Working alongside your studies – more than just a job?

With expensive tuition fees and high living costs, many students find themselves taking on part time work in the holidays and in term time to supplement their income. For the majority of us, the financial benefits of part time work are the primary motivation. In such a competitive job market, landing any part time job can feel like an achievement, and students rarely give much thought to the other benefits of working alongside your studies.

During my time at Bristol I have had a variety of part time jobs. They have ranged from grotty bar jobs to the crème de la crème of student jobs, working as a member of the University of Bristol Careers Service. Certainly, supplementing my income was an important consideration when seeking out work. However, I have found I have gained an immense number of less quantifiable things that have both allowed me to develop as a person and broadened my horizons.

Given the difficulties many graduates face in finding work after university, any form of part time work is a great way to distinguish your application, and provide evidence of important skills such as time management, initiative, commercial awareness and communication. When facing the dreaded competency interview, having examples from previous employment has been essential. With creative job hunting and a little luck, it is possible to find a position that will give you valuable professional experience in a sector you’re interested in, putting you streets ahead of many graduates. Even if you’re not fortunate to be in a part time job relevant to your future career, you will still come away with many key transferable skills. Another advantage to part time work people rarely consider is that it can help narrow down your seemingly endless career options. Deciding the hospitality industry is definitely not for your after endless gruelling night and weekend shifts can be almost as valuable as stumbling across a field you are really passionate about.

Aside from the all-important professional experience, working part time at university has many other advantages. The university experience has a tendency to immerse you in a bubble and insulate you from much of the outside world. Coming to work and interacting with people from different backgrounds and at different stages in their lives can be very refreshing and help you to develop perspective. Similarly, making new friends who live outside of student areas allows you to discover areas of your university town or city you would never have ventured into. Some of my fondest memories and favourite places in Bristol would have remained undiscovered were it not for my work friends.

Without doubt, a pay cheque every month has boosted my student experience and my finances. However it has also provided me with greater self-assurance and confidence and a head start on many of my peers when it comes to seeking graduate employment. Your wages at the end of the month may be your main motivation for part time work, but there is a lot more to be gained than just a positive bank balance.

Ciara McKibbin, Careers Service Information Assistant Intern

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