Though picking a major can be tough, sometimes deciding which clubs and activities to sign up for can be just as frustrating. You want extracurriculars to impress your future employers, but what if you don’t know who those employers are or what kind of job you’re going to want? We know that deciding on a post-grad career path can be stressful, but that doesn’t mean choosing your extracurriculars has to be. We’ve put together a list of the best activities that are useful for any career path, so if you’re undecided about the future (or just want to beef up your google cal), read on!
1. Public service
No matter what you want to do with your life, employers will always be impressed that you used your personal time to help others. Whether that means playing with children in the afternoons or building houses with Habitat for Humanity, your selflessness will not only be greatly appreciated, and you’ll feel great about it too. Jacqueline Gist, the Assistant Director of University Career Services at UNC Chapel Hill, recommends participating in different public service opportunities as a way to figure out what you’re passionate about.
For University of Connecticut grad Kyle Heaslip, participating in public service such as Habitat for Humanity and Cross Cultural Connection was fulfilling in more ways than one. “Habitat helped me feel important in the community and I gained a sense of leadership and trust from other members,” explains Kyle. “In Cross Cultural Connections, I spent time with a study abroad student and helped each of them understand our culture better… [Working with Cross Cultural Connections} given me wonderful communication and social networking skills that can really help in the long run.”
2. Greek life
Though fraternities and sororities have a reputation for partying and preppy-ness, there’s so much more behind the letters. Recruitment (the process of joining a sorority) will teach you great communication skills, and you’ll learn to handle yourself in different social situations, whether it’s organizing a fundraiser or recruiting new members. To get even more involved, try running for an office that relates to your interests. Sororities have chairs for everything from academics to finance, so there’s a leadership position for everyone if you’re interested in that.
According to Gist, “all organizations need public relations, event coordination, money management and leadership,” so you’ll be able to make new friends while building your skills. If you have sisters with the same major as you, they’ll also be able to recommend you at their internships. Plus, being in a sorority will give you access to tons of alumni networking that you can use to get a job!
3. Debate teams
They’re not just for the politically-minded—public speaking is a skill anyone can use. You’ll learn to convey your thoughts clearly, and understand different points of view. Some debate organizations, like the Demosthenians at the University of Georgia, even have their own houses and can be a great way to meet lifelong friends as well.
According to the Department of Communication at Western Washington University, there are countless benefits for trying debate in college. For one thing, it’s practical. “Employers will look for practical skills in their employees,” states their website. “Those applicants that can demonstrate an ability to think on their feet, express complex ideas verbally, and be able to not just identify problems, but solve them, will be in the highest demand. All of these skills are not just developed in college debate, but honed to a fine level of ability. Debate is not just a resume item. Debate is a real and recognizable skill that employers notice.” We agree!
4. A club that relates to your major
If you have an idea of what field you want to go into, you should definitely seek out a related organization. For recent University of Connecticut journalism grad Jordan Acker, joining the daily student newspaper was an obvious route. “As someone who wanted to pursue photojournalism, becoming a newspaper photographer at my school made the most sense in terms of extracurriculars,” says Jordan, who now works as a photographer for LifeTouch. “Not only did I have fun and meet an entire new group of friends, but I gained the experience needed to help me land a job after graduation.”
Furthermore, pre-professional groups are also great if you don’t have a major yet—maybe you’ll love the marketing club so much that you decide to change majors! If your major doesn’t have a student organization, you can always start one yourself.
5. Be a Resident Assistant
Besides having your housing cost reduced or even covered, being an RA will teach you how to handle a plethora of issues, from roommate fights to illegal substance use. Dominique Guidry, a former RA at UNC-Charlotte, has been offered multiple jobs this summer and says that being an RA was definitely something that impressed employers.
According to Students Affairs at Stony Brook University, RAs at their school will “learn important skills in counseling, conflict management, event facilitation, and leadership.” In addition, their website states, “The position looks great on a resume, as most employers know how much responsibility is involved…You’ll develop leadership skills useful for years to come, and employers will love that you’re responsible and trained to handle difficult situations.” Sounds like a great resume-builder to us, plus a cool experience.
