How Non-Professional Experience Can Help You in an Interview

Not everyone has been an executive all their life or spent the last seven years doing exactly the right job to get the next one. Sometimes, you might feel a little unprepared, or a little under-qualified, or perhaps there’s a slightly daunting gap in your career. You don’t have to worry, though. Sometimes a great relevant hobby or interest can help you demonstrate the qualities employers are looking for, give examples of relevant transferable skills, while also showing a bit of passion and personality. So what are the great bits of experience you can get while you’re job-hunting and where are they going to really shine?

Windsurfer

Athletic Past Times

Some job interviews can be significantly improved, or even be turned from a negative to a positive one, by mentioning non-professional and extra-curricular activities done in your own time. Mentioning that you love windsurfing, for example, might be a shared interest with a potential employer and it shows commitment to learning something difficult and demanding. There’s no sure-fire way of knowing this will spark a great conversation, so it’s a good idea to talk about it when describing yourself, rather than using up space on your CV. Non-extreme sports, or sports as they’re generally known, can also be a positive experience, as it demonstrates teamwork and commitment again. If you’re a member of a football team, or a rugby club, there may even be relevant experiences that have come about while you have been there. Was there a time when you introduced something or demonstrated excellent leadership talent and initiative? It’s worth bringing up in an interview. You can even do a little bit of research into the person interviewing you, look them up on Twitter or Linkedin. Try and see if they have interests relevant to yours. Having a great conversation, even if it’s not completely related to the job can make a great difference to the rest of the interview. Be careful not to actually stalk them, though. That can lead to complications. And don’t lie about your experiences, either. If you say you’re interested in hockey because you saw that they are, you could be made to look a bit silly if you can’t answer any further hockey-related questions.

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Creative Past Times

Non-athletic hobbies can also be a great thing to talk about. Photography, writing, acting, music. They all show commitment to learning something, and a passion and interest for research. Don’t actually bring your guitar, or perform a Shakespearean soliloquy, though. They’re not going to be all that interested in how good you are at them. Unless you’re in an audition for a play. Avoid talking about hobbies that are unskilled and passive, like watching television or playing a lot of video-games, even if you’re really good at them. It’s generally something everybody does, and doesn’t demonstrate any relevant skills. Acting and music can be good examples, particularly if you’ve done them in front of an audience, as this shows a good deal of confidence and creativity. If the job description is asking for someone creative, passionate and dynamic, these can help demonstrate that you are. In fact, always read the job description, and then consider how your non-professional experience might relate to the aspects they’re looking for.

Photographer-fire-1

Volunteering

Any clubs and groups you are part of can be a good subject to talk about, particularly any volunteering or charity work. If you were chairman of a club and organised a charity cake-bake, it can be a good thing to talk about in an interview. It demonstrates a lot of great qualities, and shows great initiative and leadership. If you volunteered at a dog-shelter or a care home, it’s a great experience that is almost certain to impress employers. You can always volunteer in a charity shop as well, to show that you can work in a professional environment and deal with members of the public. This is particularly useful if you’re looking for anything in retail, but can still be pursued anyway.

If you are currently looking for a job, and you aren’t part of a club, you aren’t volunteering and you aren’t learning a new hobby, it’s probably worth considering getting out there and start learning those new skills that could give you the edge in your next interview.

Check out www.do-it.org.uk/ to find any volunteering work available near you in all sorts of different areas of interest.

Louis Clayton | Strike-Jobs.co.uk Journalist

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