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For many of us at university, maintaining a part-time job is a necessary evil. Whether you have a full loan, grants and scholarships or not, it never seems to stretch far enough, and perhaps the bank of mum and dad cannot afford to be as generous as we might like. Whether it’s for the basics like paying your bills, or the luxury of buying brand name food rather than Asda’s finest, there’s always a need for an extra bit of cash. And of course, there’s the added bonus of acquiring all these ‘transferable skills’ that the careers department are always on about.
When it comes to actually finding a job, however, this is easier said than done. Especially in a smaller town such as Lancaster, there is sadly not much going, and there’s always a local (who doesn’t have awkward lecture hours or a different address over Christmas) who is ready to snap up the job. While there are opportunities, and you can always find adverts for work on and off campus through LUSU for example, there is often fierce competition amongst students when applying.
Luckily for me, I was able to get a transfer from where I worked at home to another branch in Lancaster when I came to university. My place of work? Dominos Pizza. While there are perks (50% off and occasional freebies), it’s hardly glamorous, and not the best job at minimum wage. Sadly, this is the case for many students – we tend to get low paid jobs such as waitressing and bar work, which often includes late hours on our feet and tiring work.
This is the accepted norm for working while at university, one we have come to expect when looking for a job. We consider ourselves lucky to find anything, and are pitifully grateful if it pays more than a pittance an hour. But should this be the case? We’re at university partly to secure a better future for ourselves, acquiring qualifications along the way that will supposedly grant us a good wage (if we manage to find a job once we graduate, that is). Why, when we’re working so hard towards this goal, should we settle for what are quite frankly shitty jobs?
The answer is they’re the easy option. Granted, a lot of people who work in bars and similar enjoy the work as well, getting on with their coworkers and not minding the tasks they have to perform. But generally, these are the jobs we apply for because they’re the obvious option. There are other options out there, one’s that pay better and are more suited to our specific abilities – you just have to know where to look.
The first step is to identify what you’re good at and what work you might be able to do with your skills (this also helps in deciding what kind of career you might want to go into after university, and building on experience necessary to achieve that career). This could be related to your course, for example tutoring school kids in the subject you’re studying, or perhaps proof-reading essays for others at university. Another way is to look at what you can do with your hobbies – if you play an instrument well you can offer lessons, or if you’re crafty you can try selling what you make. Generally you can command a much higher wage for this kind of work – a tutor would make around £25 for an hours session.
While it might seem like an extra effort that you won’t have the time to make while busy studying, going about finding this work is no more of a mission than traipsing around handing out your CV to every shop in town. It’s a case of putting yourself out there, on websites like Gumtree or through posting flyers. And while like any job the work might be few and far between, remember that most students go for the obvious bar and waitressing jobs – meaning less competition for you.
Finding any sort of work right now is tricky, and you may feel like you should take what you can get. However, you should be aware there are better options out there, and that it’s worth thinking outside the box when it comes to part-time jobs. I myself am planning on taking up tutoring, so keep your eyes peeled for a follow up article!