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Students: How to Find Part-Time Work
As a student, having money is probably high priority on your long list of concerns during your time at university (behind studying, exams and deadlines of course). After all, money is a necessity if you're to make your time there enjoyable rather than endurable. If you want the social life of a rockstar, which most students do, having a steady income will help to supply the shots well into the early hours oh and it'll also help to buy the course literature.
So if you're ready to become the Bill Gates of students, relatively speaking, but aren't quite sure how to find part-time work that won't affect your studies too much, check out the tips below. We look at what the most popular student jobs are, where to find them and how past students have successfully applied
If you are (or have ever been) a student, you will be all too familiar with those three glorious days of the academic year when you receive your maintenance loan - plus any other grants you were entitled to. In that moment when you check your bank account and see a four figure sum that doesn't have a minus in front of it, you feel like you've made it in life. You are Jay-Z and Richard Branson, all rolled into one. Crack open the champagne and caviar boys, I've arrived.
By keeping your bank balance brimming all through the term, you can maintain the Saudi prince lifestyle (well, almost) whilst still having enough time to study and live a little!
But then you check again a week later and you've got £4.32 left, which will just about get you a Freddo and a bag of Space Raiders these days.
That happens to most students within the first week of university life. Living 7 days like a Saudi prince, then skillfully making 4 cans of beans and a loaf last them 3 months until the next cash injection. It doesn't have to be this way though - not if you have a part-time job.
By keeping your bank balance brimming all through the term, you can maintain the Saudi prince lifestyle (well, almost) whilst still having enough time to study and live a little! So let's take a look at what types of work most students tend to prefer and why...
Top Student Job Sectors
Before knowing how to find a part time job, it helps to understand what sectors tend to offer the most suitable opportunities to students. Juggling full-time study with part-time work can be difficult, so flexible working hours is always high on the list of needs.
One of the most important things to keep in mind with a part-time job is priority. You don't want it to interfere with your studying too much - that's when it becomes damaging rather than beneficial. You should make it clear to any potential employer what days you are in lectures, and also what times of the year you will likely need less hours (due to exams and coursework deadlines).
Top Tip: if you are in lectures 3 days a week (for example), tell your employer that you're in lectures 4 or 5 times. This way, it will give you the extra days you need for study and stop your employer from potentially coaxing you into working a shift on your 'day off'.
Below are perhaps the three most popular sectors that cater to these needs the best:
One of the most popular 'student jobs' has always been retail. The flexibility, volume of entry-level opportunities and the ability to operate in a fun, social working environment all prove attractive for students.
Much the same as working in retail, working in a bar part-time through university will demonstrate your ability to communicate and interact with all types of different people.
In addition to this, retail jobs provide a number of soft skills that can be useful assets to list on your CV for future roles. That's right, the part-time job you're working to fund your full-time study will actually enhance your degree even more! In such a competitive employment market these abilities might just make the difference. Check out the top 5 key life skills a part-time job in retail will teach you:
If you're planning on a future career that doesn't involve anything customer-facing, you might be pulling your face at this one. However, many companies like to see an element of customer service on a candidate's CV somewhere along the line. It demonstrates the ability to communicate across different cultural levels, along with showing the type of confidence that all of the top candidates require to succeed. After all, every business, somewhere along the line, deals in customer service.
Working under pressure
Depending on where you work, the retail industry is generally a fast paced working environment. Your ability to multi-task and deal with a number of enquiries will prove your worth to future employers - demonstrating your ability to operate effectively whilst in high-pressure situations. This correlates well when it comes to hitting those important deadlines and targets.
This, in-part, relates to both previous points. When completing specific tasks, tasks that need accuracy AND efficiency, showing initiative throughout the process is a fundamental skill retail jobs will give you. It teaches you how to prioritise more important tasks, solve problems and deliver solutions - which will stand you in a positive light during that big interview you'll have in a few years' time.
Use of IT
In today's age, where infants are walking around with iPhones instead of Action Men, this seems like an almost patronising point to be making. But employers like to see candidates who haven't just studied IT 'at school' - they like to see an applied knowledge that's been used on a regular basis. Being a student, this is of course something that you're doing anyway - but being able to show you have used IT systems within a corporate/retail environment will always highlight the skill even more so.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, a part-time job in retail shows you have responsibility - something all companies like to see. After all, if an establishment as large as Debenhams, Next or New Look are willing to put you on the frontline with their customers, it says a lot about your personality and trustworthiness. You're the face that the company's customer will see every time they visit the store. That's a big responsibility, right?
Surely a student's favourite venue ahem apart from the lecture theatre is the bar. A lot of students take up shift work on a weekend in local bars around their university. It's a good way to soak up the nightlife of your new home - without spending money and actually earning it. It's also a good chance to meet new friends too. So, for the nights you aren't working, you can work on that rockstar lifestyle we mentioned earlier.
