Working While Studying: A Means to an End or Career Opportunity?

A part-time job is often just a way to earn extra cash at college, but for some students, it can be the perfect route to full-time employment.

Carmel Goldstein, a final-year design student at Central St Martins College in London, started operating for on-demand babysitting app 16 months ago. The 22-year-old was looking for a way to earn additional cash while studying in one of the world’s most costly cities, and the company offered flexible evening work that she could fit around busy college life.

The app works by helping parents find local babysitters who have been recommended by friends or mutual connections on Facebook. It means Goldstein can put in the needed hours on campus and go to a job in the evening near her home.

“You set your availability for a 4-week period,” she says. “So, for example, if I know that next week I am going to be busy, I will set that I am not available.

“It is useful that you can plan. I find it acts quite well for students who are not completely sure of their amount of work.”

Goldstein admits that she has had to surrender a social life during the week and has struggled at times to support a part-time job with coursework – but she is often able to read when the children are in bed.

Though some universities, such as Cambridge, discourage fearing it compromises academic performance and leaves little time to get connected in campus life, for many seniors it can be a great way to prepare for employment after graduation.

As well as offering tutors the option to work as little as one four-hour shift a week, the organization helps develop part-time employees by providing training events in the evening.

“I had never wanted to drop, even when I was stressed with studies, such as handing in my dissertation before my graduation. It didn’t feel like a massive sacrifice because it is such a nice place to work. A part-time job that didn’t care about my growth would make it difficult.”

Not every part-time job offers opportunities for building the skills needed for a graduate profession, but careers adviser Hannah Morton-Hedges believes even the most menial job can add meaning to a CV. She says there is often a gap within a student’s perception of the skills they might develop from a job in a fast-food place or shop, for example, and the value of those skills to future employers.

In short, be proactive, says Morton-Hedges: “It’s quite difficult for students to do because often they are still quite young and vulnerable and naive in the workplace.” But putting yourself out there and being proactive are “the very characteristics that employers are going to be looking for,” she says.

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