Identifying the interests and activities that you pursue outside your work and studies can help you to learn more about yourself, including the roles and situations you enjoy. This knowledge will be helpful when you are considering career options.

Prioritise your interests

Identifying and analysing your interests, and why you enjoy them, requires thought and effort.

Analyse your interests

A list of your interests may tell someone else a little bit about you, but it is not until you think further about how and why you do things that you will begin to have some real evidence about yourself.

Two people can enjoy the same activities for entirely different reasons. You may like watercolour painting because you enjoy learning new techniques and experimenting with colour in your evening class. Your friend may paint because he likes to spend time alone outside looking at and reflecting upon what he sees. The outside observer may simply assume that you are both good at art, and learn nothing further about you unless you provide more information.

Making detailed notes about your interests and activities will provide you with a wealth of material about yourself, which you can refer to when applying for jobs.

I don't have any interests!

At certain times in your life you may, for very good reasons, spend little time doing things outside your scheduled work or study. Perhaps you need to work to support yourself on your university course, and this leaves little space for other activities. Or maybe you have family responsibilities, or long commuting times. There are also so many non-formal activities on offer at university (such as simply socialising with friends), that you may not have felt any need to take part in any clubs, societies or sport.

This does not mean you have no interests, but you may have to think harder about what you do, or focus more on aspects of your life which you don't automatically associate with interests. The following tips may help:

  • If you have family responsibilities, what skills do you need in order to balance these with your studies? Are there any that give you particular satisfaction? Why, and what does that say about you? It might help to think about these responsibilities as a type of work.
  • If you enjoy socialising, but have done little else, try analysing your social activities. How do you socialise? Are you an organiser, a peacemaker or a friend to everyone? Employers are more likely to find your social life interesting if you can tell them what positive qualities it reveals about you.
  • Perhaps you enjoy studying, and put in more time on this than other students do. What is it that you enjoy? Can you list any extra study or activities you've undertaken connected with your degree? You might like to spend some time studying the available materials on academic skills gained with your degree, within the Career Toolkit.
Do employers care about interests?

Employers do care about your interests. They are looking for evidence that you will suit the post they are recruiting for. The best way they can do this is to look at examples of your actual, rather than predicted, behaviour.

Your interests are concrete ways of demonstrating your preferred ways of working and behaving. They reveal your personality, your values, and your behaviour preferences. For example, if you apply for a busy sales job but all your interests are solitary activities, then a recruiter might wonder if you find it hard to negotiate and communicate with others all the time.

You may say that you would love to work in a team, but if you have no proof that this is true an employer may be sceptical about your claim. However, if you can give an example of your teamwork, even if it doesn't relate to a workplace team, the employer can feel more confident about your assertion.

In some cases, employers will expect you to evidence particular interests. For example, if you want to be a Technical Construction Consultant you will need to show how you keep informed: through professional construction associations, social media, newspapers,  or even your own building projects.

Focussed list of interests

Employers will find a short, focused list of interests more useful than a huge list with no real detail. They may be impressed that you have done so many different things, but they need to know what these say about you and how that might relate to the job you are applying for.

It is best to focus on one or two examples, and to effectively communicate your personal role and what you have gained from the experience.

Suggested activity
  • List and prioritise your interests into those which you really enjoy and those which are less important to you. This will help you identify those which are most useful to bring to an employer's attention.
  • Complete the analyse your interests activity.