Poor Students: Getting A Job While You’re At Uni

Job adverts in a news paper

Student jobs, summer jobs, part-time jobs, internships, work experience — buzz words for any student who’s struggling for money or skills or both. You don’t hear anyone complaining that they’re a ‘rich student,’ and that 10% discount you get in stores will only get you so far, after all.

I’ve got a lot of classmates who see that student loan drop into their accounts and you can almost see the pound signs spinning in their heads. I know from experience how difficult the weeks between spending the last of your loan and waiting for the next one to come in can be, and I’m pretty careful with my money — now, anyway.

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Let me tell you straight up: unless you are super smart and savvy with your money, it is probably a good idea for you to get a job. Of course, it’s possible to make your payments stretch through the school year, but it’s not easy. Money aside, there are plenty of other reasons why it’s good for you to find gainful employment: transferable skills, experience, new friends (hurray!), and, you know, work nights out and Christmas parties, let’s be real.

Here’s some handy times to look for placements, in my experience:

  1. A lot of jobs in sales/retail/restaurants have spaces over the summer.
  2. There will be a tons of part-time and weekend work available in most places over Christmas (and you should be applying for that in October).
  3. Places that take summer interns will usually start looking at early as late autumn.
  4. If you’re looking for work experience, your best bet is searching in the New Year so you can work over Easter.

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Don’t be afraid to send query letters, particularly for places as an intern or for work experience. There’s absolutely no harm in dropping a company an email asking if they have a place for you. They might not, but it’s worth a shot, right? Speculative applications include a cover letter and your CV — you send these if a company isn’t advertising a job, but you want to let them know you’d be a good fit and you’re ready to work.

I guess this is the bit where I tell you how you write a CV and how to pass an interview, and I have a couple of tips, but there are people out there who are much more qualified than me. Basically I’m telling you to hit up Staffs Careers Network, because they’re nice people and they’re going to have infinitely more advice and opportunities for you than I can put in a blog post. I can also tell you that through UniTemps I got my job as an Accelerated Learning Coach, and that has been, honestly, one of the most rewarding things I’ve done.

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Here’s a handful of job-related mistakes I made, so you don’t have to:

  1. Don’t stop looking for a job, even when you have a job. You never know when that perfect position will open up.
  2. Have a different CV for each ‘skill set’ you have. The teaching assistant job you’re applying for doesn’t care about how clean you keep a stock room.
  3. Research the company/position if you’re offered an interview. Every interview I’ve been in has included the questions “What do you know about us?” and “What do you think your role will be?” It’s really awkward if the answer to either is ‘I don’t know.’
  4. Don’t be afraid to turn a job down. I went to an interview where the position advertised was to do with inbound sales and it turned out to be cold-calling. Don’t take a job you’re not comfortable with.

Lastly,  don’t let your job get on top of your assignments. At the end of the day, you’re here to earn a degree. I know first hand how tempting it can be to give everything you’ve got to the place that’s paying, you instead of the place that’s helping you build your future.

It can be really easy to let work take over. The money is nice. The people are funny. But you need to find a balance between employment and school, and lots and lots of students manage that. You’re going to be fine.

Good luck, and good hunting.

Siân
About Siân 28 Articles
I'm Siân, I'm 27, and I'm a third year Creative Writing student. I'd like to be a full-time writer when I grow up, but a career in editing or teaching would do in the meantime.

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