Having a part-time job at university can have a really positive influence on your whole university experience. It improves time management, it creates more financial freedom, and it opens you up to the world of work.
I have had two jobs since being at university. First, I was a waitress, now a retail assistant. They enabled me to meet a wide variety of people. Meeting new people at a job can open your eyes to a more mature view of the world. Part-time work can also show that the university is not the only path in life for you. Sometimes when you have been in the world of academia it is difficult to see other options and this is where part-time work comes in. It helps show other future careers for you. But if you decide University is not for you, then there is an option to fall back on.
The financial freedom is beneficial as earning your own money gives you more opportunities than relying on loans or parents. Neither of which is a bad option. But having your own income from a part-time job helps you manage your money better. It also helps give a greater appreciation for spending. For instance, when you realise that the top you just have to have is 2 hours of your paycheck, you reevaluate whether you really need it. I found I spent less and had less clutter which helped when moving everything back home over summer.
A common concern is that working part-time will impact negatively on student’s studies. This is a subjective path as everyone has a different work ethic. Sometimes without a structure to your day, it is difficult to motivate yourself to begin work. On the other hand, getting money for the first time can persuade students to forget about their university work.
Working part-time helped me manage my time better. The first year of university I came out with a first overall and I worked 9 hours every week. Managing time is often a problem for students. Without a structure to my day or weekends, I would waste time with Netflix or even procrastinate with the cleaning! Having regular shifts meant I was able to structure my days.
A life away from (and after) education
Opening yourself up to the world of part-time work is helpful for thinking about what you will do after university. When you first arrive in September it is difficult to imagine a life away from education. The majority of us will have spent 13 years in education, but it is important to start thinking about your future. Many employers now see experience as essential. Interviews require you to use real-life events show how you will get on with the world of work.
There are many part-time jobs which are catered directly to students now, some jobs will be fine with you going home for the holidays, and others will allow you just to work weekends. Supermarkets want students to work 4 hours a day and that will be it. Sacrificing a few hours a day for a new outlook on life and more independence is a small price to pay.
Don’t expect to get on with everyone
This leads me on to a key benefit of part-time work – meeting new people! Before arriving at a university there is the overwhelming belief that the first person you meet will become your best friend. This is (mostly) not true. Like everywhere in life there will be people you get on with and people you do not.
You could end up being close friends with people you work with who perhaps might be on a different course, at a different university or not in education at all. These people can offer a new perspective and sometimes best of all a new topic. Having differences with people is as important as similarities. And being stuck with someone 24/7 is not a good thing no matter how well you might get on. Working can break this pattern and bring new people into your life.
Volunteering can be thought of alongside part-time work, particularly if you have an overall aim in mind for a future career, or you want to enter the world of work but aren’t sure where to begin. Universities offer the chance to volunteer with particular schools such as history, maths, and English. A popular career choice is a teacher when you first enter academic life. Being able to go into a school can help you decide whether this is the right career path for you or whether there’s a different avenue to explore. There are also internships, many over the summer at prestigious places like the Cambridge library. Internships are sometimes paid, but sometimes not. They carry a lot of weight to future employers who will often be looking for people with experience.
The best fit for you
Of course, I am certainly not advocating that everyone should work during university. My experience of it has been overwhelmingly positive, but like everything there are negatives. Part-time work is an extensive time requirement and it should only be done if you are confident in your ability to manage your time. I have met many wonderful people whilst working, both staff and customers and it has improved my confidence. Everything is all about finding the right fit for you.
Many students find that they need the time at weekends to catch up, particularly if partying is a weekly activity, but this all comes down to your expectations of university and your own priorities. Working or not working both come with their own benefits and it is your decision how these will influence your university experience.