'She Works Hard For The Money': Getting a Job While in University

With two months of school done and stress at an all time high, you may find yourself tapping your bank card more than you should and watching the money in your bank account disappear right before your eyes.  The reality is the broke student stereotype often times comes to fruition and we find ourselves needing some extra cash to pay off that lengthy credit card bill or support our ongoing shopping addiction. As someone who’s spent the past four years of her University career juggling multiple part-time jobs to support her infatuation with Starbucks, I have come up with few handy tips in order to make the process of planning, applying and managing working while in University a little less stressful.

Before You Apply

If you do choose to work while in school, it is important to get organized and plan ahead. Before applying, take time to set out your schedule and see what days and times you can realistically fit in part time work. Keep in mind that shift lengths vary job to job, and average part-time shifts are around five hours long and require you to work roughly two to four times a week. It is important to have an idea of your availability so you can  go into your interview knowing if the job matches your own schedule.

My advice is to open up your planner or the calendar on your phone and take a look back at the previous month to see where you could have fit in a shift or two. Also, set out your schedule for the next month including deadlines and prior commitments and see how many hours per week you can commit to a part time job. When doing this, it is incredibly important to be  realistic. Face the facts, procrastination is inevitable sometimes, so leave yourself lots of time to complete your school work and take into account any extra curricular activities. Also remember to schedule in some me time to recharge, sleep and take care of yourself and don’t give in to the pressure of wanting to impress your new employer by taking on more than you can handle.

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Where to Look

Once you’ve mapped your schedule out, the next step is to start looking. Popular choices among students are often retail or the food service industry. These fields often don't require a ton of previous experience and they offer evening and weekend shifts, which usually fit better with a student’s schedule. They also can alsoallow for you to customize your availability based around your school schedule and offer shorter shifts as well as longer shifts which can be helpful for students who have classes at different times on different days. Though it is flexible, most part time jobs in these industries do require a certain amount of days or hours per week of availability, so be sure to ask about the policies of the companies you’re applying to, to see if you can meet these requirements. In order to find openings  for these jobs, be sure to check the websites of locations in your area or check the careers section of the malls and shopping centres near you.

Job search sites are also incredibly helpful in finding work, especially in more specific and unique companies and fields of work. If you’ve done the retail and food industry and need something new, job search sites such as Indeed or Monster are the place to go to find all kinds of cool opportunities in sectors that you never knew existed. I have obtained multiple jobs from Indeed and have found unique internships and opportunities that are just as flexible around my demanding schedule and have given my resume a vast range of experience both within and outside of my field. You can search by location or job title and upload your resume into the site to apply with the click of a button. They also recommend jobs you may like based on ones you’ve applied to in the past in order to find the job that is right for your previous experience and interest. Job sites, though intimidating at first, can be a great resource for finding part-time work, internships and even volunteer experience within your field to build your resume while still in school.

York University also offers work/study employment which is specially designed for students. Work/Study jobs are part-time during the school year and provide flexible hours to fit around your class schedule. Another positive is that the employers are incredibly accommodating to the students they hire and are as flexible as they can be when it comes to school related issues. Check out the Career Centre on the York University website for more information.

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I’ve Got the Job! What’s Next?

Success! You’ve signed the contract and you’re beginning the training  at your new job. Though this may seem like the end of your journey, it is only just the beginning. The most difficult part of  working while in school is adjusting to the new addition to your schedule. The extra time you once had to finish all your assignments suddenly disappears and you begin to see every hour of your day filling up with things to do. Though this pressure can seem overwhelming, it is definitely doable and it allows you to value the free time you do have and make the most of every hour. Also it becomes a lot harder to procrastinate while working part-time, as you know you have less free time to waste and must use the time you do have to actually work rather than gossip with your friends in a Starbucks with your blank word document staring back at you (something I’ve been guilty of).

Planning ahead, like in every other section of the job hunt process,  is especially important in this stage, as writing out your schedule will allow you  to avoid having to choose between school and work the night before a big deadline. Aside from writing your final deadlines in your calendar, set smaller deadlines for yourself in order to complete your assignments over the span of a couple weeks rather than in one day like you previously were able to without your part-time job. You can also plan out which days you will be working on which parts of which assignments to have a plan to stick to before you get to your study location. Also plan ahead with your job and take days off ahead of time if you know you have a particularly busy week or switch shifts with someone to give you the time you need.

With the already hectic nature of university, adding a job into the mix can leave you very little free time and often working students have to make sacrifices on their own mental and physical health and wellbeing in order to meet all the deadlines and work all the assigned shifts.  When taking on all these responsibilities it is incredibly important to take time to recharge. Whether its spending 40 minutes to watch an episode of your favourite show, lighting some candles and running a bath or simply just going to bed a little early, a little can go a long way in making sure you are well relaxed and don’t burn out.  

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Start your job hunt today! Part-time work will not only provide you with that extra cash, but it will also build your resume for future job hunts and provide you with real-life transferable skills. Part-time work, even if not in the field you hope to work in after university, displays to future employers your ability to manage your time, stay organized and be responsible. Through job experience, many people make lifelong friends and gain valuable lessons about working with others and professionalism in the workplace. Lastly, remember to not get discouraged if you don't get the first couple of  jobs you apply for. Keep applying and ask for feedback on job rejections if you can, so you can continue to learn and grow and be better prepared for the next one! Don’t give up and you’ll be paying off that credit card in no time!

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