Work/life balance was the buzz-phrase of the late 1990s. Apparently, too many people who were cash rich and time poor were becoming fed up with the long hours culture and wanted more balance in their life. For students, the issue is not work/life balance but work/study balance.
With ever increasing fees, working while studying is the norm for many students. Faced with potentially huge debts, some students may be tempted to take part-time jobs that involve working lots of hours, but this may have a detrimental impact on their studies.
University is more than just about getting a degree: extracurricular activities and a social life are also important. How can students balance studying with working part-time and also ensure that they do not miss out on university life?
1. Develop a study plan
Once you have your timetable, and an idea of when your assignments are due, develop a plan of the best times for you to study, whether this be evenings, mornings or weekends. This will help you determine which hours and days you can work.
2. Choose a job that is flexible
You may need time off from your job during exams or if you have deadlines for coursework, so choosing the right job, where the employer is understanding and willing to be flexible, is important.
You can mention this at an interview, but Brian Staines of Bristol University Careers Office says: “It may be better to wait until you have been offered the job, have worked for a while, and have had the opportunity to prove yourself before mentioning that you might need time off.
“When you look for a job, it’s best to start with working a few hours and then once you get used to the job and know how much you can cope with, you can increase the hours.
“It’s always easier to increase rather than decrease the number of hours you work,” says Cary Cooper, professor of psychology and health at Lancaster University Management School.
3. Choose a job that fits in with your study pattern
Working out your study pattern, ie whether you’re at your best in the mornings, evenings or late. Some students are night owls preferring to study late at night, others are larks.
Some students may prefer to work a few evenings a week, others at weekends. “Although work is important they need to find a job with hours that fit around their optimal times for studying rather than the other way round,” says Professor Cooper.
4. Don’t take a job that’s too demanding
The type of job you look for will depend on your skill set. Apart from the usual student-type jobs, there are roles in offices which can be done at weekends and evenings – jobs such as being a presentation operator using PowerPoint or even evening and weekend secretarial work.
Although these jobs pay well, it may be a challenge to balance studying with these types of job. “A job developing PowerPoint presentations may be too mentally demanding and tiring because you will be looking at a screen most of the time,” says Cary.
5. Be industrious in your search for work
There may be part-time jobs available in call centres or as photocopy clerks in banks and law firms. There may even be jobs in security, which give you the opportunity to study ‘on the job’, perhaps on site at an unoccupied building, so it’s a good idea to cast the net a bit wider when looking for part-time work.
6. Know your limits
There isn’t a figure for the maximum number of hours that students can work before it impacts negatively on their studies since this will vary from student to student.
However, Brian Staines says: “At Bristol, we believe that if students work more than 12 hours a week during term time, this could have a negative effect on their studies. We have a job shop at Bristol offering part-time jobs and all the jobs are a maximum of 12 hours.
“If students, for example, work 20 hours a week, then their work could suffer unless they are incredibly disciplined,” he explains. “Also university is about more than just studying. Social time and extracurricular activities are also important.”
Balancing part-time work with studying is a challenge that more and more students will face.
“A part-time job, which involves long hours, may help their finance in the short term but could have a negative impact on long-term job prospects if they don’t get a good degree,” adds Brian.
Originally Published in The Guardian
Written By Tola Awogbamiye