The impact of extra-curricular activities on the employment opportunities of graduates

By November 30, 2018Academic Papers


The impact of extra-curricular activities on the employment opportunities of graduates











Labour market

It is Greener, Bourner, and Rospigliosi’s (2011), contention that the labour market is so volatile that jobs existing today may be non-existent in 10 years to come. Therefore, potential employees must ensure that their curriculum vitae (CV) set them apart from the rest. This will serve as an advantage that ensures they secure competitive positions in their careers. One of the first steps towards this regard is the acquisition of an academic degree, in the desired field of employment. However, this is not enough. The proliferation of tertiary education has forced employers to seek other qualities as they identify the best job candidates (Rivera, 2011). This paper reviews the current literature on the influence of extra curriculum activities on graduate employment.

Graduate labour market

Graduates usually have limited or no work experience in their respective careers that they are pursuing. Therefore, university degrees and similar qualifications serve as their only proof of competence. Unfortunately, this is not enough, as the graduate labour market is more competitive than the general labour market. Tholen (2014) explains that this situation is a result of the high number of higher-education graduates in the modern labour market. Arguably, employers’ preference for highly educated employees has caused this influx of students seeking to attend college and graduate. Greener, Bourner and Rospigliosi, (2011), argue that employers prefer to hire graduates because they have shown the ability and the willingness to learn new things. This goes back to graduates having spent four years or more in college or university acquiring relevant professional knowledge. Therefore, this makes the employers reason that they would have an easier time teaching them the specifics of the job and altering them as the need arises.

However, it has become increasingly apparent that many graduates do not succeed in their efforts to secure their desired jobs. This is partly explained by the fact that a degree is no longer the exceptional qualification, but rather the norm. Tholen, (2014), posits that employers seeking to hire people often use the graduate qualification as a way of shortlisting potential candidates. However, there is a current trend emerging where the deciding factor today is the extra-curricular activities that the applicants took part in during their college days (Rivera, 2011).

Extra-curricular activities

There are various activities that students take part in, besides their traditional studies. For instance, they could join student societies, student politics or engage in community service. This is especially useful for activities that build specific skills that may be useful in professional life. The extracurricular activities should enable the students to apply their learning and experience their field beyond books, lectures, and exams. This is offers an experience different from their traditional rote learning at classes. Yorke (2010) explains that students that engage in extracurricular activities, which are related to their career path, feel engaged and motivated to apply their course knowledge outside the classroom setting.

According to Andrews and Russell (2012), some college students pursue extracurricular activities that do not set them apart from other job applicants. It, therefore, works against the graduate job applicant rather than help them. Thompson et al., (2013) attribute the poor choice in extracurricular activities to lack of knowledge on what today’s and tomorrow’s employers are and will be looking for when hiring. This demonstrates a significant gap in knowledge and makes the extramural undertakings pointless.

The non-school undertakings may end up being a detriment to the students’ academic performance. Thompson et al. (2013), postulate that students end up spending a lot of time taking part in extracurricular pursuits, hence leaving less time for their academic programs. This means that the student may end up failing and unable to graduate on time or at all. Therefore, the student may end up jeopardizing their career by failing to graduate. This undesirable outcome may make some students reconsider taking part in extracurricular activities.

Undergraduate students usually take part in extracurricular pursuits in their higher education institutions (HEIs). This supports Wilson’s, (2009), assertion that it is the duty of the HEIs to fund and support these pursuits, especially if they prepare the students for employment. Despite this state of events, Yorke (2010) perceives that HEIs do not invest adequate resources to extramural endeavours. There is need for change in that regard. Students should be able to identify and partake in extra-curriculum activities that have a bearing on their individual career paths.

Impact of extra-curriculum activities on graduate employment

There is a correlation between employment and participation in extracurricular activities. DuPre and Williams’ (2011), study found that employers value graduate employees with the relevant work experience in the chosen field. This means that employers would like to hire graduates that have spent time doing internships and co-operative learning. The two activities enable the student to experience working in their career field, and also helps them learn work ethics. Co-operative learning helps students to learn to work in teams or groups, which is an important aspect of today’s work environment. These extracurricular activities may aid the student in increasing their chances of successful graduate employment.

