Student jobs have been around in some form or other for a very long time. As well as the obvious monetary advantages, having a part-time job alongside your studies can benefit you in many ways and could make a difference in your application standing out from others or in clinching that all important full-time job. There’s no doubt that working part-time as a student is hard work but the benefits can outweigh any disadvantages.
You could go down the strategic route of choosing student jobs with relevance to your particular studies or degree. It’ll give you experience in that field and an insight into the work you would actually be doing and may help you decide on which area or department you’d like to specialise in or whether that really is the right career path for you. For example if you are considering in working in hospitality or events then a job within a bar, restaurant, hotel or perhaps at a festival would make sense while if interested in retail or retail management a shop job would be a natural fit. This part-time job could lead you to applying for a formal work experience placement, an internship or even a graduate job with an employer you already work for. Knowing all about you, your personality, work ethic and skills puts you at a distinct advantage in the eyes of the employer. Even if the employer has nothing to offer you in terms of employment at the end of your student life, you may have been able to network and find out about openings in similar companies and of course you’ll have that all important reference.
Even if the part-time student job that you do has no particular relevance to your studies ,the advantages come in the life skills you will accumulate, perhaps without even knowing that you are doing so and these will be invaluable in your job search. These are skills that an employer will be looking for as they welcome this kind of real-world work experience so make sure you make the most of them by drawing attention to them on your application forms. They’ll set you apart from the applicants who have not had any work experience and perhaps little life experience either. It’ll show that you’re accustomed to the professional world of work and that will make your transition easier and more appealing to an employer. Your part-time job could also help you work out what you actually enjoy about a job and where your strengths and weaknesses lie. Whichever type of student job you do there are sure to be a host of transferable skills for you to take with you (along with that hard-earned cash!)
Here are some examples of skills and qualities that employers find useful are shown below. See if you can incorporate these into your job application form to help you stand out. You may have only held one part-time job in a shop before applying for a full-time career job but that one job may have given you a whole host of experiences and skills so don’t underestimate its value and sell those qualities to your prospective employer.
Teamwork – It’s very likely you’ll work as part of a team, whether large or small and a previous part-time job will equip you with skills to work well with a variety of personalities, to be able to get on with them and manage your relationships with your co-workers. Realistically you’re not going to be best mates with everyone you work with. It may be a case of some people are very opinionated, some people have a lazy streak and let others carry them and others may be aloof and abrupt. There may be a range of ages to interact with, staff from very different backgrounds and perhaps office politics to negotiate. It can be very different from the world of the classroom. However if you’ve had some practice runs at managing this in your part-time job and how employees work together, its only got to be a bonus.
Time-management – A common complaint from employers is that many graduates have a lack of commercial awareness so if you can show that you can work in a commercial environment as well as studying at the same time, you are capable of juggling commitments and understand the world of work. It’s not easy to balance part-time work with your studies and still enjoy a social life but it is possible to do. They should be able to co-exist healthily. You will need to be ruthless in organising your time and that’s where your time management skills come into play. Yes, you’re likely to get it wrong at some stage- you took on some extra shifts at the restaurant as the money was tempting and then found you’d only left yourself one evening to get a really important assignment done but the internet was down. Hopefully an important lesson was learnt from this and time is managed more wisely the next time! Working students tend to be better planners and learn to weigh up their priorities so that they get their study tasks done on time. This definitely prepares you for life after being a student, for prioritising work and keeping to deadlines.
Punctuality, reliability and being a good employee – A business or place of work needs employees who can be relied upon and have a good work ethic. If you can show that you have pulled this off for every weekend for the last two or three years or every day over the summer break in your student jobs while at uni, it will show that you’re a responsible, reliable member of the team with a strong work ethic. If you can’t manage that in part-time work employers might think you’re not capable in a full-time position.
Initiative – You may be able to show your initiative in different ways in your student job, perhaps highlighting a marketing or promotional opportunity or a way of increasing efficiency. If the company takes this up, then keep a note of this as one of your successes.
Working under pressure – However well organised and smooth running a company may be, there is always going to be an unexpected event that happens which of course can be very stressful and tests the staff. If you come across such an event while you’re working in your student job see it as good experience and that it shows the employer (and yourself) how well you can cope working under stress or pressure and how well you problem-solve. You might find it’s something you thrive on and work well with or it may highlight an issue which you can then work on trying to resolve for the future. Keep notes for the future on what happened and what you did, otherwise you may forget as time goes on. Such an example might be useful in the future for application forms or at an interview. A favourite question is ‘Can you give an example of where a problem occurred at work and how you dealt with it.’
Continued development and learning – In your student job you will learn new things, it might be new skills or a different way of organising things. You may find if you have different jobs within the same type of business, say for example retail or hotel management, that companies in the same industry do things quite differently. For you this is all good experience and knowledge. You may gain experience of using different management systems, different software or a range of office equipment. In your part-time job you may be asked to take part in some basic mandatory training, which again is something to note on your job application form. It may be that you have to do training in health and safety, fire training, manual handling or first aid. These are all useful in making you stand out.
Customer service skills – This covers such a huge area that it would be unusual in your student job if you didn’t cover customer service in some form or other. For some, you may gain more experience in this field than others, particularly if you’re employed in hospitality or retail. You may have to deal with all types of customers, with people you may not usually come across in your usual sphere of life, young, old, with a physical or learning disability, customers who complain or are very argumentative, customers who may be worse for wear from drink. You may have to deal with customers following company protocol and procedures or you may have to deal with them using your own initiative. You will have to draw on skills such as diffusing a situation, problem-solving, patience and unending energy.
Money management – Budgeting is one of those things you need to do in life. I expect you’re groaning inwardly at that but it’s going to be part of your life from now on (even if you do win a few million on the lottery) so dealing with money while you’re still a student is good practice for when you’ve got to do the grown up stuff. For some students, perhaps living at home with most bills paid, the extra income from a part-time job may fund things such as a new phone, clothes or driving lessons. For those of you at uni it may have to go on more of the basics such as rent and food but hopefully with a bit left over for a night out. You’re bound to make mistakes but you’re gaining good experience on how to manage your money. If you’ve earned your own money you’re less likely to spend that hard earned cash frivolously. It may even be that an extra bit of that cash can be put away in a savings account to be used at some time after your student years have finished, to perhaps take a break for a bit of travelling or to buy a car for your new full-time job.
So whatever you do in the world of part-time student work, see it as good experience, something that will benefit you in the future in securing a job in your chosen career. That student job may not be exciting and may not seem to have any notable benefits (apart from that very welcome pay packet!) but there are a host of skills that you will have used and developed in your time in the job that will be a great basis for your working life ahead.