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My Experience of Working While at University

Advice for those looking for a student job

Mental health and wellbeing
By VoiceBox ·

Jenn (not her real name)

A young person from the UK

My Experience of Working While at University

During my three-year course at University, I worked four different part-time jobs, all of which provided me with different perspectives on working during my degree. I was never the kind of person to sit still, and even though I was lucky enough to receive some financial support from my parents while at University, I always wanted to work for my own money too. 

Below I have listed the jobs I worked and why they did/didn’t work for me: 

A Rugby Stadium bar: 2 Stars: I worked weekend shifts and the occasional Thursday night in a bar. The people I worked with were lovely, and most were other students. The pay was pretty good too, at around £10 per hour. Unfortunately, the commute was a 30-minute bus trip and a 10-minute walk. The bar I was working in was a tent by the stadium seats with no heat lamps. In the middle of November, with no gloves on and sticky beer and cider spilling on my hands, it’s no wonder my hands went numb in the first 30 minutes. I managed to do two shifts like this before I quit and started looking for an indoor job. Being a bartender can be a good job, although here’s hoping you don’t get put in the outdoor section.

The University event staff: 3 Stars: There was no real schedule or regular shifts, but it was very easy to get to. I helped set up events, scan tickets and sell merchandise. I earned £40 for 3.5 hours! Universities often pay well for event staff, so if you are looking for the occasional boost in income, this is a great option to look into at your university! 

Retail assistant at a popular retailer: 3 Stars: I had lovely co-workers at this job, a good amount of breaks, and an easy commute. However, the shifts were long, and the shop was usually busy, so it was non-stop until break time or the end of my shift. When I worked there, the manager was very understanding of students, but the schedule was not very flexible for shift changes. If you are brave enough to face the horror of working in retail, you will be rewarded with character-building, great discounts and the opportunity to meet people from all walks of life.

Retail Assistant at a small business: 4 Stars: At this job, I had lovely co-workers, and the owner was kind. The store was also in a central location, and I had flexible working hours. The owner was very understanding of my deadlines and the stresses of doing a degree while working and allowed me to swap shifts if I needed to. The pay was just under £10 per hour. Small businesses are a great choice if you’d like to have a close-knit team and a good relationship with your boss or manager. 

Key pieces of advice when looking for work while at university:

Be patient

  • Part-time jobs are very competitive in student cities, keep trying, and you will find something. 

Don't overwork yourself

  • Set your boundaries early on for how many hours you can manage; start with weekend-only shifts, if you can take on more later if you want to.
  • Put your studies first, burnout will affect both worlds, but only one will get you your degree.

Pick the right environment

  • Make sure you are applying for jobs you feel you will be content with, getting along with your coworkers and manager will help a lot.

Zero-hour contacts might be a good option

  • Several of my friends have worked zero-hour gigs. They seem to be the most flexible and convenient. 

Things to avoid:

Toxic managers 

  • If you feel guilted or pressured into working hours, you have said you are unable to work, or if the boss makes you feel like the part-time job should come first on your list of priorities, it is not a healthy environment and will just increase your stress. 

Long commutes

  • Accessibility simply makes your life so much easier. Aim for walkable distances or short drives to your workplace if possible.

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