It’s great when your student loan first hits your account – you feel rich! However the cost of food, rent, books and going out quickly start to add up, and you may find your loan disappearing faster than you expected.
For some, it will simply be a matter of cutting back on the beer and designer clothes, but if you’re living sensibly and still struggling it may be time to look for a job. Or of course, you may just want to support your luxury lifestyle!
Not every student works for the money alone though – if you’re the ambitious type you may already be building your CV to kick-start your career when you finish uni. Getting work experience can really help you stand out from the crowd when it comes to applications.
Whatever reason you’re looking for work, make sure you ask yourself the following questions to help find the perfect job for you.
Why do you want a job?
Obviously, your reasons for job hunting will affect the kind of thing you’re looking for, and how much it will impact your life and studies.
If you’re only in it for the money, it’s best to go for something where you can simply turn up, do your time and forget about it when you get home. You might also want the flexibility to work extra hours when you need the cash and cut down when there are essays to write.
For this reason, bar, restaurant and retail work are popular choices for many students. Long opening hours including evenings and weekends make it easier to fit your shifts around the rest of your life.
If you’re looking to boost your CV though, you may want to go for something different. Any work experience will demonstrate that you are reliable and hardworking - but if you really want to impress, try to get something vaguely in your field of choice. Answering the phone at a local lawyer’s, helping out at a primary school, or offering your services as a freelance writer could all get you ahead.
Unfortunately, employers are well aware of this and you may find yourself working for free as a volunteer or intern. It will still look great on your CV, but know your rights and be sure your efforts aren’t detracting from your studies or social life.
How much time can you commit?
Everyone enjoys a bit of extra cash, but it’s important to remember why you’re at uni – and it ain’t to perfect your cappuccino-making skills.
Most universities recommend working no more than 12 hours a week during term time, and realistically the less time you spend working the better. Try coming up with a weekly budget to figure out the minimum hours you can comfortably survive off.
It’s important to figure out when you are able to fit in the hours too. Your timetable is likely to change from term to term, so make sure your work is flexible enough to fit around your studies. Alternatively go for evenings or weekends, when you won’t be tempted to miss any classes in favour of cash.
Don’t go overboard though – there’s no point in earning loads of money if you haven’t the time to spend it having fun with your friends.
Another option is to profit on your amazingly long holidays by finding temporary work at Christmas or in the summer – it's a great way to build up a stash of party funds for next term. Shops, bars and restaurants across the country take on extra staff in November and December, and there are often opportunities in the summer months too.
What are your skills?
No one likes to suck at their job. No matter how menial it is, you’ll enjoy your work much more if it suits your personality and skills.
If you’re a people person who loves chatting then you’ll be great in retail or call centre work. Night owls who thrive in a busy atmosphere will make brilliant bar staff, whilst the more organised among us might take a certain pleasure in filing or data entry. And obviously, if you already have experience making coffee or selling designer shoes – make the most of it.
Think outside the box too. Are there any dogs in the area that need walking? Could you use your language skills to help international students with their English?
Be honest with yourself and don’t force yourself into doing something you hate. It takes a certain kind of resilience to work in a call centre, and if you couldn’t care less about fashion there’s not much point in applying for work in a fancy clothes shop.
Every job vacancy will give you a list of the qualities they want and the tasks you’ll be expected to do, so you should be able to get a good idea of whether a particular job will be right for you.
Being a student isn’t always an easy ride, especially if you’re trying to juggle uni work, a job and a social life. At The Student Housing Company, we take the stress out of accommodation – bills and internet are included, there’s a launderette on site, plus Freeview TVs in shared areas. Find out more about our brilliant accommodation, or and keep reading our blog for more advice on student life.