CP: Should Extracurricular Activities Be Included in Your Jobmine Package?

Note: This article is hosted here for archival purposes only. It does not necessarily represent the values of the Iron Warrior or Waterloo Engineering Society in the present day.

In my handful of years attending this wonderful jail of a school, there’s one thing that I’ve come to realize. If you focus all your attention on your schoolwork, you’ll go absolutely nuts. The only way you’ll get through engineering with a shred of dignity and some semblance of a smile left on your face, is if you find yourself a hobby or two. Aside from breaking my back filling this paper with content no one reads, I’ve joined a few intramural teams; I snowboard when I can; and if time permits, I’ll go through a novel or three a term. Your extracurricular activities make you an interesting person, and it gives you an identity. Even so, employers should not use it as a basis of hiring.

The first problem that comes with using these activities as a basis of measurement is quantifying these activities so that they can be evaluated. This essentially will make a ‘hierarchy’ of activities, of which one would have no solid metric. Someone could spend every non-class hour training for a marathon, running 20+ kilometers a day, hitting the gym for hours after that, and realize that companies aren’t looking for that at all. Anyone can train for a marathon; it adds nothing to the field of engineering and this person might even look worse than his peers who have multiple extra curricular activities. But compare that to more engineering-friendly activities – being a class representative for EngSoc (minimum of 3 hours every two weeks, maybe an extra few hours a week preparing events and informing classmates), writing for the engineering paper (breaking news: wrote this article in under an hour) and joining various 2-hour-a-week clubs. Even with this glut of good-looking extracurricular activities, the amount of time put in to these is overshadowed completely by the marathon trainer. But I can guarantee you, employers will look at the group of engineering activities and infer that the person is more motivated, determined, and better suited for whatever they are offering despite the smaller amount of commitment and time needed to do those tasks. I can and have done those engineering commitments, but I still could never run a marathon. And the amount of extracurricular activities does not reflect on how good the student is at actual engineering. Many of the leaders and popular people in the engineering student groups are the leaders and popular people because they should have graduated a long time ago, and their lust for these extracurricular groups may have been one of the many pieces of straw that broke their academic camel’s back.

And that doesn’t even take into account unclassifiable time-sinks. Large chunks of time needed to do things that don’t count as extracurricular tasks:  taking care of loved ones, long distance relationships, and even caring for children all fill up time without giving anything worth stating to employers. More prevalent outside of engineering, but many students still need part time jobs to get through the term, leaving them with little time between their job and their schoolwork to beef up their extracurricular page. These people should not be punished for their situation if they are still able to work hard and get the grades to move along like everyone else. And I know this may be hard to fathom for some, but what about the people that actually like their schooling? The ones that will do all the additional readings, will grind through all the additional problems, and will always seem to be the ones asking the profs the difficult questions at the end of lectures. Their extracurricular activity is their schooling, and they tackle it with just as much drive, heart and determination as any other extracurricular activities. Employers may be quick to gloss them over even though their minds are incredibly tied to the engineering world.

In the end, it really boils down to this: if you’re a good worker, and you’re good at your job, it shouldn’t matter what you do. Whether you spend your spare time building hydrogen bombs for the government, staring blankly at your wallpaper, or doing line after line of coke off of strippers, if you can come to work and still excel at the job you’re doing, it shouldn’t matter. Many people want their job to be their life, and many people want their job-life and their personal-life to be separate. If they both can get the company to the same point, then both ideologies can be embraced. A hard worker can be bred by working hard at these extracurricular activities, but they can also come from working hard at school and making sacrifices in order to go to school – these things cannot be measured by lists on a sheet of paper, but rather from the interview itself. A better measurement of this is past work term evaluations, not what you do outside of work.

By listing the extracurricular activities, I can see it is supposed to help those with unspectacular grades, but in most every scenario, I can see it doing quite the opposite. If you’re a good student with lots of activities, you’ll get even better treatment. But if you’re a bad student with the same amount of activities, I would see that as someone who can’t manage their time effectively in order to do well in school. The gap here between good and bad student will actually widen in this case, and I could see the student performing worse in the job market.
So kiddies, stick to keeping your extracurricular activities as a small blurb at the end of your resume. If employers take notice, you can tell them all about your endeavors in the interview. Keep your work at work, and your play wherever you play.

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