Making Part-Time Work Fit With Your Degree

My Experience with part-time work

I’ve worked at a part-time job while studying in university since the second semester of my second year. I didn’t strictly need to get a job. However, I wanted to have a guilt-free income and some real-world experience. Plus in second year I had a tonne of free time. I get antsy when I feel unproductive. I found my first job through the university job search website, MyCareerHub. It’s a great place to look for part-time work. Everything is well-categorised and it tells you the experience needed and hours and wage offered. I was searching on and off for several months before I got an interview somewhere, and I got really lucky with the job I found.

I worked as a Sales Assistant at a small, locally convenience store. It was my first “real job” – I had only babysat and done odd jobs before that. During term-time, I worked for 13-14 hours a week on my days off and on the weekends. During the summer I would pick up as much work as possible. I really enjoyed working there. I got to meet and develop a rapport with regular customers, and I liked my coworkers. As a local business, the owners were more relaxed and flexible than at a larger store (and they payed me slightly over minimum wage!). They adapted to my university schedule and travel plans and were accepting of my mistakes. I eventually stopped working there because I wanted to focus on my dissertation, but it was a very valuable experience.

Practical Advice

Balancing work, classes, and a social life can be difficult, but also rewarding.

If you want to work part time during university, it’s not hard to find a job. But there’s several things you need to think about beforehand. For example:

  • If you need to work to support yourself, work out on paper exactly how much money you’ll need, and how many hours you can work. The University of Edinburgh recommends working a maximum of 15 hours a week.
  • Think about how much time you need each week to do your readings, coursework, and notes to stay on top of your classes. Keep that in mind, and decide beforehand how you’re going to structure your time. You may be the kind of person who can get up early and get a lot done for your classes before your first shift. I’m not! I tend to devote one or two days to my job, and spend the rest of the week on lectures, readings, and my dissertation. When I’m working, I don’t think about my degree, and when I’m studying, I don’t think about work.
  • If you don’t need a job, but want one, consider first: are you willing to commit the time and energy for a long-term job? Would it be easier for you to find one-off or temporary jobs? Look ahead – will you be able to juggle your education and a job?
  • Decide what your boundaries are far in advance, and communicate them to your employer early on. Make it clear that you are willing to work, but your degree has to come first. They’ll understand, and appreciate your honesty more than if you burst into tears in the break room because you took on an extra shift two days before a huge exam and can’t handle the stress. Not that I’ve done that or anything.
  • On a related note, I really can’t recommend working during exam time, especially before Christmas. I’ve tried it and it’s terrible.
  • If you want to get a job so that you can save money, you have to be pretty strict with yourself. If I don’t have a clearly laid out goal for what I want to do with my savings, they just evaporate. If you can, get a savings account.

Now you’re working – how’s that working out?

If your job isn’t working for you, you don’t need to work there. There are a ton of part-time jobs available in Edinburgh. If your employer pressures you to take extra work or isn’t nice to you, the job is causing you too much stress, or you’re just unhappy – stop working there! Part-time work is supposed to be a source of income, a way to pad out your resume, and a place where you can work constructively while avoiding your degree for a few hours. If it’s causing you more anxiety than your actual course, or if it’s causing your grades to suffer, take a step back and re-evaluate. Remember – you’re at university to learn, not work!