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The Advantages & Disadvantages of Working While in University or College

During my three years in university, I decided to work part-time. I worked in various positions ranging from an event floater for homecoming, cashier, study space host, and research assistant. From my personal experience, it gave me the chance to explore different fields while providing an income. I found it quite delightful! Of course, I wanted to go more into detail about the pros and cons of working through your post-secondary studies. I am sure many students are contemplating this idea as the school year is fast approaching.

PROS of Working While in University or College

 1. Improves Your Time Management  

What really helped me to manage my time was the use of a virtual planner. When I got into university, I found Notion, an online multi-use workspace with a concise design and a layout that was user-friendly. At the start of each school year, I used Notion to create a weekly calendar template where I inserted all my times for classes, labs, tutorials, study sessions, and blocked out time for my work shifts. From there, I was left with an idea of how much free time I would have.

 2. Better Comprehension of Personal Finance 

When you begin to earn money for yourself, the realization starts to sink in that your money can leave just as quickly as you received it. In my experience, this realization makes you more self-aware and pushes you to think about finances long term. While there may be some new clothes that you’ve been eyeing, for instance, paying for next month’s rent takes your top priority! (Trust me, you'll begin to see the money you save versus the money you spend). Taking it a step further, this could be an opportunity not just to save but look at investment options. Given that you do your research and don’t make emotionally fuelled choices, you have the potential to create long-term gains - cool, right?   

 4. Source of Income & Work Experience 

Working part-time gives you a dependable income that can be used to pay tuition fees and bills.  Depending on how much you have, you may be able to save some money (as mentioned above) or splurge on yourself (every once and a while). Having an income during university can also aid in creating an emergency fund for the event that something unexpected arises. These are more apparent advantages, but it is worth noting.

5. Personal Growth & Development 

Entering university, I considered myself an introverted and reserved individual. It was not until I began working in customer service that I became more comfortable interacting with others. I started to grow more approachable and friendly. I enjoyed talking with complete strangers and became less anxious in doing so. Working a part-time job as a responsibility gave me a boost of confidence in knowing that I can challenge myself to achieve the best I can and push myself toward greater heights. Even if you never worked a job, it is a similar sense of self-fulfillment as holding an executive position in a club or playing on a sports team. 

CONS of Working While in University or College

1. Stressful Sscheduling 

While I don’t recall going through this issue myself, some employers may be pretty rigid in their scheduling. Due to this, you may be double-booked and have to choose between missing a shift or missing a class. It feels like a lose-lose situation where you would have been better off not getting a job during school.

If you reach the interview stage of a job, be sure to address the interviewer about your involvement in school. While some stores/ businesses may be strict on schedule, others are lenient and recognize that their employees have other responsibilities to attend to. 

2. More Work, Less Play 

Even if your employer is quite flexible with scheduling, work still takes up a considerable amount of time. While some students can be extremely diligent in their time management, others may not keep up. Working a part-time job comes at the cost of hanging out with your friends or even studying time; it's a choice that requires sacrifice.

For me, I enjoy getting involved in extracurriculars. I acknowledge that working a part-time job sometimes took me away from club events/ activities that I would have wanted. It left me feeling like I was missing out whenever I heard my friends talk about it afterward. If there is one recommendation I could share, you can aim to work a seasonal job during the summer (a part-time or full-time job). Assuming that you will be finishing your courses for the school by April, it will give you a chance to work this seasonal job for about 3-4 months. Once you go back to school in September, you would have saved up some money and worry less about working a job throughout your studies.

3. Likelihood of Burnout 

Whenever I would have a closing night shift, I would aim to study a little before heading to bed. Despite this expectation, I would occasionally underestimate how exhausted my body was from the responsibilities of my part-time job. I would end up heading straight to bed after my shift. Once I wake the following morning, I would regret my decision. There have been times when I would skip out on my morning classes, too, just because I was so exhausted.

This sense of burnout can also come from trying to juggle various responsibilities. Sometimes, we tend to get caught in this possible cycle of school, work, sleep, and repeat. When we go through the motions for so long, we tend to focus on what we are doing and undermine our body’s well-being. Burnout can happen when, despite our time management skills, we simply bite more than we chew. Remember, we are not robots! We only have one mind and body, and with that, we must attend to our physical and mental well-being whenever possible. 

4. Counterproductive 

It would help if you recognized whether working during post-secondary is worthwhile for you when it comes down to it. Specific academic programs, like health science, can be strenuous in course material and require more time to digest. While these programs may prove to be a challenge now, your efforts can pay off in securing the grades necessary to pursue internships or even grad school. Since working a job during school can take away valuable time to complete coursework or study, you should reconsider trying to work during the school year. If your job undermines your current efforts in school, then forget it. 

This proves a similar case to students who are already financially set. These students may already have the necessary savings to pay for their yearly expenses. Unless they are looking to earn extra money, these students wouldn’t be keen to spend their time working.

If anything else, it comes down to whether you will find the job worthwhile. I did not need to get a job during university, but I decided to. I felt it would have been a great way to spend my time and improve my skills. While I may miss out on time to socialize or check out clubs, it does not take away from my satisfaction. If you simply do not want to work because you do not want to take on an additional responsibility or want more time to be with loved ones, then working during school isn’t for you.

Biggest Takeaway

Working a job during post-secondary has its ups and downs. It is ultimately up to your discretion whether a job would be worth it for you.

Nevertheless, it is good to start early in preparing yourself to enter the workforce. From my knowledge, most universities offer a career center where knowledgeable staff provides employment-related support. I certainly recommend this resource while in school. At my university, they hold various workshops on topics like writing a cover letter/ resume and networking. The career center also holds speaker panels where professionals from industries like communications or sustainability provide insight on their career development. Even if you are not looking for a job now, the career consultant staff can help gauge your future aspirations and aid in setting up a plan for future success.