Let’s face it. University costs money. And although your first year will most likely be fees free, there are still other costs related to university (as well as the fact that we all want to go out and do other, fun things that, unfortunately sometimes cost money). What’s the best way to obtain money: having a job (or winning the lottery, but I haven’t been able to do the latter yet), and although I’m not saying that you have to have a job whilst at university, they can sometimes provide benefits other than just a financial aid.
The number one priority when deciding if to work or not alongside your university work is to recognise the benefits, and drawbacks, that working may provide. Hence, I’ve created a list of some of the positives and negatives you should take into consideration before applying to jobs. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but some points that I think to be of great importance. If you have some others you’d like to throw into the mix, I’d love to hear your opinions.
- Money (Duh)
I’m getting the obvious one out of the way. Shall we move on? Yes, I think so.
If you’re fortunate enough to get a job in the field you want to end up in, having sector-specific experience can be a great thing to put on your CV – possibly making it easier to obtain the job you want in the competitive graduate market. You’ll get to experience the professional working environment, and contribute to a team. This can have positive flow on effects to your university work by being able to recognise the real-life applications of your study. It might also have the opposite effect, helping you to understand that perhaps the work you thought you wanted to do just isn’t for you. And this is a good thing! It’s much better to have this realisation before graduation, than when you’re a year out of university stuck in a job you absolutely hate.
Although I’ve mentioned working in a field you want to end up in, other work is just as great. No matter the job, you’ll always leave having learned something that can be applied to your future aspirations; whether that be teamwork, customer service skills, awesome communication or the ability to adapt quickly and make good decisions.
- Time Management
This is a huge one, with benefits to both your university and professional careers. Learning how to balance work, study and the – sometimes seemingly endless – assignments you have to hand in means that you’ll become a master at prioritising and managing your own time.
- Finance Management
Once you start working for your money, you might notice that the money becomes a bit harder to spend. You begin to note the time it took to earn the money you spent on that lunch out, or that extra coffee. As a result of this, you become much better at understanding and managing your own finances – one of the less interesting things to deal with on your way to adulthood.
That manager you worked under in your first year of university could be that referee that gets you your dream job. They could know someone, who knows someone that has a graduate job in the field you want. One of the biggest positives that comes out of working whilst studying is the network you will inevitably build along the way.
The Negatives (Boo!)
Unless you have a money tree, having an income generally requires an exchange in time – time that you could be working on assignments, at the library or even better with friends. Striking the balance between time working a job and time not working can be difficult, but when you strike the balance everything falls into place.
If I were to leave you with only one bit of advice about having a job at university, it would be talk to your employer about your situation as a student as soon as you can, and ask them whether they can be flexible with your hours. I’m almost certain that every (reasonable) employer would allow you to take some time off towards exams, or perhaps work a bit more during the mid-semester breaks, as lots of them would have been in the exact same position you are.
And that’s the only negative I’ve got, but as I said it’s a pretty simple work around anyway if you communicate well with your employer. I wish you all the best for your job hunting, and if you’ve already got the job you want – awesome! If not, no worries – there’ll always be something out there waiting for you (an in the meantime, have a nice relax knowing you don’t have to go to work). If you’ve got any thoughts or opinions (or questions for that matter) on working at university, I’d love to hear them!