Uni is expensive. We all know it – it’s not exactly a secret. And with the recent raise in tuition fees to £9000 a year, students everywhere are tightening their belts and bootlaces, and thinking twice before that takeaway pizza or that big night out. An alternative to tightening your belt too much is, of course, a part time job; but students should be careful before they decide they want one – part time jobs are good experience, look good on a CV and will earn you a bit more cash, but they can also be a bit of a time sink. It’s important to realise that you’re at university to, presumably, get decent grades. Therefore, a part-time job should not interfere with studying or lectures. Here’s a few jobs that are well worth considering if you’re looking for a job, with that in mind.
“Bar staff” is the quintessential student job – it’s relatively high paying, tends to be quite good fun, and has completely separate hours to university time, which, obviously, is a big plus. And, of course, working in a bar is cool. Everyone knows it, just like everybody knows uni is expensive. Which, sadly, means that everyone is applying for it. If you want to try your hand on the other side of the bar, try to get in earlier than everyone else – apply for a job before Fresher’s or as soon as you can at the start of a year.
Also try to get some bar experience before you even start applying for jobs at university – problem is, every bar prefers somebody with experience over somebody without any. Obviously. One way round this is to work a few free shifts behind the bar before you even think about applying for paid work – the experience is valuable enough as it is.
Working behind a bar has yet another couple of advantages – it gives a student the chance of experiencing nightlife without the hangover, for one, which is practically every students dream; and it’s a great, great skill to have that can be used all over the world later. Thinking about that gap year halfway through the course, or possibly of going travelling when you get your degree? Experience behind the bar will be invaluable for these situations. And if you’re degree goes south (God forbid), at least you’ll have a chance of working the coolest job on the planet.
Yes, it’s not as interesting as bar work, but it has its advantages. The main one is that it’s immensely useful to a future career. Even if you apply to something that has nothing to do with what you want to turn into a job, the experience in admin isn’t going to loom bad – it shows you’re organised, follow instructions well, are versatile, and other stuff you can put into your CV without feeling too guilty.
It’s better, of course, to get an admin job in a field that is relatable to your career. Some university departments (not many, mind you, but some) will employ students from their own ranks to help with the admin, and that really is ideal – particularly because it isn’t just close to uni – it’s in the uni. Try your luck and see what happens.
If you’re not that lucky, though, try to take an admin job in a company outside university that’s related to your course. Careful, though – the commute will eat away at your time painfully if you’re not cautious, and it’s a law of the world that you’ll have to stay behind a little longer and miss your bus the day you have to be at a particular lecture. If you can, try to commute online and work from home in some capacity – in the modern world it happens more often than you’d think, even – oddly – in a job like an admin assistant. There’s a possibility the only files you’ll be looking at are the ones on your computer screen.
Whilst you are looking for that initial experience, it can often be a challenge to find a company that will let you loose with their paying clients. Well, if you can’t find a business willing to take that chance, why not take the chance yourself and market yourself as a freelancing ‘whatever’ student. Of course, don’t actually use the word ‘whatever’. Not a great job title.
There are various websites available to people hoping to do some freelance work, and all you really need is a computer with an internet connection and some form of skill – even if it’s a skill in video mixing, transcribing conversations or translating documents. There’s a lot out there that’s available to a student, and of course the main advantage is that you can work straight from your computer and in your own time.
Generally freelancing websites work on a reputation basis, so don’t expect any high-paying, reliable jobs straight away. Once you build up a decent reputation, you can start looking at more reliable and better-paying work. Be careful out there, though: there’s a fair few people who will be ready and willing to rip you off or just not pay you entirely – check your clients out properly and be careful who you work for. It can be a bit of a drag to get started, but it pays off in the end.
It’s not the most glamorous or the most fun, but it pays a decent amount and the hours never run out. Besides, if you’re not lazy and put your back into it it’s reliable work and will be flexible enough to be worked around your time at university. And it’s a great alternative to going to the gym if it’s the “proper” type of shelf stacking – in a warehouse or an industrial site somewhere.
Another nifty little advantage of shelf stacking that most people don’t consider is the plusses to a future career – yes, it’s probably not direct experience; after all, most people go to university to actively avoid the horrors of manual labour. But nevertheless, it does have an advantage in that many companies that people work for (in any capacity) will be far more happy to help a graduate get a higher position in the company, or even may take some students on in a different position in a year of industry.
It seems strange for, say, Tesco to employ someone for a year in industry, but many high-street stores may well have branches that would accept someone for a year’s experience or even a research project. Tesco may well recruit graphic designers to design advertisements. Or Boots could have contacts in pharmaceutical science, which of course would be incredible experience for a Chemist or a Biologist. It depends on the subject you’re hoping to study, but have a good long think and do some research before you apply for a job and you may well get lucky in a couple of years when you’re looking for a placement.
Shelf stacking isn’t the most glamorous job, or really the most fun; but it’s well worth considering for a fair few reasons that most people don’t think of. Don’t shy away from it too much.
A Few Words Of Advice
Don’t get your hopes up too much for any single job – everybody wants to work behind a bar for the reasons discussed above, and not many people actually get the job. Just make sure you cover all your bases and don’t miss out on every job available because you were chasing after just one.
Also, the best option to take a lot of the time is to not get a part-time job at all. University is hard – your degree should be your first, second and third priority and you can make money later when you’re supposed to be doing so, instead of now when you’re meant to be studying. A part-time job should be taken on only if you’re absolutely certain that your degree won’t suffer in the least, or if you really do need the money. Not need so you can go out a few times in the week – actually need.
Having shared our words of caution; a part-time job can be really useful and is well worth considering as long as you’re certain you can handle it. Be careful, have fun with it, and it really could pay off later in life.
Also make sure to remember that it isn’t all about the money! You’re studying at university – chances are you’ll get plenty of opportunities to earn a lot more money than you would at any of the jobs mentioned above. The important thing, really, is the extra experience that will hopefully be in a field that will be useful to know a little bit about in the future, for whatever reason. Good luck, have fun, and remember that whatever happens, your degree should come first!