Extracurriculars: What to Put on Your Resume and What to Leave Off

As you march across the stage to seize your shiny new diploma and ride off into the sunset of your bright post-grad future, it is important to remember that not EVERYTHING you did during the past four years of college should have a home on your resume.  Even though you might be stuck in a trance of nostalgia mulling over your collegiate activities, trust us.  They weren’t all gems, and with a limited amount of paper space to convince potential employers that you are the right fit, you don’t have even one line of 12 point font to waste outlining your “Best Dressed” Award at your junior year formal, or the beer pong tournament you won at Sigma’s Lymphoma Fundraiser (“But hey, it was for charity!  That counts as philanthropy, right?”)  You might have been a social butterfly, involved in dozens of groups and activities on campus; so how do you decide which ones are granted that coveted resume space?

As you hopefully know by now, your resume should be tailored from head to toe (top of the page to the bottom) for the specific position you aim to obtain.  That being said, almost any extracurricular activity (note: ALMOST any… be smart here) can be tailored for your resume if you highlight the skills you demonstrated or learned during it that will benefit you in your career path.  Below are some suggestions on leveraging your extracurriculars to enhance your resume- not just take up white space.

Athletics
Many stereotypes tell us that athletes like to hang their hats on their sport accomplishments and let that carry them to success, but in actuality, athletics can be a time-consuming, rigorous activity one should be proud of that can certainly have a place on your resume.  Being a member of a collegiate sports team requires stern dedication, excellent time management skills, and a healthy dose of both teamwork and leadership- all qualities potential employers are looking for.  While titles and awards are fine to list, make sure to delve beyond that in your resume.  Simply putting “MVP, Baby!” doesn’t entice prospective employers; knowing what you did to earn MVP and the skills you learned along the way does.

Activities/Awards that Demonstrate a Particular Skill
While having a poem published in a compilation of prose or your research on chemical oceanography included in an academic article are not “groups” or “organizations” per say, they are definitely noteworthy enough to include on your resume.  They can show that not only can you do something, but you can do it well.  Activities or awards that demonstrate excellence in a particular craft or skill, such as forensics, writing, foreign language fluency, etc., can be of particular interest to employers.

Groups Applicable to Your Desired Position
As we mentioned before, colleges and universities typically have no shortage of groups to join based on your interests.  Love movies?  Join the Cinemaniacs!  Love yourself some salsa?  Join the Latin Dance Group!  If you were particularly ambitious in college, you could literally fill your entire resume with groups you were a part of… but that doesn’t mean you should.  It is important to include just the groups that demonstrate your interest, dedication, or skill pertaining to the industry/line of work you are pursuing.  Want to be a lawyer?  Pre-Law Society and Debate Team can stay.  Cooking Club and Intramural Kickball gotta go.

Leadership Positions
An exception to the above rule of just including groups in line with your professional interests is including groups where you held a leadership position.  Leadership positions, after all, ARE in line with your professional goals, regardless of if they have to do with chemical biology, business law, or whatever industry you are pursuing.  One area of contention is if you should include membership of Greek organizations on your resume.  If you spent four years in your fraternity draining kegs and playing Call of Duty, that does not exactly demonstrate your professional prowess.  However, in actuality Greek organizations present a plethora of leadership opportunities.  If you were the Finance Vice President juggling a large budget, or Philanthropy Chair raising X amount of dollars and managing the time and resources of 50 sisters, these are certainly noteworthy items that can really showcase your ability to self-start and motivate and organize others.

Volunteer Work
Let’s face it; volunteer work and charity can have the ability to make you like someone exponentially more, knowing that they have devoted their free time not only to themselves but to others.  Not only does volunteer work cast you in a slightly sunnier light simply based on premise, again there is plenty of philanthropic initiatives that really showcase leadership skills.  Organizing fundraisers, soup kitchens, etc. takes drive.  It also takes time management skills to juggle time for studies, time for your own interests, and time for others.  Volunteer work also demonstrates selflessness and cognizance of social responsibility, which is a hot topic in the business world these days.

Just remember as a rule of thumb: As you peruse through your extracurriculars, really focus on selecting ones that will highlight skill sets you think your potential employers might be looking for.  Then, present them using that goal in mind.  Don’t just list WHAT you did, but make sure to focus on HOW you accomplished those feats (what skills you possess), what you overcame (challenges you faced), and what you LEARNED (what skills you obtained).  Make the most of that resume space to paint yourself as a desirable candidate!

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