I chose to go for the latter.
There have definitely been times when I’ve wondered if I made a bad call. Yes, I could afford to do a weekly food shop, but at what cost? My dissertation work was (and still is) piling up; if I was too busy to see my friends before I had a job, I certainly wasn’t going to have the chance now; and after spending 4 years in the hospitality industry, and going into my fifth year whilst studying for a degree, I’ve wondered if I’ll ever have experience in anything else.
Despite all of that, I still consider it one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
I appreciate a job at University is not for everyone – as a history student, I only have a handful of contact hours per week, meaning that my work is predominantly independent, so I have additional flexibility when it comes to study time. Also, getting a job in third year was a major risk, considering the importance of my work at this point in my degree – however, I was lucky enough to secure a job at an outlet in my Student’s Union, which means that I’m not allowed to exceed 16 hours a week during term-time, leaving me plenty of time to study around those hours.
So, if you’re considering getting a job during your time at University, here are 4 surprising benefits I can share with you.
1) The Money
Okay, I know this one’s a bit of a cop-out, as I know it’s hardly a “surprising” benefit. By May 2018, when I applied for the job, I was £900 deep into my overdraft, and although I still had a fair way to go before maxing out my account, it still made me really uncomfortable. I worked all summer and managed to go back to University in September pretty comfortably out of my overdraft. Whilst now I tend to average out on the same amount between pay days, the money in my account certainly goes a lot further – my savings account actually has more than 6p in it now, I can go grab lunch with my friends without nervously checking my account, I can treat myself to a nice top without worrying if it means I’ll have to skimp on my food shop, and if I decide I want to buy Heinz tomato soup as opposed to Morrisons own – you can bet I’m going to buy that Heinz and enjoy every spoonful how much each mouthful has taken out of my bank account.
2) The Skill Set
In case you were wondering, my role is considered “casual catering assistant”. In a popular SU coffee shop, this involves being a barista, a waitress, and making food in the kitchen. Whilst this is pretty standard for any part-time hospitality job, the skill set you get from this is actually very transferrable. I’ve learned to manage my time wisely to ensure that I complete my work around my shifts (which change on a weekly basis), I’ve developed interpersonal skills communicating with customers and colleagues, and I’ve demonstrated an ability to work under pressure when the outlet gets busy. These are good Graduate Employability Skills that look great on any CV, and, as one of my managers once eloquently put it, “if I was hiring someone and they had no job experience, I would wonder what on earth they’d been doing for 5 years”.
3) The People
When I started my job, I had been at University for 2 years already and had already found a pretty solid group of friends. However, with third year pressures rising, everyone seems so busy, and whilst we stay in touch, we never really hang out. With having a job, and working with the same people week in week out, you do start to get really close with people at work, and you get to hang out with your new work friends on shift. As I work in the SU, obviously a lot of the staff there are in the same sort of position as me. Nothing quite bonds people like a joint fear of debt, a group chat, and making an obscene amount of sandwiches and lattes together.
4) The Support
I suppose this really is an extension of point number 3, but it deserves its own section nonetheless. The camaraderie between work friends is something unparalleled and the support everyone offers each other goes without saying. If I ever need to get rid of a shift, there's nearly always someone who will come in when they’re free to cover me. When I’ve got myself in a tizz and found myself in tears at work, at least 5 people come and give me a hug and make sure I’m ok, even if we’ve only actually seen each other a handful of times. When we’ve been surprisingly busy and I’m drowning in sundaes and sandwiches, there’s always someone who just puts on a hairnet and helps out, no questions asked. There's brunch dates and staff do’s, there’s staff leaving and new staff starting, and there’s always people there who make your shift that little bit brighter.
I appreciate that my experience is unique to me, and not everyone will have the same. Some people might tell you not to give yourself the stress of having a job, others might say that their experience was different. All I can say is that I’m going to miss that crazy bunch of baristas when I graduate.
Read more about Combining Work and Study at University.
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