A stand-out CV: So much to do, so little time

If you want to give your CV added oomph, it's time to think extracurricular
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The Independent Online

he old proverb "all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" has never been truer than in the 21st century when executives are expected to excel outside the boardroom as well as in it. Thus, enthusiastic and multi-tasking MBA students around the world are devoting themselves to impressive charitable undertakings and serious sporting endeavours, which may help them stand out from the pack when it comes to nailing that dream job.

According to Dr Peter McInnes, the director of teaching and learning at the University of Strathclyde's Business School, the work-hard-play-hard ethic which has become such a cliché in the city still rings as true now as it did on 1980s Wall Street. And it is, says McInnes, a good principle for students to follow before they actually reach the workplace, as it helps employers to find the best applicants among the mountains of CVs they get from MBAs each year.

"Employers are looking for leadership skills," says McInnes, " and those who are capable of initiating ideas and coordinating others to deliver on extracurricular events are clearly demonstrating this.

As a year-long MBA will be time-pressured, delivering on play-hard activities shows the ability to handle extra projects on top of a full workload. This signals that the individual has a strong work ethic, good interpersonal skills and can deliver on their own initiative. What else could you want?"

Earlier this year, 13 students from Cranfield School of Management decided to turn marathon running, a decidedly solitary sport, into a team event by running the 2007 London marathon in a sausage dog costume nick-named Posy, which they took turns to wear, crossing the finish line in just under five and a half hours. The runners raised £36,000 for charity, a record-breaking figure for Cranfield, and handed over £25,000 to the main charity, Hearing Dogs for Deaf People.

Ashridge Business School in Hertfordshire also took a team approach when it entered last year's International Business Schools Regatta on the Solent, finishing second overall out of 17 groups of competitors. Ashridge believes the success shows that the skills it teaches its students – such as the value of looking at problems and challenges in a holistic and systemic fashion - are equally useful when transported out of the office and onto 37ft yachts battered by force nine gales and relentless rain.

Last month another sailing regatta, organised by SDA Bocconi, welcomed 21 international teams to Italy.

One Ashridge MBA took a slightly lighter approach to his extracurricular achievements by brewing a speciality ale for the occasion of his class's graduation ceremony in May. Johan Spendrups is part of a Swedish brewing dynasty and created MBAle as a reflection of his time in the UK studying at Ashridge. Sprendrups wrote his dissertation on small breweries in the UK and will return home to Sweden to pursue new business opportunities for the family firm.

"Who knows," he says, "maybe Ashridge MBAle is the first step in this new career journey."

At Paris's ESSEC Business School one student, Thomas Ellis, managed to make a documentary in Asia and a film in Palestine, which was selected for the International Film Festival in Locarno in Switzerland. He is currently in India finishing a film for the France 2 channel.

Fellow student Laurence Fischer let off steam after a tough day in the library by karate training – as world champion she needed to keep in shape – and she is channelling her sporting prowess into a career at Nike. Chris Crockford managed to earn his pilot's licence while studying at Lancaster University Management School.

These gung ho activities do show you are capable of more than just passing exams, and they should make you a happier and healthier MBA, but Esther Oxenbury, JP Morgan's head of investment banking graduate recruitment, points out that impressive extracurricular activities won't cover up any weak academic spots.

"My view," says Oxenbury, "is that extracurricular activities are never going to be why you hire a candidate. What they can do is help differentiate an outstanding candidate from a good candidate. They are incredibly valuable to have on a CV, but I would offer one word of caution – avoid putting things on a CV, unless it is a meaningful involvement."

'Climbing Everest is something I've always wanted to do'

Ben Stephens, 27, trained for his Everest climb while studying at London Business School. He now works for Merrill Lynch.

"Climbing Everest is something I've always wanted to do and because of the way the MBA programme is structured I realised if I was really organised I could complete all three training expeditions and finish early to do the climb.

The hard bit was fitting in the 18 months of training – we were running a half marathon a few times a week and in the gym four times a week.

In a way, this was something to keep me interested while I did the MBA. The first two terms are very hard work because of the amount you've got to juggle but it just takes organisation and motivation. For the whole of the spring term I only had my consulting project to do which was flexible, so I could train for up to four hours a day.

We all made it – fellow MBAs Greg Maud and Omar Samra, the first Egyptian to summit, and my girlfriend Tori James, the youngest British woman to summit.

On top of all this, I have got 85 per cent As in my work."