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College Extracurriculars to Give Your Career a Jumpstart Before It Begins

Published:22 May 2019

Over 50% of college interns are given full-time employment offers by the companies where they intern. Additionally, hundreds of college graduates are offered employment based on volunteer work they’ve done, their part-time employment during college, and other networking opportunities. If you want to start your career running, take advantage of these extracurriculars to get a leg up on the competition, and situate yourself for future success.

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

Internships: Test The Waters

An internship is a great way to gain experience and get a “real job” line on your CV. The experience you gain in an internship can be career-specific, or just general knowledge of how an office operates and how work projects flow. Working in an office and dealing with coworkers is different than going to class and dealing with classmates, and the only way to learn how to navigate office culture is to immerse yourself in it. Being an intern gives you a pass while you learn, so it’s the perfect way to learn.

One of the greatest advantages of interning is to figure out what you like. If you are considering going to law school after university, interning at a law firm can give you a feel for what being a lawyer would be like. Conversely, an internship can also show you what you don’t want to do. Maybe what you thought you wanted to do isn’t actually your cup of tea, or maybe it’s just sitting in an office all day that doesn’t suit you. Upon graduation, you can make a more informed decision. 

Volunteer Work: Make Connections

Perhaps you’d like to do something in your summers off that gives back. Volunteer work is a great way to advance your career and to make a difference. There are many opportunities to volunteer, both local and far from home. If you choose to travel to volunteer, you may make lasting friendships with people who then become part of your network, which can lead to new opportunities in the future.

Volunteering is also a great way to make connections with people who may later give you a reference for a job. College is time-consuming and demanding; showing that you are able to juggle the demands of school in addition to the responsibilities of a volunteer position shows dedication and time-management abilities. Similarly to interning, volunteering may help you realise what it is you really want to do.

Part-Time Employment: Gain Skills

Working part time during school is often a necessity for students to earn money to cover their expenses. But part-time work has additional benefits as well. The same as volunteering, balancing part-time work and studies shows that you have time-management skills. If your part-time employment is in an office setting, just as with an internship, you are learning to navigate the corporate world and work in an office with others.

While you have likely sought part-time work as a way to pay your bills, never underestimate the training you are getting (while being paid!) and how that training may be applicable in other environments.  If you are taking orders at a fast-food restaurant, you are gaining experience working with the public, which is a highly valued skill in a multitude of careers. Much of what you learn can be applied elsewhere, and it is those skills, rather than the duties of your college job, that you should highlight on your CV. 

Gap Year: Search Your Soul

If all of this sounds far too overwhelming, as you are not even yet sure of where to apply for college, a gap year may be just the thing for you. Rather than having to decide what you hope to do for the rest of your life coming out of high school, you may benefit from a year of travel and soul searching to decide. You can take a gap year to volunteer, work part-time, and even complete an internship, reaping all the benefits those offer before you decide on college.  

Whether you choose to do one, two, or maybe even all of these things during or before your college experience, know that any one of them will benefit your career in the long run. Keep in mind that how you present these on your CV can make a difference, but that the skills you learn are the most relevant, regardless of the industry you choose to pursue. If you are able to find a mentor in your field, ask that person for advice in pursuing these endeavours, as they can be tailored to set you up for even greater success if you can plan them all in such fashion.


Katlyn Hudson



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