When writing a CV many people segregate their professional skills and their hobbies and interests. But, as AAT student Amy Ross argues, what you do in your spare time can be just as relevant as your work experience
I’m sure most people experience that period in their lives (usually around their late teens and early 20s) when they start looking for a ‘real job’. By this, I mean the job that they intend to start their career, to properly enter the adult world.
Many of these people will seek career advice, be it at school, college, university or at the local job centre. Almost always they will be asked about extra-curricular activities. It seems that our potential employers want to know as much about our hobbies and interests as they do our professional lives.
The question is, why do they want to know this? What does how we use our free time say about us?
What your hobbies and interests say about you
There are obvious examples, sport being the first that springs to mind. If I join a sports team, what does that say about me? It says that I can make a regular commitment, where my team mates rely on me.
It shows that I can manage my time in order to fit this into my weekly schedule. It shows that I can interact with people. A craft or musical hobby might show attention to detail and an artistic side, whilst a love of puzzles demonstrates a methodical mind.
How running a Girlguiding group in my spare time helps my job applications
Personally, I run a Girlguiding unit in my spare time, where members are aged 14-18 years old. I organise weekly activities, I attend meetings with other leaders, I keep the unit accounts and I send letters to parents. I have often mentioned this on job applications and in interviews.
However, I have always tried to highlight what this shows, rather than simply listing the things I do. As such, the skills that I demonstrate in my role as a Girlguiding leader are:
- organisation and time management (I organise weekly meetings & keep the accounts)
- communication on a range of different levels (with young people and adults, verbally and written)
- leadership (I take responsibility for a team of volunteers).
Indeed, on my CV, I have not listed this activity under a heading of ‘interests’ or ‘extra-curricular activity’. I have titled this section as ‘skills’ because it is this that I aim to demonstrate, in including my role as Girlguiding leader.
Having hobbies shows you have a life away from work
A final crucial thing that I believe extra-curricular activities reveal to a potential employer is that you have a personal life. That is, you enjoy spending time doing things other than working and have a good work/life balance. I think the ability to know when to stop working is important, as highlighted by the high number of stress-related illnesses we have in our current society.
I do not believe a potential employer is concerned with what it is that we do with our free time. It is the skills we learn and use on a regular basis (often without even thinking about it), that they are interested in.
Of course, most of these skills will translate automatically into our professional life. Much more than this, we do these things because we enjoy them and because they are an escape from work and this in itself is important.
Amy Ross is an accounting technician and former AAT student.