How to manage part-time work whilst studying

Having a part-time job while studying may be essential for income reasons but it is also a good thing to have for experience. It is likely that securing a weekend job while studying for A Levels or even at an undergraduate level is the first job you will have and will provide your first lot of valuable skills and experience to put on your student CV. In the future, having a part-time job will show potential employers that you can balance work, study and a social life, that you can be trusted, work within a team and that you are employable. You will gain transferrable skills that are very favourable and could make you stand out against another candidate.

Create a timetable

Having a job shows future employers that you have learnt how to time manage and organise yourself to complete all of your tasks and responsibilities. On securing a part-time job while attending university, it is essential that you create a timetable to manage both your study programme and work commitments.  You cannot afford to miss work shifts or to miss classes, so drawing out a timetable to show both will allow you to easily manage your time. You may prefer to have this stored in a calendar on your phone, coordinated into a physical diary or on a poster style wall planner to display in your bedroom.  Planning and prioritising is key to success, these skills are transferable if you apply to university. It’s also great to mention in a university admission interview that you were able to work and study, showcasing organisational skills, that you can transfer into your studies.

What to consider when applying for jobs

When you are applying for jobs, you should make sure that your potential employer understands that you are in full-time education. You can ask them how flexible they are likely to be around exam times. It is also important to make sure you are able to guarantee exam days off work. If you are only applying for weekend work, this shouldn’t be a problem as exams will be during the week, but they may ask or expect you to work overtime. You could considered to apply for jobs in the industry that you may like to explore when you’re older (if you’re unsure of what you may want to study, take the career quiz – what degree shall I do?) You don’t want the added stress of trying to negotiate with your employer while you should be revising. You also don’t want to finish exams only to have to run up to work a shift; you need lots of rest and chilled time during the exam period. The last thing you want is for your exam results to suffer as you did not have enough time to revise or even if you missed an exam due to work! Make sure you have fixed shifts each week, and you know how many hours you will be working so that you can pre-plan – you don’t want your employer to be texting you to come in on a night you have planned for study. Make sure you know how many hours will be expected on your permanent weekly shift(s) and what the likelihood is that you will be expected to work anything on top of this, this is always good to have as an option, but not as an expectation.

What job should I get?

Working in retail is a good option if you would prefer to work either on a Saturday or a Sunday. You will rarely have to work weekday evenings as a part-time member of staff, but they are likely to always have an overtime option for busier times in the retail world, such as school holidays or over Christmas, meaning you can pick up some extra cash when you have little or no study commitments. Many of the companies you will be applying for are likely to be chains, meaning they will have shops in different locations – this makes things easier, if you decide to continue with your studies and move away; transferring locations could be an option, rather than looking for a whole new job. Check out different areas on our interactive university map; you may find that the company you work for has stores there. Furthermore, if you know the institute that you will be attending, research the local area and apply for some jobs before you move, so you are one step ahead of other students.

How many hours should I work?

Although it is ultimately up to you, it is recommended that you should take on no more than 15 hours a week at the absolute most. In retail, a Saturday shift could typically be eight hours, whereas a Sunday would be six. You should consider how much work you have to do outside of your course hours as this will vary from person to person. The last thing you want is to feel stressed from homework or pre-lesson preparation and have to go to work rather than have time to work on notes. Working part-time you shouldn’t be paying tax; you’ll start paying tax once you earn earn more than £958 a month, so maybe with some overtime, you may pay tax for a month but you will be able to claim this back (learn more about student tax).

Ultimately your education should take priority and should not suffer due to employment, different universities and courses will require varied amounts of hours in class and for homework, check out how much is expected by comparing uk universities. If you are working in the evenings, consider if you have enough time to do any homework or pre-lesson preparation. Think about if you were going to be getting home with enough time to get enough sleep to be focused in lessons. If you know that you are the sort of person that needs to be asleep by 10 pm to function the next day, maybe consider a weekend role rather than an evening (learn more about how to manage working and studying)

Schedule free time

It may sound silly, but you should plan to have free time, planning at university is going to help, both your studies and work commitments. It is easy to get carried away when you take on part-time employment and sign up to every shift, especially when the prospect of more money in the bank is tempting. However, remember that you are likely to be working five days a week for the majority of your adult life, so it is important to enjoy time with your friends and family while you have minimal commitments. Even if you don’t have plans, it is important that you don’t overwork yourself and you have time to relax and unwind. You will also want to have time to be able to spend some of the money you have worked hard to earn, although it is good to save, you don’t want to spend every minute of the day either studying, working or sleeping!

Earning money

It may be that you have taken on a part-time job as a necessity to pay for bills (learn more on understanding student bills), travel or other commitments and in this situation, you might need to earn a certain amount of money a week. If this is the case, work out how many hours you need to undertake each week and plan for exam times. If you know you will not be able to work around exam time, it maybe that you need to take up an extra shift each week for a month after exams. It is better to do this than to wear yourself out mentally and physically by trying to fit it all in over exam time.

Big company or local business?

Although it can feel more personal and you may have more responsibility working in a smaller company, bare in mind that they may have fewer employees to cover you around exam time could may add stress. You may also feel more inclined to say yes to more shifts even when you cannot really fit them into your timetable. If you opt to work for a local business it is essential you set out some ground rules for how much they rely on you at busy periods, you will obviously be a reliable employee, but they need to understand that your study will come first. A bigger company such as a working for a large retail company, will issue specific schedules that are given out in enough time so that there are plenty of people to call on should you have to switch shifts due to exams. It also may mean you can transfer store branch should you move away for university (checking our student city guides, will provide you with an insight and feel for different areas)

Be honest and open – don’t take on too much!

The best thing to do is to be honest and realistic with your boss. If you can or can’t take on extra shifts one week, let them know! And never feel pressured into taking on any extra shifts on top of your permanent shift, it should be entirely your decision.

Part-time work can be a great thing, it adds experience to your CV, teaches you the importance of responsibility and commitment and it gives you some extra money. But most of all you want to make sure your education comes first. If you let your education suffer now it will be your career that will suffer in the long run!