultancy and finance, qualities like drive, proactiveness and even competitiveness are desirable in applicants.
While it's super important to be a team player, you'll also need to prove that you aim to do well in pretty much anything you set your mind to.
Ideally, employers will want to see that you've got a wide range of hobbies outside of work. But, if making money is really your passion, you could take inspiration from the student who went above and beyond and funded his degree by copying financial traders. Knowing these five ways to start investing will help.
Outside of academia, you might also be a talented musician, a sportsperson or a top student chef. By working hard to improve at your interests and achieve results, you'll be able to show employers that you've got the success-driven mentality they're looking for.
Governance and politics
Get involved in student politics
If you've set your sights on politics, you'll need to start getting involved and getting noticed, ASAP.
Look for university debates, communities and societies which reflect your political views, and join as many as you can to get the ball rolling.
If you reckon you've got what it takes to become the next PM, you need to show that you consider politics to be not just a job, but a massive part of your life – because that's what it'll be if you become a leading politician.
Get involved in student elections and political groups as well, and maybe even start your own website and blog about politics. Ultimately, you'll need to get your voice heard and show that you care.
Start campaigning locally
If you're a loyal member of a political party, why not volunteer to help out with campaigning near election periods?
Whether giving out leaflets, donning a garish rosette or knocking on doors in rain or shine, campaigning is a great way to show your dedication. And, better yet, you can also make some great connections in the process.
Work as a freelance translator
Speaking another language is already a really impressive skill in most industries – if you're hoping to use your language skills directly in your graduate job, working as a freelance translator while at uni will massively boost your CV.
It's both a good money earner, and brilliant experience. For tips on being self-employed as a translator, have a look at our freelancing guide for beginners.
You might already be acing a couple of languages, but the more you learn, the more money you can make as a translator. Check out our guide to learning a new language for some top tips.
This one might sound too good to be true but travelling actually makes you more employable – one of the reasons being that it encourages you to learn new languages.
The most effective way to learn a language is to immerse yourself in the country and culture. In cover letters and interviews, talking about your travelling experiences could really help you get noticed.
Medicine and healthcare
Work part-time in care and nursing homes
Getting the grades for degrees related to medicine is notoriously hard in itself, but helping out in a care or nursing home in your spare time could make your CV shine even brighter.
Working or volunteering part-time in a care home is a great way to build experience working with sick and vulnerable people, and it's incredibly rewarding work. It also demonstrates your compassion, which is essential for a job in healthcare.
A simple online search will pull up thousands of care home opportunities for you to apply for. Similarly, there are also lots of charities, like Age UK, which allow you to become a befriender to keep an elderly person company for an hour or so each week.
Volunteer for St John Ambulance
As well as having a network of university societies, St John Ambulance also have branches in the local community too.
By volunteering with St John Ambulance, you'll be given proper first aid training and can also get involved in helping staff out at events. Giving up your time to help people with St John Ambulance is sure to pay off for you in the future.
Volunteer at university arts programmes
Volunteer for as many arts programmes at university as you can. There'll likely be a huge range of opportunities in dance, theatre, music and drama – pick your favourites, but also try stepping (or sashaying) out of your comfort zone and attempt something new.
Whether it’s a backstage role, organisational role, or just getting involved in any way you can – experience is experience, and the more projects you’ve worked on, the better it'll look.
Work and internship opportunities in these areas tend to be emailed around and posted up on noticeboards around uni, so keep a look out for them! If you can't see anything crop up, get in touch with your student union directly and they'll be able to point you in the right direction.
Get involved in community arts
Community arts is a great way to get involved in, and since arts budgets are normally pretty minimal, there's always room for an extra pair of helping hands.
Take a walk down to your local community centre and enquire about the different arts programmes they're running and ask how you can get involved.
The opportunities are normally pretty diverse and being part of them can be really rewarding – particularly when they help you find a job in the arts after graduation!
Science and technology
Develop a new app or product
One of the best ways to stand out in the science and technology industries is to use your skills to create something completely original.
You don't have to invent the new lightbulb, or develop the next Facebook – as long as your ideas are new and interesting, and you're able to create a working product, they should be a really great talking point in interviews.
