Editor’s Note: We’re welcoming Michael back for a guest post! Check out all of his previous work on the blog from when he was a student.
As a recent graduate, I’ve spent some time thinking about what else I want to be involved in either apart from or in conjunction with my career. Since beginning high school I’ve always been what some would consider an ‘over-achiever,’ but I like to take the negative spin off of myself and reduce it to just ‘achiever’ (see StrengthsQuest). Achiever has always been to me the most fitting aspect of my personality as well as what I consider a valuable trait that employers strongly consider when looking for new employees. I’ve mentioned before how important these ‘extra-curricular’ activities are and how they look good on a resume, but there’s more to it that I want to address for you today.
Now think to yourself, what are the benefits of being involved in more than just school and work? Being an active participant in volunteer work, community programs, sports, and student organizations are all beneficial activities anyone can find an interest in if they find the right group or cause. Below are my top reasons for becoming more involved:
You develop applied skills in a way you just can’t get sitting at a desk
From my experience, being involved in political organizations and leadership roles both early on in high school and during college helped me develop communication and public speaking skills better than I ever could have developed from the one public speaking class I was required to take my freshman year of college. I used to be the kind of person who was deeply terrified of speaking in front of a crowd. My junior year of college I wound up giving policy recommendation and testimony to a congressional audience in Washington D.C. during an internship that required a combination of public speaking and research skills that I primarily got from being involved in extra-curricular activities such as MPIRG (Minnesota Public Interest Research Group) and SLC (Student Legislative Coalition).
You have unique opportunities to network and connect with others in your field of interest
During my last year at UMD, I became (and am still presently) involved with the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce College Connect program. This program matched me to a mentor in my field or area of interest who I meet with on a regular basis and attend the college connect events which involve activities such as volunteer work, networking, and professional skill development. I would strongly recommend to anyone approaching their graduation to consider joining this organization or something similar. The program and my mentor have given me some of the most direct and applicable advice and tips for post-graduation than anywhere else. This is a program that transcended my completion of my student career at UMD and has also sparked my interest in becoming a member of the Chamber in the near future to be more involved in my community.
The work is fulfilling and can (and often does) involve helping others
One of the things that first attracted me to certain extra-curricular activities was the opportunity to volunteer and do charitable work that helps others. Before graduating high school I was awarded a medal for volunteering 130 hours of my time to volunteer work my senior year of high school. I continued through college working in programs that raised money to help the homeless and raise awareness for other social issues such as LGBT rights and issues relating to foster youth and adopted youth. The most fulfilling part is getting to meet the people you help and hearing their stories. I learned during my time in D.C. how strong people can be and how meaningful it is to be a part of the bigger picture.
You can better develop and understand your own interests
I discovered I wanted to be an accountant because of my busy-minded nature, knack for number crunching, and interest in the business/economic side of life in general. I came to this conclusion based on an amalgamation of experiences all developed through extra-curricular activities that I have been a part of for years. I’ve mentioned before the importance of knowing yourself when presenting yourself during an interview and here, in this blog post, are the best tips I can give on how to get there.
Still not convinced? It’s not surprising. Most people grow up to where you’re at today being told countless times the importance of school and good grades, but sometimes people forget to talk about doing more than just that. Maybe it’s because when it comes to work, many people don’t like to think of doing ‘more,’ but it is that precise reason why doing more is such an indication of ambition and drive that employers rank it one of their top reasons for offering an interview to a candidate. Doing more is an intriguing quality that anyone has the capability of achieving. Think about how easy that interview will go when you have all that experience added to your background to talk about! This strategy has helped me and countless others I know and have worked with at some point in time. With that in mind, also know that doing more doesn’t have to end in college. Transitioning into your career or into post-graduation provides so much more opportunity at a much broader level so why not start now while you can still get your feet wet?