Much the same as working in retail, working in a bar part-time through university will demonstrate your ability to communicate and interact with all types of different people, as well as dealing with a fast-paced working environment. If you get really good at it, you could even note down glass juggling on your CV - although I'm not sure how well that would relate to your 'Earth and Planetary Sciences, Astronomy and Astrophysics' degree.
A university's Student's Union offers many part time job opportunities every term to any 'Freshman' (pardon the americanism). The great thing about the Student's Union is that there are always opportunities popping up, as the conveyor belt of students coming and going will naturally leave vacancies every year.
Just like bar work, working in the Union means that you're going to be working with (and for) fellow students - giving you ample opportunity to make new friends.
The other great thing is that the jobs on offer are going to be more considerate and flexible than other types of work because, well, they are part of the university and get the whole studying thing!
A different Way
So let's say you've already tried, multiple times, to land yourself a job in all of the above positions. You have no source of income and, after much deliberation, making it through 3 years of studying on a can of beans and a Freddo really doesn't seem a sustainable option. What do you do?
It could be in anything - writing, design, tutoring. If there is something you're really good at, perhaps even something that relates to your degree, why not make some cash on the side by the hour?
The genius behind this method is that, if you're doing something related to your degree, you're actually giving yourself work experience for that future dream job.
During my degrees in Creative Writing, I completed a number of articles and assignments on the side to boost my bank balance a little. The work can sometimes be a little flippant and unreliable, but it's better than no work at all. Like anything, it's all about what you put into it.
It's not just me doing it either. Danielle Sharlot, Customer Adviser at United Utilities, says,
"Last time I was a student I had a part time job at KFC. This time around I work part-time as a self employed craft and art tutor. I got the job by phoning up a local center and arranging to do classes there. No CV required. It was just easier to get a job that worked around my schedule being self-employed. I've done management and all of that and I don't have it in me anymore - it's too intense and I prefer the idea of a slow job that allows me to increase or decrease the hours as needed."
Register yourself on fiverr.com (general services), copify.com (copywriting), peopleperhour.com (general skills) or elance.com (writing) to start selling your skills. While jobs on these sites can be low pay, competitive and infrequent, there are steps you can take to maximise your chances of work. Take the time to create a comprehensive profile and exhibit some of your existing work in a portfolio. Then market yourself on all social media platforms you can think of and, hey presto, you're self-employed!
The genius behind this method is that, if you're doing something related to your degree, you're actually giving yourself work experience for that future dream job. By showing the initiative (remember that word) to set yourself up in such a way will always look very impressive to any employer. It's a win-win!
It's also the most flexible of all options as you're effectively your own boss. But time-management, self-motivation and discipline are all essential to succeed. When your friends are on the phone with half a bottle of vodka in their bloodstream, you have to somehow remain focussed on writing the 'Best Riding Gear' article that Horse & Hound have commissioned from you. Ney, you might say, but you must do it.
I'm Rubbish at Freelancing
Swiftly moving on from the worst pun ever made, I heard some of you cry out that you'd be no good at freelancing. The lure of the vodka is too strong and you're not talented at anything in life and would just fail catastrophically. Well guess what people, you don't have to worry either. We've got you covered with these alternative, popular money-making methods students use to get them by:
Something else I did during my time at university (as well as freelance writing and working at Subway - yes, I had minimal social life) was open an eBay shop. There are a few ways you can approach this - either selling unwanted items that you currently own, or purchasing wholesale goods to sell on.
If your blog becomes so successful it can be 'monetised' through advertising - making it a very viable money-making opportunity.
At the time, the 'Shamballa' bracelet trend was booming, so I capitalised on it: bulk-buying hundreds of beads and string, teaching myself how to make them via YouTube tutorials and guess what? I sold literally hundreds of them. So much so in fact, that my bus fares, dinners and any other commuting costs were covered by the profits, with change to spare.
Have fun with whatever you choose to sell though - create a funky logo, write enticing blurbs for your products, or even create your own website away from eBay (purchases made on your own website won't have any eBay fees taken from them). Websites are free and easy to design these days too, with domains only costing a few pounds for the whole year.
If your eBay business really takes off, be prepared to convert your bedroom into a production line of bubblewrap and envelopes - I was making weekly postal trips with holdalls full of parcels the Post Office staff hated me.
Something else you must remember to do if it proves successful is register with the HMRC as a Sole Trader. This will avoid any unwanted bother with the tax man - you can read more on this rather complex subject here.
Start a Blog/Vlog
This is kind of like freelancing I suppose, but more fun because you get to choose the subject. YouTube has unearthed so many talents over recent years - musicians, comedians, reviewers etc. Why not become one of them?
Some students started a Vlog during university as a small project and now have millions of subscribers and viewers every week. They channel whatever they're passionate about and people like passion! If your blog becomes so successful it can be 'monetised' through advertising - making it a very viable money-making opportunity.
