Take a job during term?

Nearly half of all full-time students hold down a part-time job through the year.  Some want to.  Some have to.  Either way, it’s not unusual.

The Guardian recently posed a question from a reader whose daughter was just off to uni.  They were concerned that their daughter was thinking about taking a part-time job as she studied and wondered whether she should be looking for a job, or if she should focus solely on study.

photo by Marco Bellucci

photo by Marco Bellucci

Here is my response:

Around half of all full-time students do some sort of part-time work, so your daughter isn’t considering something strange. Whatever her reasons, it is her choice, though I understand the concern.

Your daughter may want to hold off finding a job as she works out how much time she wishes to devote to study. Summer work is a reasonable alternative if she doesn’t need the cash straight away, but depends on many factors, including her reasons for wanting a job in the first place.

Your daughter should find a job that doesn’t require thought or planning outside the workplace, so she can concentrate on uni life at all other times. I’d recommend she first looks for work in the Students’ Union and university itself. It’s a good bet when juggling study, work and social life.

A job that doesn’t involve working after midnight is also helpful…

Someone else mentioned that holding off the job search may end up with all the jobs disappearing, especially in this economic climate.  Certainly a fair point.

I would also suggest that if you have a clear career plan, there’s no harm in looking for relevant work in your chosen field.  Not always easy, but worth a thought.

What would your advice be to Freshers this year?  How does a job (or a lack of one) shape your experience at uni?  Are some jobs better than others?  Would you have studied more if you’d not been working, or would you just have more leisure time?

3 comments

  1. The following will make me sound like an old fart, but then, I am one, so that’s OK. I think students should consider what they are signing up for when they go to university – in most cases, it’s a full time commitment. When they fill in a form, they are going to put “student” as their occupation, not “ambient replenishment operative.” Degree courses are designed with the expectation that most days will be taken up with activities related to the course – reading, writing assignments, researching, preparing for seminars, and actually attending classes. I have students with “part time” jobs of 30+ hours. They can’t possibly do justice to a degree course, nor will they get a full university experience.
    I think the heart of the problem is the desire to have a certain lifestyle- designer clothes, the latest phone, out clubbing every night. All of this costs money, and to get that money, students increasingly look for work to supplement whatever income they have. In doing so, it seems to me, they defeat the whole object of going to university in the first place.

    1. I agree that working 30+ hours is almost always unhelpful. And you’re bang on that the job would also get in the way of the full uni experience.

      However, it’s sad that many students have no choice but to work, even if they are relatively frugal. It’s one thing working to afford luxury goods, it’s another when you’re working to buy food.

      I know some people who do the part-time work to stop them wasting time (they admit the time wouldn’t have been spent on study anyway). Others work a few evenings so they can’t go out every single night. You could argue they’re lacking willpower, but at least these students have found a workaround (no pun intended).

  2. If you are working to buy food – fine. I know I come across as an old reactionary, but I do think some students need to ask themselves why they are at university. I’ve had students with glossy new cars tell me they can’t afford to buy books. I also get tired of being told how easy it was for us back then because we had grants. Well, I didn’t know anyone with a full grant, as it was strictly means tested. I did know several people with no grant at all. Mine covered my rent, for which I was very grateful, but I depended on my parents for money for food, books, clothes etc. – and they didn’t have much. It didn’t occur to me, or any of my peers that we should get part time jobs – indeed, in some universities, it was forbidden to have a term time job. We thought our job was being a student. The result was we spent a lot of time in the library, none of us owned a car, we wouldn’t dream of using a taxi, and we went out maybe twice a week, nursing a couple of pints through the evening. And we loved it. In contrast, I know students who drop in to university for the odd lecture before flitting off for their next shift. They aren’t, in my view, really students.

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