So you don't have a trust fund, and you're blowing through your summer savings at an alarming rate. You thought that you'd put away enough cash from your summer job to get you through till April, but between pub nights, pizza, and prescriptions, it's becoming clear that life outside the nest is way more expensive than you thought it would be. Party's over: it's time to get a part time job.
Your first stop should be your campus Career Centre, where if you're lucky and persistent and take advantage of the people there to help you, you might be able to find a work-study position on campus. These jobs are ideal for students and very often geared towards your area of study. Yep, that's right: you just went from being broke to getting meaningful on the job experience for your eventual career.
Be strategic in where you're applying. Experience counts.
If you can't find a job on campus, time to cast your net into the malls and restaurants near your school or home. Working part time off campus means you'll probably find yourself at the bottom of the employment totem pole, with a customer service job of some description. But even in the worlds of retail and food service, there's tons of valuable experience to be gleaned. And if you're strategic in where you apply, you could even be gaining skills that can apply to your long-term career plans. Studying music? Apply at a record store or to be an usher or box office cashier at a local concert venue. Getting an English degree? A retail bookstore would be the obvious place to start. If you're into computers, try tech support. You get the picture. Even a little bit of relevance will go a long way. If you're stuck, go see a counsellorat your campus Career Centre – this kind of stuff is literally their job. Be aware that they'll suggest positions that are appropriate to your skills and experience. Probably you won't get anything fancy, but no one starts at the top.
Budgeting is key.
Whatever the job, it's important to make sure all that hard work isn't for nothing. As soon as you cash your first pay cheque– no, even sooner – draw up a budget that you can stick to. Be realistic about what you spend and where, and face the fact that you're going to have to trim down the nonessentials a bit if you're going to have time to work, go to class, do your homework, and maybe even sleep. There are resources on campus that can help you do this budget thing successfully, and your bank or credit union is another great place to turn to for financial guidance. There are also budgeting tools available for free online, and even budgeting apps!
Now that the cash is flowing, it can be tempting to overspend. You can always take on an extra shift or two, right? Unfortunately, studies show that students who work more than 20 hours a week do less homework, don't participate in extracurricular activities, and are actually more likely to drop out of school altogether. But as long as you work less than about 15-20 hours per week, your job isn't likely to adversely effect your marks. Living up to those numbers can be tricky, but the work might be worth it in the long run.
Learn to balance everything.
Looking around at your classmates, you'll probably notice that just over half of them work part time while they study. Actually it's a little over half – about 60 percent – who balance a job in one hand and their books and essays in the other. Balance is the key term here, and a life skill you'll find yourself very happy to have developed while you were still in school.
You see, every job teaches you something – even the so-called bad ones. You learn how to deal with coworkers and customers, how to manage time and money, and a few other basic skills. But where you'll really bulk up is in the soft skills department. And with employers reporting a fundamental lack of soft skills in new grads who have spent their entire lives in schools, this could be very good news for you, working students of the world.
Be prepared for different outcomes.
Think of it this way: you and Rosie down the residence hall are both applying for the same post-grad dream position. Your prospective boss looks at both your resumes. You both got the same degree, and your marks are about even, but you have four years' of work experience under your belt. This shows that you know, at the very least: how to show up on time for work, how to work on a team, how to manage your time wisely, and what it means to take responsibility for your finances. But Rosie doesn't have that. Now who's laughing?
As a student, it's supposed to be your full-time job to learn. But life in the real world doesn't always go like it's supposed to, and understanding that is part of being an adult. It's exactly that kind of maturity that will set you apart to future employers when you start applying for full time jobs.