Every September, most students face the same dilemma: studying well, earning good grades, having fun and preparing for your upcoming career at the same time. It’s a lot to juggle at once.
But joining school clubs, volunteering and getting involved in student life are all excellent ways to have fun and acquire skills that will render you more appealing in the eyes of employers once you graduate.
How getting involved at school helps your career
“I got to participate in amazing projects and really felt like I made positive change on campus.”
—Mayer Elharar, recent grad
Getting involved in extra-curricular activities shows you honour commitments, know how to prioritize and meet deadlines, can multi-task, have good networking and social skills, and care enough about the world around you to get involved in it—all desirable traits in the eyes of a potential employer.
“These types of activities on your resumé will put you ahead of the game when the time comes to find a job,” says Mayer Elharar, a recent graduate of York University and managing director of SeMD Ventures. “Most important are those life learning skills you will acquire, skills like leadership, team work, time management and many more.”
How getting involved at school benefits you now
There are personal benefits to getting involved too. Joining clubs and participating on decision boards makes you feel like you belong to your environment and gives you a sense of control over the space around you. Active students feel more comfortable and less homesick.
Students cited social networking, making friends and having fun as plus sides to getting involved on campus.
Take it from Samantha Feder, a women’s studies PhD candidate at the University of Ottawa. Feder joined four clubs during her four undergraduate years at York University’s Glendon College, where she studied women’s studies and sociology. She was the president of the English studies club and was elected director of communications on the Glendon College Students’ Union.
“Being involved in student clubs helped me develop a strong social circle on campus. I met the majority of my close friends through the student groups I joined.” —Samantha Feder, PhD student
“I highly recommend joining clubs because university is about so much more than studying,” Feder says. “Being involved in student clubs helped me develop a strong social circle on campus. I met the majority of my close friends through the student groups I joined.”
Elharar, a fellow Glendon alumnus, says he agrees. “Who knows, in some cases that’s where you might meet your significant other.”
Elharar was a member of at least eight clubs or committees throughout his studies. He helped create the Glendon Entrepreneurial Club and the Hillel Club, of which he was president. Elharar says, “I also got to participate in amazing projects and really felt like I made positive change on campus.”
Tips on balancing clubs with your studies
Maybe adding more commitments to your heavy academic plate doesn’t seem like a good idea right now, but keep in mind that as more and more people enter the workforce with undergraduate and graduate degrees, employers are forced to look elsewhere to find something that makes potential candidates shine. Your skills and experiences make you a unique and stellar addition to the company.
Elharar suggests new students go for quality over quantity; you may want to ease yourself into the university experience by focusing on one club in your first semester and joining a second club in second semester. As you settle into your routine, you may find it easier to add more onto your plate. “When the time comes where ‘fun’ is taken out of the equation, it means you’re doing too much,” he says.
So how can students achieve a harmonious balance? “I would recommend that students consider how involved they plan to be in each club. Being a club member does not require as much of a commitment as being an executive member,” Feder says. “The level of involvement in each club will help determine what is manageable.”
Elharar cites good time management as being an important skill for any student who wishes to get involved on campus, not to mention a desirable skill in the eyes of employers. “I found it useful to use the time between lessons, when your head is exploding anyways of too much information, to work on my extra-curricular activities,” he says.
“I also set myself personal deadlines when I needed to finish studying for certain exams or when I needed to finish a program for a certain club’s event.” He says that if you really want to try something new but can’t afford to join another club, “then become a ‘silent’ member and just go when you can.”
Joining school clubs and getting involved improved the quality of Feder and Elharar’s university experiences and their resumés as well. Take it one club at a time and you’ll make the most of your university experience while brightening your future at the same time.