Reviewers get lots of freebies (to review of course), gamers get to travel the world to play the latest games and musicians get signed by record labels. All you need is a YouTube account, a decent camera and a subject.
Once you're set up, just be patient - building subscribers and viewers can start out slow, but once you build momentum the sky's the limit!
Okay so this is the least fun of all options. There are plenty of companies out there now that will actually pay for your opinion on products, services or anything that can be surveyed for that matter! If you register on a number of online survey sites you will have a variety of subjects to answer questions on - at least making it a little interesting.
Pay per survey isn't huge, and they can take anywhere between 10 - 15 minutes each. But if you face a long commute via train or bus, you could turn that dead time into money by doing a few surveys a day. You'll be surprised how quickly it will add up.
I wouldn't recommend doing this as your only source of income though, as the money won't be enough to live off. Combine it with one of the options above to make it a useful little payday booster.
How other students did it
Don't just take my word for all of this, have a look below to see how former student Kimberley Baxter managed to find her first part-time jobs and still have time to study and live a little.
Kim, who is now an Early Years Foundation Stage Leader and SLE at Woodland Community School, was kind enough to give us an insight into how she worked all through her teaching degree, until she finally got her first teaching post:
So what did you study at university and when did you get your first part time job?
I did Advanced Study of Early Years and PE, plus I hold Qualified Teacher Status, at Liverpool Hope University.
I worked from being 14 years old as a waitress, this continued all the way through college and then I desperately needed more money to get me through university so decided to apply at Asda. The shifts fit in with my days at uni, as I worked evenings and all day Sunday. I did my teacher training at Liverpool Hope for 3 years and only left Asda when I got my first teaching post in 2006.
How did you manage to get the jobs as a waitress and at Asda?
My step dad worked for Coca Cola as an engineer and he saw an advert for a waitress in a pub he was fitting a pump in. I called in and had a face to face interview and got the job that way.
As for Asda it wasn't as advanced as being online at that stage! I called in for an 'old fashioned' application form and got invited for a full day interview. This included team building activities, which the bosses watched and then selected the candidates they wanted to progress to the training stage (which took a further week).
I did this in my summer holidays before I started uni in the September. I also took overtime whenever I could throughout my uni holidays.
How did you find having a social life as well as being at university AND having a job?
Juggling work, uni and social life was tough but I managed it. I lived at home rather than at uni and saved up for a car (Suzuki Swift Limited Edition...in pea green ha!).
I used to work Wednesday nights in Asda, which was a pain because it was student night in Wigan. I didn't miss out though, I used to take a change of clothes to work and when I finished at 11pm, my mates picked me up on the way to town in the minibus....where there's a will there's a way!
A good friend of mine, Martin Palmer, who is now Writer and Assistant Editor for allhailtheale.com, studied on the same MA Creative Writing course as me at Edge Hill University. He worked part-time at JD Wetherspoons during term holidays and was kind enough to answer some questions relating to his part-time work there:
It's interesting that you studied only through the holidays - was this a conscious decision so as not to affect your studying in term time?
Not really, it was mainly because 'Spoons only wanted me to start when the holidays did, and I had to leave before I went back to Ormskirk as the commute would've been too much [could've tried transferring to a Liverpool branch, but I suppose I might've thought that'd get in the way of study].
Something I'm finding interesting from this research is that most students find their part time work in a physical sense (i.e. handing out their CVs, seeing jobs advertised in shop windows etc.) as opposed to applying online through job boards. Do you have any views on why this could be?
That is interesting. I'd guess at a number of things for going the more physical route, from being able to make an instant first impression/simply meet your potential future colleagues, seeing a job by accident, or just because there is less potential competition than online jobs.
I guess they could even have had experience at the job centre where they insist you try things that way [obviously not that likely if people have gone straight to uni from school, but hey]. I suppose, in short, it feels like you've got more control that way.
Part-time jobs help your CV
Briefly mentioned earlier, it is important to remember that a part-time job throughout university isn't just paying the bills. Whilst employers primarily focus on your education background, they will also consider if and what you did as work alongside it. If you're able to land a part-time position doing something that relates to your degree, then you have a distinct advantage once you leave university.
But even those general jobs that might have nothing to do with your education or future plans, even they have merit. Not only showing that you have drive and determination, a part-time job in a non-related field demonstrates a diversity of skills you might never have put on your CV (or skills you didn't know you even had!).
Hopefully after reading this article you are feeling more optimistic and excited about finding yourself some part-time work to run alongside your studying. Get creative with your methods of money-making, use social media and any online outlets that you can - to learn, to sell, to market yourself. To re-use a quote from Kim earlier, 'where there is a will, there's a way!'.
The truth is, making money these days is actually easier than it used to be. We have so many resources, putting us into contact with people all around the world. So out there, somewhere, is a job or an opportunity for everyone - including you.
If you are about to dust off your laptop and prepare your CV for sending out, be sure to check out our checklist of tips for creating a good CV first. Good luck!
Written by Jon Clarke