Stiwne and Jungert’s, (2010) study delved into the experiences of graduate students as they sought out employment. Many of the participants intimated that it would have been best for them to learn generic skills and cultural values while taking part in extracurricular activities (Stiwne and Jungert, 2010). This study gives insight from the graduates themselves, showing that the mentioned skills would have been of help to them when looking for work or transitioning into a job. Extracurricular activities are therefore an important part of the students’ experiences.

While extramural pursuits seem to have value to the graduates, as they seek employment, it is not the same for all undergraduate students. Stevenson and Clegg’s, (2011) study indicates that there are students who know and acknowledge the importance of extracurricular activities to their careers. These students take part in extracurricular endeavours that are of relevance to the career that they are pursuing. On the other hand, there are students that do not take part in these activities, owing to lack of interest and knowledge, and hindrances to pursuing them (Stevenson and Clegg, 2011). The hindrances include low socioeconomic status. Further informing this is Pegg, et al.’s, (2012) assertion that graduates from backgrounds of a lower socioeconomic status are among the groups that find it increasingly difficult to gain employment.

Low socio-economic status may hinder a student from taking part in gainful extracurricular activities, especially if they require membership costs or are not available on the school premises. Graduates use their membership in associations to distinguish themselves from other applicants when seeking employment (Roulin and Bangerter, 2013). This makes the membership advantage something, which the economically disadvantaged student may not possess. This makes it clear that HEIs need to fill this gap in student participation in extracurricular activities to mitigate this apparent discrimination. The activities should provide all interested students with experience in the real workplace and thus be of benefit to them as they seek employment, without undue charges.


The literature reveals that there is need for a consensus among students and HEIs when it comes to extracurricular activities. However, it is apparent that today’s employers prefer graduate employees who have taken part in extracurricular activities that are relevant to the chosen career. There is, therefore, need for further studies on the subject and development of programs that will enable students to identify and take part in extramural activities that increase their chances of securing the jobs they desire.













Andrews, G. and Russell, M., 2012. Employability skills development: strategy, evaluation and impact. HE, Skills & Work-Based Lrng, 2(1), pp.33-44.

DuPre, C. and Williams, K., 2011. Undergraduates’ Perceptions of Employer Expectations. Journal of Career and Technical Education, [online] 26(1). Available at: <> [Accessed 7 Nov. 2015].

Greener, S., Bourner, T. and Rospigliosi, A., 2011. Graduate Employment: 333 tips for finding your first job as a graduate. Ventus Publishing Aps.

Pegg, A., Waldock, J., Hendy-Isaac, S. and Lawton, R., 2012. Pedagogy for Employability. 1st ed. [ebook] York, UK: Higher Education Academy. Available at: <> [Accessed 7 Nov. 2015].

Rivera, L., 2011. Ivies, extracurriculars, and exclusion: Elite employers’ use of educational credentials. Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, 29(1), pp.71-90.

Roulin, N. and Bangerter, A., 2013. Students’ use of extra-curricular activities for positional advantage in competitive job markets. Journal of Education and Work, 26(1), pp.21-47.

Stevenson, J. and Clegg, S., 2011. Possible selves: students orientating themselves towards the future through extracurricular activity. British Educational Research Journal, 37(2), pp.231-246.

Stiwne, E. and Jungert, T., 2010. Engineering students’ experiences of transition from study to work. Journal of Education and Work, 23(5), pp.417-437.

Tholen, G., 2014. The changing nature of the graduate labour market. Palgrave MacMillan.

Thompson, L., Clark, G., Walker, M. and Whyatt, J., 2013. ‘It’s just like an extra string to your bow’: Exploring higher education students’ perceptions and experiences of extracurricular activity and employability. Active Learning in Higher Education, 14(2), pp.135-147.

Wilson, J., 2009. A Good Practice Guide for Placement and Other Work-Based Learning Opportunities in Higher Education. 1st ed. [ebook] Sheffield: ASET. Available at: <> [Accessed 7 Nov. 2015].

Yorke, M., 2010. Employability: aligning the message, the medium and academic values. Journal of Teaching and Learning for Graduate Employability, [online] 1(1), pp.2-12. Available at: <> [Accessed 7 Nov. 2015].


Originally posted 2017-10-07 23:14:35.



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