Getting The Most Out of Your Extracurriculars While At Uni

Featuring Mikhael Hammer-Bleich from Spacer

It’s getting to that time of year where many students are staring down the barrel of graduation, and are starting to worry about their professional identity. At this point, many begin to see the benefits of taking on some extracurricular activities to build up their resumes. If this is you, then it’s important that you do your best to make the most out of any new experiences you take on!

Mikhael from Spacer (a start-up company part of the Sharing Hub in Pyrmont, known as the ‘Airbnb of storage and parking’) has recently been involved with the Univative program as a host employer, asking the student participants to ‘find a market hacking strategy to grow brand awareness’.

‘Spacer was introduced to three groups of students from UTS, Macquarie University, and Wollongong University.   After three weeks, each of the teams produced a fifteen-minute presentation as well as a 3,000-word business proposal showcasing their solutions for Spacer.’

To help aspiring students get the most out of their extracurricular activities, here are his top three tips on making the most of your experience!

1. Know your client

Some extracurricular programs, like Univative, involve students working on a problem for a client or business. If you decide to take part in an activity that has a similar modus operandi, then it’s important that you understand the benefits and differences between business structures.

Larger businesses may have a broader range of services and more staff than their smaller counterparts. On one hand, this can provide a great opportunity to network and learn more about how different areas of a business interact. On the other, depending on how they are structured, this can mean that your suggestions may need to be diluted through a number of employees before coming to fruition.

Smaller businesses, such as start-ups, have their own idiosyncrasies and ways of doing things.  Highlighting the differences between company structures and sizes, Mikhael notes that start-up companies may provide an advantage for students looking to develop their professional skills in a more practical environment:

‘Spacer was the single start-up participating in Univative.  The benefits of choosing a start-up include: a heightened chance that your ideas and efforts come to fruition in some form and learning how to start your own company!  Innovating and thinking outside the box is not for everyone, however, so ensure you are not imaginatively limited when choosing to work with a start-up.’

Each business has its own structure and way of doing things, so understanding the type of businesses you’d like to work for can help you pursue more long-term professional connections.

2. Connecting with industry

As Mikhael points out, it’s important to foster the relationships with industry professionals that extracurricular programs like Univative may initiate.

‘Building relationships with hosts can sometimes pave the way to internships.  However, if a student does not express interest or show any skill, the host company is unlikely to choose her or him for an internship.

If you are considering a future with your host company, be sure to be visible - as a team leader or by speaking with your host.  Show your intelligence by winning!  Remember Univative is a University program but, if you play it right, it can help jump-start your career.’

Extracurricular programs that allow you to work closely with industry professionals are a fantastic opportunity to highlight your passion for the profession, and desire to gain hands-on experience. So while it’s important to remain professional, don’t hide that excitement and enthusiasm away!

3. Preparation and time management

If you’re taking part in a competition like Univative, then preparation is key. Make sure you know who you are working for and with, your ideal outcome, and a rough timeline for when the work needs to be completed. You need to make your organisational and time management skills work for you!

Mikhael agrees, noting:

‘Winning is the goal of any competition. A few tips for winning: ask your host what the expectations are for the winning team. Come to the initial presentation with prepared questions, having researched understanding: this will help jumpstart your project.  Come up with a plan early on and be sure to ask your host about how to improve it.  Work hard and invest time on your project.’

One final piece of advice

Having now participated in the Univative program both as an employer and when he was a student, Mikhael understands the difficulties such a competition can offer. His final piece of advice for students?

‘My key advice would be to take the time to understand the company, particularly its culture and values, as well as the brief you have been given. Understanding these two aspects is essential to developing an appropriate, relevant solution for your organisation. Communication with the company is one of the best ways to understand what they are about.

I would also suggest choosing a solution you are interested in and passionate about. The project is very time-intensive, requiring substantial effort and no shortage of perseverance. Without motivation or enjoyment, it would be difficult to complete and more importantly, learn from the experience.’


Mikhael Hammer-Bleich is Growth Strategist for SpacerUS. He focuses on market hacking and operation optimization.  Mikhael is a student at Johns Hopkins University where he is studying Chemical Engineering and always thinking about his next startup. [email protected]

Featured image courtesy of Unsplash.


Author: Guest Contributor

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