How to succeed in college: Part 4

Today I return to a discussion of the points made in an article by Jeff Beals that formed the basis for last week’s posts about how to succeed in college. This time, I want to write about his suggestion that you “get involved.”

The reason that Beals suggests you get involved is that participating in extracurricular activities “helps you develop relationships with fellow students. These relationships consequently bind you emotionally to the school.” This makes perfect sense, but there are other reasons why it’s important to get involved.

According to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, employers of recent college graduates purposefully look for extracurricular activities when they review resumes of prospective employees. Why? I think it’s because those activities demonstrate several key traits or experiences that employers want to see in the people they’ll consider hiring. Involvement in activities outside the classroom provide opportunities to demonstrate:

  • leadership. Taking an office in a student organization or serving as chair of a committee shows that you can make decisions and take responsibility. While you may not need to show leadership in your first job after college, employers want to know that you have that potential.
  • teamwork. There are very few jobs that are done in isolation, showing that you know how to get along and work with others is crucial. Participating in the work of student organizations—especially if you can quantify your participation by saying something such as “recruited ten new members” or “raised $5,000 for the local children’s hospital”—is one of the best ways to demonstrate that you can work on a team.
  • time management skills. If you’re able to do your academic work, and do it well, and still have time for extracurricular activities, then you show a prospective employer that you’ve developed the ability to allocate a crucial  personal resource: time.

Participating in extracurricular activities can also build your network, which, as I’ve often said in this blog, is one of the crucial STEPS in finding the right job. Of the five steps in my book, I consider Step 4:Create a Network to be the single most important step toward success—and that’s why it has the most tips of any section in the book!

Look for extracurricular activities that will help you demonstrate the skills listed above, but that also will work towards building your network and connecting with people who’ll be good contacts after graduation. For example, you may want to join student chapters of professional organizations relevant to your anticipated career, giving you access to their members nation- or world wide and possibly to important job search tools specific to your field.