And, perhaps think about using your science and technology skills to make a mind-blowing CV. Have a look at these alternative CV examples, including a Google CV and an interactive video game one. The more creative and complex, the better.
Take free online courses to learn new skills
Granted, you might not have the most free time during term if you're doing a science- or tech-related course. But, if you want to be productive in your holidays and study topics unrelated to your degree, you could think about learning new skills through online courses.
Alongside your degree, these courses will give you make your CV (even more!) full, varied and employable.
Sports coaching and personal training
Join sports clubs and societies
The first thing you should do to help kick-start a sports-related career is get down to a uni sports fair and sign up.
For anyone wanting to work in sport and fitness, employers will likely take it as a given that you've joined some sports teams – join as many as you can, and don't be afraid to try a sport you've never done before. Showing you're willing to learn new sports will only go in your favour in job interviews.
If you're keen to get into coaching, plenty of sports teams and societies will be able to offer this opportunity. Or, for even more brownie points, you could run for a committee position.
Assist with sports classes at your old school
If you want to work in sports – as a PE teacher, a personal trainer, or even a sports physiotherapist – have a chat with whoever runs the PE department at your old school. Schools want their alumni to succeed, so they should be happy to help you out.
Find out if they need any help supervising after-school PE clubs, as this is a perfect opportunity for you to get some experience working with young people in a coaching environment.
Just note that you may need to complete a DBS check first to prove you're a suitable person to be working with children.
Working with young people
Volunteer at schools
If working with young people is your goal – maybe as a social worker or teacher – gaining some experience working with children is essential.
Head to your local school (primary or secondary, depending on which is more appropriate for the age you want to work with) and ask if you can help out. This could be at after-school clubs, as a supervisor at an event, or even as a class assistant during PE lessons.
Again, you'll likely need to complete a DBS check before being allowed to work with children.
Work for charities and summer clubs
If there's nothing available in local schools, some charities and community centres run clubs for children, particularly during summer. Get in touch with your local community centres, or check local community Facebook groups to see what's going on.
You could also consider spending a few weeks at a US summer camp to gain work experience. This is a great way to become more confident working with children, while also getting away and seeing America. To get you started, we've got a comparison guide to help you find the right summer camp for you.
Writing and media
Write for your university paper
Whether your ambition is to become a published author, the next editor of Cosmo or a freelance copywriter, the most important thing is to develop your writing skills and put your work out there for people to read.
Most unis will have their own newspaper or magazine which is a great place to start. Hunt down the contact details of your student editor, get in touch and start submitting your ideas to them.
If you show you're keen and able to come up with ideas, they're likely to give you some of their time.
One of our editors, Jess Murray, was the editor-in-chief of her university's student paper not long before she joined Save the Student. Here's what she has to say about student journalism:
Getting involved with the student newspaper is the best decision I ever made at uni!
If you're after a career in journalism or the media it will give you invaluable training, as you'll get to source, pitch, write and edit stories.
I got to interview famous politicians and celebrities, report live on major political events and produce my own front page splashes.
In my final year I was elected to be the newspaper's editor-in-chief which was a year-long, full-time paid position, and it's opened so many doors for me since graduating.
Jessica Murray, a Save the Student editor
Start blogging and creating online content
There's a whole wealth of online writing opportunities that will look great on your CV – it's just a matter of seeking them out.
Using Twitter to find opportunities is a great move, and it's also the perfect way to start building your professional profile (which will help you land a job once you graduate).
Joining writing communities on LinkedIn is also a great shout, as businesses often post there when they're on the hunt for contributors. Check out our full guide to using LinkedIn to get a job here.
Oh, and as a nice little bonus, you can make money as a blogger too.
Start extracurricular activities at university
Now you're armed with a few ideas of how to get the ball rolling, it's time to start asking around to see what opportunities are out there.
We can't stress enough how important it is to get involved in extracurricular activities to supplement your education – not only will it look great on your CV, but it'll also help you decide which career route is right for you.
Plus, the beauty of so many of these suggestions is that they're useful across a number of industries.
Taking part in any things outside of uni shows that you've got an excellent work ethic. And, depending on what activities you choose to do, they could highlight some of your other qualities, such as compassion, drive or communication skills.
All in all, as long as you keep up with all your uni work and don't overdo it, taking on extracurricular opportunities has so many benefits.