By Heidi Nicholson
Opinions are divided on whether there is any purpose to the ‘interests’ section of a CV. The traditional view is that your hobbies and pastimes show something of you as a person and demonstrate how rounded you are which could help in your law job application. The contrary view is that including these only wastes precious space on your CV, especially if they bear no relevance to your ability to do the job in question. You might even run the risk of alienating someone who does not share your interests.
My own view is that you should not automatically insert an interests section on your CV when applying for law jobs. While showing you have interests beyond studying may be important for a recent school leaver or graduate, this has less relevance as your career progresses. Certainly, showing you are a rounded person will have little impact if you are missing some key competency for the job you are applying for.
The ill-considered inclusion of things that you hope will make you sound interesting may of course work against you. A number of humorous articles appear on the internet offering alternative readings of just about any hobby or interest you may list. To give you a flavour, some commonly cited ones include:
• Wine: may frequently come to work hung over.
• Travel: only interested in the annual leave allowance.
• Dangerous sports: could take a lot of sick days owing to injury.
This is not to say that your hobbies will not help you to get your dream law job. Some will doubtlessly give you important skills and demonstrate attributes desirable for candidates for this kind of job. However, you need to consider what you include and how it will help. Do the hobbies provide you with a more direct experience of commercial and creative type activities? Perhaps activities that have helped you develop leadership and teamwork skills are worth mentioning?
Hobbies that help you into management roles
What counts as useful experience when derived from a hobby will vary depending on what stage your career is at. If you are starting out, any participation which gives you work-related experience may be a benefit. As you progress, you may wish to seek out opportunities to work on projects offering particular experience which you have not hitherto had professionally. If you want to move into management it might be useful to show you’re a school governor (decision-making) or are involved in managing a youth group, fundraising charity or local cricket club.
Involvement with membership organisations can offer particularly good opportunities to anyone seeking experience which will help them to land their dream marketing job. Membership organisations cover a broad swathe of groups including sports clubs, ‘friends’ associations and such like. They will usually need membership secretaries and this role will not only include collecting and recording any subscriptions and drumming up new membership, but possibly also fundraising and negotiating with other organisations.
Other volunteer roles may offer opportunities to exercise broader management skills, leaving you with full responsibility for managing a team (usually of other volunteers) or leading a project.
However, having this experience alone will not be enough to help you land your dream law job. How you express it on your CV and in your applications will be key. Be sure to include achievements and outcomes, and mention any software systems or social media tools you have been using while involved in your hobby – it might be setting up your own blog or ecommerce sideline. Ensure that what you say correlates to the position you are applying for.
And remember that, if you are short of examples from your professional life to demonstrate that you meet certain competencies, do not be shy of drawing on your broader applications to illustrate a point in your applications. After all, all relevant experience is good experience when it comes to securing your dream job.
Partner, Richmond Solutions
What are your views?