Whilst there is a lot of demand for engineers and STEM graduates in the UK job market, that doesn’t change the fact that many engineering degrees, apprentices and jobs are highly competitive.
Whether it’s writing a UCAS Personal Statement for an engineering degree or responding to a job advert for an engineering apprenticeship, many students will feel the pressure to set themselves apart from other candidates.
Universities and potential employers look favourably upon applicants who can demonstrate a passion for their chosen career path – and there’s no better way to demonstrate your passion in a subject than having a portfolio of relevant extracurricular activities you can point to.
Engineering has many different fields; for example showing a passion for Mechanical Engineering through a project you worked on might set you apart from students who are more generally interested in Engineering.
As well as proving that you have strong aspirations to be an engineer, extracurricular activities can also help you to showcase soft skills that you’ll need in your future career, as well as helping to set you apart from other candidates and applicants in a competitive higher education/job market.
But what are some of the best extracurricular activities for an aspiring engineer? In this article, we’ll explore some of the extracurricular activities that could really help to boost your engineering CV.
What kind of skills can I gain from extracurricular activities?
Extracurricular activities can help you in two ways. They can help to enhance your existing scientific skills and knowledge and they can help you to build useful soft skills that will help you during the course of your engineering career; for example, leadership skills, project management experience and business/commercial awareness.
So it’s worth thinking about both science and technology-related activities that might help boost your engineering CV. Let’s look at these extracurriculars in more detail.
Start a Science or Engineering related blog
Blog writing. It feels like everyone does it these days. But a frequently published, well-written blog about a subject or specialism that really captures your imagination can go a long way in setting you apart.
One of the things you’re going to have to get comfortable within higher education and/or employment environment is the ability to be self-motivated. Keeping a blog is a really useful way to both practice your scientific writing and mark yourself out as an independent thinker in your chosen field. And, depending on what kind of website or blog platform you want to use, you can also gain some useful skills in web design, coding and software development. These could be skills you’ll be called on to use during the course of an engineering career!
You can start a blog on anything. If you’re starting to develop an interest in a particular engineering pathway, you could discuss current trends and developments in your field. If you’re already working towards a STEM qualification, be it a science-related A-levels or an apprenticeship, you could write a reflective blog on your experiences or professional development.
Whatever your chosen subject matter, blog writing can show future employers and university admissions officers that you are passionate, articulate, self-motivated and possess the kind of enquiring mind that will stand you in good stead during the course of an engineering career.
Sharpen your science writing skills
There are a few science-writing related prizes and competitions out there and entering them is another useful means of sharpening your science writing skills and setting yourself apart as a contributor to a particular science/engineering field. And if you win, or find yourself a finalist, you will show future universities and employers that you’re a talent to keep an eye on. So you’ve really got nothing to lose in entering!
Examples of science-writing prizes/competitions include the Association of British Science Writers prize and the Nature Journal Prize.
But you don’t have to stop at journals and articles. Why not try submitting articles or essays to magazines and journals? Even if everything you write doesn’t get instantaneously published, you will still have a portfolio of scientific writing to take to interviews! You could even publish copies of your articles on that blog we were talking about in the previous section!
The Guardian’s website has some useful resources to help you shape your scientific writing skills.
Read scientific publications
This extracurricular is easy to fit into your leisure time. Even subscribing to one scientific magazine would help keep you abreast of news and trends. Investing in a subscription to something like New Scientist or Scientific American can go a long way to demonstrating that you’re engaged with the world of engineering and science in general.
Join a scientific society
Organizations like the Royal Society of Chemistry and the Institute of Physics have memberships for students and are worth investigating if you want to demonstrate your extracurricular science and engineering credentials.
Not only do organisations like this allow you to network with people who have similar career interests to you (both online and face to face), you can also take advantage of career resources that might help you make decisions on the right engineering pathway for you!
Below are a few examples of some relevant societies that might be of interest.
- The Royal Society of Chemistry has a great resource page for school students, including careers advice for budding chemists!
- The Institute of Physics also has some useful resources for school and college students who are studying physics.
Both physics and chemistry are vital science qualifications for an engineering pathway, so membership of either of these organisations could take you a long way.
Enrol on a MOOC course
What’s a MOOC we hear you ask?
MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course and they are a great way to demonstrate your passion for engineering.
If you really want to stand out from the crowd, be it in your UCAS application or your apprenticeship interview, then taking an engineering MOOC could help. The website offering MOOCs, EdX, has some useful engineering courses that will help you develop your engineering skills and knowledge.
Taking a course like this can also help to demonstrate that you are self-motivated and are interested in engineering and science outside the classroom.
Learn to code
Learning code and programming language is a vital skill for engineers of the future. It can help you get ahead of the game if you start learning to code as early as possible. Whether it’s through Codeacademy, Coursera, those MOOCs we mentioned earlier, or even YouTube, coding and programming is something that looks really good on your CV if you get started with it as early as possible.
Learn a new language
We know what you’re thinking. This doesn’t sound very relevant to engineering.
But it’s worth some engineering jobs are very international in nature. You could find yourself working for a global firm and doing work that will take you all over the world, or managing projects with clients in other countries.
With this in mind, learning a second language is an incredibly useful extra-curricular activity and can really boost your career prospects
If you’re reading this and you’re in the process of choosing your A-levels for sixth form/college, then taking a foreign language A-level might even help to balance out the other science-based subject you’ll be working towards.
When it comes to extracurricular activities, universities and employers want to see evidence of passion, independent thinking and self-motivation. Any of the extracurricular activities we’ve covered here can help turn a good engineering CV into an excellent one.
And the best part? They’re hopefully all fun activities too!
Explore our guide to the top Mechanical Engineering Degrees in the UK