6. Peer tutoring
It’s not just for education majors—peer tutors are regular students pursuing tons of different degree options. You can tutor whatever subjects you’re talented at, and at most schools you’ll receive either money or course credit for doing so. Other students will appreciate your help, and you’ll show your employers that you can effectively explain challenging concepts to others.
The Robert L. Smith Learning Resources Center website at Penn State Altoona explains, “Tutoring looks great on a resume for a job or on a grad school application. Any job shows that you have initiative; however, being hired as a peer tutor shows that you have initiative and that you have been through a rigorous screening process.” By becoming a peer tutor, you’re proving to future employers that you’re willing to go the extra mile and help others.
7. School newspaper
Not only will you sharpen your writing skills, you’ll learn editing and critical thinking, too, and the ability to operate under tight deadlines, which is standard in the workplace. Good news: school papers aren’t just for journalism majors as most will let anyone join the staff, and some papers will even pay you to write.
Maddy Harrington, who graduated from Mount Holyoke College, has an English degree, but says she got her start writing for campus publications. She began writing for a campus magazine during her sophomore year of college and landed a magazine internship that summer, where she had her writing published. The internship led her to gain an editorial position at her school paper, where she learned the basics of layout and copy editing. “For English majors, I've always felt that it's not just writing that makes you successful, it's all the other things you can manage to do at the same time,” says Maddy.
8. Career services work/career peers program
Most schools have a career services center to help students find internships and jobs, and many of these centers employ students as either interns or workers to help recruit others to seek the office’s guidance. You’ll learn about all different types of jobs, and you’ll show potential employers just how professional and driven you are. Molly Emmett worked for UNC-Chapel Hill’s career center as a senior in college, which led her to an internship at Target, where she now serves as a manager. Molly says career centers are great for any major, and that their resources are super helpful for finding internships, so be sure to visit your school’s office even if you don’t volunteer there.
9. Tour guide/orientation leader/University work
If you love your school, this one’s a no-brainer. You get to share your enthusiasm with others and get students excited for college. Employers will love that you stepped up to a leadership role on campus. These positions are very competitive, and the fact that your school wants you to represent them will make companies think you can represent them as well.
If speaking to groups really isn’t your cup of tea, there are other ways to show your school spirit. Alexa Johnson, HC campus correspondent for James Madison University, works as a Program Advisor to make bulletin boards in her school’s dormitories. She majors in design and creative writing, but says that working as a PA helped with her time management and planning skills. “It honed my creativity (since I'm always helping people come up with advertisements for programs and bulletin board ideas), three things I know will help me with a job I want one day,” says Alexa.
10. Whatever you are passionate about
The most important thing about college clubs is to do what you love, even if it doesn’t relate to your career. Education is the most important part of college, but it’s also supposed to be the best time of your life, so you deserve to have some fun! Do what makes you happy, and you’ll be motivated to do well in your studies too.
At the end of the day, Gist says that joining an organization you’re interested in is more important than what you think will look good on a resume.“Sometimes campus activities are a great way to figure out what you want to do,” she says—or (like any experience) even what you don’t want to do.
Ultimately, don't be afraid to try something outside of your comfort zone, meet people with different interests and do something you wouldn’t normally do—you might find out that it’s actually what you love. And there’s no doubt you’ll learn important skills along the way that will help you no matter what path you decide to pursue.
Jacqueline Gist, Assistant Director, University Careers Services at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Laura Baugh, Virginia Tech junior and HC Campus Correspondent
Molly Emmett, UNC-Chapel Hill Class of 2011 and Target Corporation manager
Dominique Guidry, former Resident Assistant at UNC-Charlotte
Madeline Harrington, Mount Holyoke Class of 2012
Alexa Johnson, HC Campus Correspondent for James Madison University
Jordan Acker, University of Connecticut graduate
Kyle Heaslip, University of Connecticut graduate
Western Washington University Department of Communication
Stony Brook University Student Affairs
Penn State Altoona Robert L. Smith Learning Resources Center