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Nine-to-Five Student

By Michael Wyatt, on 13 May 2019

Today student writer Michael tell us what it is like to work whilst studying at university, and gives useful tips on what to consider before you get a job when you’re a student. 

Being a student, particularly in London, can be substantially more expensive than imagined prior to starting university. In first year, the financial cost of being even moderately sociable is enough to dent the bank, added to ever more in second and third year with the addition of bills and potentially increased travel costs. For some, this may not be an issue. However, for many others, money worries can be a daily annoyance whilst at university and impact the things you can say ‘yes‘ to when asked by your mates.

There are a variety of ways to cope with the trials and tribulations of the ‘cost-of-socialising’ paradigm, including picking cheaper pubs and bars, never buying textbooks or just going out less; none of which would be a very big deal at all. However, if you did want to be able to do a little more whilst at university and not be so worried about money all the time, there is one way that most of us try at one stage or another: get a job! (Don’t worry, most jobs aren’t nine-to-five).

What sort of jobs do students have?

This varies greatly depending on the person! Many students look for bar, pub, cafe or retail work as employers within these fields understand students are looking for part-time work that doesn’t impact their studying too much. They can be quite social jobs and hopefully conveniently located. The only issue with pub and bar work is working late nights, which can impact your work the next day and eat into the time you might have been wanting to hang out with your friends. A good place to start might be the UCLU bars or cafés.

Alternatively, you might want to consider some work that may be more career focused. Both private and public sector organisations are always looking for enthusiastic, hard working, talented young people to bring a breath of life and innovation to the office. Take a chance and contact whoever you can – you only need one yes. I’ve been lucky enough to work for my local authority and within the NHS throughout university and both have taught me invaluable skills and added to my CV – and this happened because I took a leap and applied to jobs ‘above’ my age bracket. Take those chances because sometimes they really do pay off.

The benefits of being an employed student

  1. Stand out from the rest. First and foremost, the main benefit of having a job whilst studying is to gain work experience. Many more people attend university these days, and so to have something more to add to your CV once you’re graduated will be a huge bonus for you.
  2. Spending money. Working just a few hours a week provides you with the basic socialising money that you need to go out without feeling guilty of worried. It may also accumulate to help you find a nicer place to live in second and third year!
  3. Life skills. Working whilst studying is difficult. It requires organisation, hard work and dedication – all of which can really benefit you long term. You gain a tonne of life skills at university, furthered only by being employed simultaneously.

The challenges of being an employed student

  1. Time. The hardest part about working and studying is how much time is taken out of your week. For some degrees that have 20+ hours of contact time plus frequent readings or courseworks, there may genuinely not be enough time to have a job as well. Before considering applying for work, take the time to consider how many hours a week you can afford to commit. Your degree comes first whilst at university, so do not jeopardise your grades by committing too much time to a job!
  2. Organisation. Finding a way to balance lectures, readings, revision and the addition of set working hours can be difficult. I’d suggest making a plan for the week so you know when you are studying and when you’re working, otherwise it can become a bit hectic!

Is having a job really necessary?

Absolutely not. The idea of having a job at university is not something everyone agrees with, and by no means am I suggesting it is the right way to do things! It has its benefits, but also comes with some challenges and for some it may not be something that is necessary or appropriate for their weekly timetable. Assess how much spare time and money you have and decide if a job is an appropriate inclusion to your already busy schedule. There are certainly pros and cons of either choice you make – just ensure you never let anyone make that choice for you.