A Degree In Balancing University And Employment

One of the biggest causes of anxiety for students is financial instability. In such cases, finding a part-time job can be the much needed solution to finding some financial security. However, whilst also having the commitment of studying for a full-time degree, can employment cause more issues than it solves by causing over-work and exhaustion? Impact Features contributors Holly Jenson and Ellen Smithies explore their personal experiences with balancing part-time employment and full time degrees and weigh up whether the commitment is manageable for students.

“One of the biggest stresses every student has suffered is making ends meet, and a part time job can be a great way to help you get by. I had a part time job throughout the whole of my first year at Nottingham, and I found it a great way to socialise outside of the university bubble.

The workload can definitely be manageable, as long as you put your studies first! It’s very easy to slip into taking more and more shifts, especially when you rely on the money. It can be helpful to make a to-do list, in order to keep on top of everything, that way you know you’ve done everything you needed to before you start your shift. Just make sure you don’t lose sight of why you’re at Nottingham!

“If you’re looking for something more reliable, jobs in retail often provide contracted hours, 8-12 is normally best for a full time student”

The best job for you depends on what you’re looking for. I took a zero hours contract as a waitress because I wanted flexible shifts that I could fit around my studies, social events and visits with my family. However, with this type of contract your hours are never guaranteed. I was very lucky to be given whatever shifts I asked for. If you’re looking for something more reliable, jobs in retail often provide contracted hours, 8-12 is normally best for a full time student. Most students choose bar work, restaurant jobs or something in sales, as these tend to offer the types of hours that can easily fit around your schedule.

“I was exhausted and had worked myself way too hard”

If you’ve read all this and decided that a student job would be great for you, just make sure you don’t do what I did! I became reliant on my extra money from work, and in a bid to make my circumstances more comfortable; I upped my hours to three evening shifts a week, which worked out to be 16 hours. This meant I got much less sleep than I needed due to late finishes, as I only worked weekday evenings to keep weekends free for home visits. I managed to get all my work done, and went to as many social events as I could manage, but I was exhausted and had worked myself way too hard. In hindsight I know that I took on too much. It is possible to have a part time job and get the full uni experience, but it’s all about the balance!”

– Holly Jenson

“For a lot of students, the costs of living away from home at University necessitate a part-time job on top of studies. Jobs can be a great way to gain some experience of the real world, as well as bring in some extra cash, but they also can take away precious free time outside of University. Degrees are called ‘full-time’ for a reason – they’re designed to take up most of your day, just like being at school or having a full-time job. If you’re not careful, extra commitments on top of your studies can be a danger to University work, not to mention your mental health. Do the benefits outweigh the potential risks?

My own experience with part-time jobs is certainly not the typical one – I’m fortunate enough to not need a job for economic reasons, and instead keep my job as it’s a valuable addition to my CV. It’s in the area I’m interested in going into after University, and besides, I really enjoy it. It’s not too demanding, and doesn’t take up enough of my week to severely impact my studies – though I am incredibly fortunate in that.

“University always comes first, and if you find yourself struggling to juggle both responsibilities you need to adjust your commitments accordingly “

Speaking with my friends who also hold part-time jobs, the main piece of advice is that if you’re going to have a part-time job, you have to be incredibly organised. University always comes first, and if you find yourself struggling to juggle both responsibilities you need to adjust your commitments accordingly – it’s a lot easier to find another job than it is to claw your grade back after a failed assignment. One friend also pointed out that work could actually help with University motivations; if you have a particularly uninteresting part-time job then that might motivate you to study and get a degree simply to avoid having to return to an equally uninteresting job. An unconventional view of things, but it holds some truth. I know that the threat of returning to my old retail job back home is enough to motivate me into studying!

If you want or need a part-time job at University, by all means go for it, but know that it can be difficult at times, especially when it comes to deadline season. However, if you stay organised and are prepared to miss out on the occasional party or shopping trip, then it can be a great way to gain experience and some dosh alongside your degree.”

– Ellen Smithies

If you have employment queries of your own and need some advice you can contact the University of Nottingham Student’s Union for employment advice with details on their website.

Furthermore, if you are interested in finding a part-time job with the University of Nottingham be sure to visit their website for information and advice.

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Featured image courtesy of ‘Aaaarrrrgggghhhh!’ via Flickr. Image licence found here. No changes amde to this image. 


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