It’s no picnic being a working student. You’ll be putting in more hours than any of your classmates and you’ll be the first to hit the hay when the rest of your friends are still dancing the disco. Rest assured, you are not the only person ever to be caught between work and play. For a lot of uni students, it’s not a question. You have to work to survive. That’s life
But no one says it must be painful. Opportunities abound during your university years, perhaps more so than any other time in your life. Your schedule is flexible and you’re keen for new experiences. What could be more perfect? The important thing is that you find something that doesn’t make you miserable.
Do the work you love. It seems obvious. What you might not realise that it’s possible. Uni may be the best place to do it. Develop good relationships with your professors. When summer rolls around, they will likely need students to do their research or administrate their projects. Not only that, but they are connected with people in their field and they’ll know who’s looking for someone. Don’t be intimidated by them. It’s their job to teach and most are just eager to help an especially keen student.
It’s alright if your grades aren’t the best. Developing professional relationships is just as important, perhaps even more important than your grade point average. Get yourself ahead of the game by meeting the right people. These connections will serve you at graduation.
Work with people you love. Sometimes the best job for a student is one where you don’t have to think much and you get to hang around with people you love. It’s good for morale, which will inevitably be good for your grades too. Find people who make you laugh and ask them where they work. Coffee houses and restaurants are used to hiring students. They know they’ll have to work around your schedule so don’t be shy about handing in a paper copy of your class schedule.
Sell your skills as a freelancer. It can be intimidating to start calling yourself a freelancer at nineteen but what have you got to lose? If you’ve got a skill you can sell, it’s the ideal situation for a student. Make your own hours; keep all the cash. With a part-time hours, you probably don’t need to pay taxes anyway. Give piano lessons. Do some graphic design. Paint living rooms. The skills and confidence you gain will serve you your life long.
Visit the job office at your school. Every university has one of these. Keep in mind that however many students there are in your school, that’s how many are potentially applying for those jobs. Does your department have it’s own job office? If so, start there. Make sure you are on their mailing list. Apply carefully and with discretion. Don’t bother if you don’t really want it. It’s a waste of your valuable time. When you see something that interests you, go after it aggressively.
It takes more energy to find a job you love. You’ll be tempted to skip to the café option. But first consider that it takes even more energy to work a job you dislike and while attempting to finish your degree, which is hard enough in itself.
Remember people do this every day. You’re not the only one. If you really must put in thirty hours a week to make rent, make sure you professors know. Most of the time, they are happy to accommodate students in special circumstance. Just be open. If you can’t make a deadline, talk to your professor in advance if you can. And if you can’t, talk to them anyway. That way they’ll know for next time.
Author Amy Knapp freelanced her way through law school teaching piano lessons. She is now a business blogger for InsideTrak, where you can find free job postings from Australian employers.