Extracurriculars: How They Can Win You A Job

by Jaineel Aga

This chapter is a free excerpt from The Best Book on Getting Consulting Jobs In India.

From Parthenon and many other consulting firms' perspective, extracurriculars are the second-most important thing on your resume after your general intellectual ability. Once you've filtered a person for being smart, you want to see if the person has more in their personality than test results.

One of the ways to showcase this is through your extracurricular activities. They reflect 2 things: the fact that you can be an all-arounder and your level of drive.

Extracurricular activities could be sports, dramatics or other arts; they could be non-profit work like volunteering with Red Cross or at a shelter home--anything that is outside your academics. Having good extracurricular activities, and the fact that you've done excelled in those, sends a positive signal to the person reviewing your resume.

How did I build up my  extracurriculars for my resume? Given that I've read up from quite a lot of sources, I realize that this is one of the most important things to have on the resume. For my internships, I knew that my resume had to have a lot of interesting extracurricular activities. This becomes easy for someone who have been practicing a sport, dance or musical instrument since school or has been lucky to be part of, say, a wildlife expedition to the Amazon or a marathons to raise money.

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From Parthenon and many other consulting firms' perspective, extracurriculars are the second-most important thing on your resume after your general intellectual ability. Once you've filtered a person for being smart, you want to see if the person has more in their personality than test results.

One of the ways to showcase this is through your extracurricular activities. They reflect 2 things: the fact that you can be an all-arounder and your level of drive.

Extracurricular activities could be sports, dramatics or other arts; they could be non-profit work like volunteering with Red Cross or at a shelter home--anything that is outside your academics. Having good extracurricular activities, and the fact that you've done excelled in those, sends a positive signal to the person reviewing your resume.

How did I build up my  extracurriculars for my resume? Given that I've read up from quite a lot of sources, I realize that this is one of the most important things to have on the resume. For my internships, I knew that my resume had to have a lot of interesting extracurricular activities. This becomes easy for someone who have been practicing a sport, dance or musical instrument since school or has been lucky to be part of, say, a wildlife expedition to the Amazon or a marathons to raise money.

There's no need to despair if you haven't done any of these things. It's never too late to start. My story is an example. I knew that getting something on a resume from a sports perspective, especially at a university like Duke where there are a lot of really good athletes, in 9 months was next to impossible. The first thing you have to do is take a step back and realize that not all extracurricular activities are necessarily sports.

It's fantastic to have any form of sports achievements on your resume; it's absolutely brilliant if you played tennis for your university or even your high school-- definitely put that on your resume. If you didn't, work toward it. I used to be on the lookout for any such activity I could do that would not take up too much of my time, but at the same time show that I can balance my time and plan my week to accommodate things outside the classroom.

An opportunity offered itself when Red Cross was looking for a couple of students on campus who could lead their blood donation drive. Donations coming from the Duke campus had fallen over time, and they wanted to know if there was a reason that people had been donating less blood. They wanted to know if there was someone who could take ownership and be the point person, the point of contact at Duke, who could start improving the amount of donations that were coming through. It was again a competitive position to get, for which one had to make a compelling statement of purpose.  We had to submit a resume following which there was an interview, and there were 2 of us who were picked for this position, one undergraduate and one graduate student.

This opportunity was very beneficial because: A) you get the American Red Cross brand on your resume, and B) you get something interesting to tell as a story. I mean, imagine telling a recruiter that as a student you actually turned around a falling donation rate on campus. 9 out of 10 times, your interviewer will be interested in knowing how that turnaround happened? Aren't you itching to know as well?

Never misrepresent on your resume. You can put something on your resume only after actually delivering the goods. We did deliver: we came up with some extremely innovative ideas. For example, we started a competition between Duke and UNC; we leveraged the basketball rivalry and created a donation rivalry, where every time there would be a live feed at both schools, and blood donations scheduled on the same day on the same campuses.  We proposed having a live comparison chart which tracked the donation at both schools. For example, the chart would read -  60 liters at Duke vs. 43 liters at UNC.  Since people from both schools are passionate about the basketball rivalry, this was a great way to motivate students sitting on the fence to go out and donate. You've got motivate and incentivize people.

People at Red Cross were impressed with this strategy; I had already graduated by the time the next basketball season happened and this was implemented for real, but I was told the strategy worked out well. This became a really interesting story to tell, and I didn't really have to be an athlete or have a special musical talent to put on my resume; all it required was a little bit of foresight and planning.
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