When I was completing my training contract application forms I dreaded questions that asked me to provide details of my overseas travel or to talk about my greatest achievements. When I was growing up the only foreign trip on offer to me was returning to Bangladesh to visit my relatives.
Similarly, unlike the male members of my family Ive never been interested in sports (my greatest sporting achievement was swimming a width of a pool, aged 13, in bright orange arm bands, at a disabled swimming gala). At the time I felt totally inadequate and desperately wanted to be like everyone else. I wanted to captain the university hockey team and to spend a gap year travelling around South East Asia.
These days, however, I feel proud to be different and realise thats probably why I landed a training contract. If you spend too much time trying to tailor your CV to include the sort of extracurricular activities you think law firms are looking for then youll risk it looking like everyone elses. So before putting pen to paper or while preparing for your interviews think about what makes you unique.
Law firms dont rank extracurricular activities in any particular order. So during Freshers Week have a serious think about why youre joining a particular club or society. Im not suggesting that you shouldnt join your university law society or debating society or indeed take part in pro bono work. I would be lying if I said that they dont have an important role to play. Im simply suggesting that you look at other options as well. And you never know, you might discover a hidden talent.
One of the best ways of looking at extracurricular activities and indeed work experience is to think about the skills they will help you to develop and whether they are relevant to the work of a lawyer. Also, as I said in my recent newsletter on commercial awareness, the best achievements are those that pushed you outside your comfort zone.
That said, dont be tempted to exaggerate. Although stacking shelves at your local supermarket to pay off your student debt is admirable that is all it is. As one law firm graduate recruitment partner put it, students are unlikely to take on such jobs for personal development.
When you graduate youll realise that your time at university constituted some of the best days of your life. So dont waste it by trying to turn yourself into the type of candidate you think law firms are looking for. Just be yourself and youll have a much better time.