Part Time Jobs

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Education or job - to study or not to study

Oscar Wilde once said: "Fortunately, in England ... education produces no effect whatsoever." Let's hope things have changed a bit since his day; if nothing else, education can help you get a few rungs higher on the career ladder.

Despite now having to pay tuition fees, more and more people are opting for further education rather than leaving school at 16 or 18. With low unemployment and an insecure job market, staying out of the rat race for as long as possible and increasing your chances of success when you do eventually enter it seem like the best plan. So universities around the country are overflowing.

This doesn't mean you can't get a job, even a decent job, without a degree, but life may be harder. And you may get stuck at a certain level on the ladder. You have to be a very special person to 'make it' with no qualifications these days, though it can happen.

Most companies look for graduates; many look for graduates with a minimum 2:1 degree. This is simply because they can; there are so many qualified people out there now competition is tough.

Think of it this way. Each stage of your education - GCSEs, A levels, degree and so on - gives you access to a greater number of opportunities. Personalities and charm don't count for much when companies are wading through CVs. You need a minimum level of education for most fields of work. Often companies don't care which subject you studied, they just want to know you have a qualification.

This can be harsh and is not always a valid way to categories people - we all know people with first degrees who have the social skills of a small mollusc and people who are fascinating and worldly with not a GCSE to their name. But there's a system and either you play the game or you don't.

Education not only gives you the bits of paper you need to get on, it teaches you other skills important in the world of work. Living with people you don't know who eat all the bread and leave pubic hairs in the bath forces you to learn certain communication and social skills if you are to survive. And no-one's going to be breathing down your neck asking you for that essay; it's up to you to get a bit of self-discipline and make sure it's in on time.

Just meeting new people and learning about their lives can broaden your mind and teach you about the world.

So if you've had enough of studying and don't need fancy learning any more, air enough. But maybe a part-time job would be enough to put you off the daily routine of working life for a bit longer and encourage you to have one last look at that university prospectus? It won't guarantee you success, but it can definitely help.

Finding a part time job at the university

You are undoubtedly familiar with headline stories in the press and on TV about fees, student debt and even student poverty. According to government oracles the average amount students owe when they graduate is around £7,000. Just to frighten you the daily press (renowned of course for its accuracy) estimate current graduate debt as being as large as £12,000. Are you still reading? I hope so because as soon as the horror story has ended, I hope to show you the pros and con of a rosier alternative to debt or in fact no debt at all!

Back to the horror story……. A government minister was quoted during the summer break saying that for some, graduation debt of around £20,000 should not be considered unreasonable. However the "pint" glass half-full side of the story is that in general graduates earn far more than their contemporaries who do not have degrees.

How much more? We want positive statistics I hear you cry. Well up to 25% more. If you are a female graduate (like me) then your earning will be almost 40% higher than those female friends of yours who entered the labour market after passing A' levels alone. This means that female to male pay is closer to equality if you are a graduate.

To help you avoid becoming one of these frightening statistics and to prove the government's rather scary prophecy wrong, all you may need to do is get a part time job. Simple but effective, I promise.

Whilst a student at Exeter University I worked in a wine bar, three or four shifts a week as a waitress, which for me quite simply translated into my life starting that little bit quicker on graduation.

It was far more within my grasp to move up to London and really start my career, whereas with £15,000 worth of debt the London lifestyle and expense would seem a distant dream! But enough of me, what would the pros and cons of getting a job be for you, the average student? (Oh forgot to mention I also happened to work with Will Young whilst waitressing in Exeter, so you never know you might even get to rub shoulders with new British talent as I did! Or if you work hard enough you could become that celebrity!)

Firstly extra cash to spend on yourself or keeping your local pub/club afloat with the money you alone plough in to it. On a more serious note you will get experience of handling and making your own money.

It is not only money that you must be able to manage effectively, but something money can not buy (no not love). Time - If you are balancing part time work with your studies and your social life you become an expert in time management and to everyone's surprise you may even find the busier you are the more you get done. There is precious little time for rearranging pencils on your desk into intricate designs, to avoid writing that coursework essay, you just have to get your head down and get on with it.

It can be hard to meet people when at university or at least a different crowd of people, if you do not want to join a zillion societies. Certain jobs such as bar work, waitressing or working on a shop floor, are full of students so you will meet lots of new people, making new friends which can be refreshing when university becomes a bit stale and suffocating.

Ideally you should do some work related to your degree, however it is not always easy to get interesting paid work. But remember any paid work teaches you important skills and gains you a reference (hopefully!). When you leave university. and start looking for a job, a year or so of a part time job will look a lot more impressive than three years of bumming around and getting drunk.

There are downsides of course and while I do not believe they outweigh the advantages, to make things fair I had better tell you about them, but I hope you will not list these off to justify why six nights out drinking a week is the only option.

If you are likely to want to go home quite a lot throughout term time then it can be difficult to find a job that is flexible and lets you do this. It is definitely worth discussing this with your employer before you start, so you know just what you are letting yourself in for.

Try to keep in mind the initial purpose of university (to get an academic qualification, a degree remember!), so do not at any cost threaten this. Oxford University does not allow its students to work any more than 6 hours per week in term time. Other universities insist or strongly recommend that students work no more than 16 hours a week as even 16 hours with the minimum wage is £65 a week.

If you are in your final year or have exams coming up, it is not a good idea to work, but if you do have to, try to limit yourself to a few hours. There is no point going to university for three years only to fail because you were working too hard at your job rather than studying. Academic worries aside, which for many is ironically the last thing on many students mind, what about missing out?

What about all those opportunities you have at university: Societies, campaigning, clubbing, writing for student newspapers, This Morning, Watercolor Challenge and then Countdown. (The staple tele visual diet for any real student)! Yet it is possible to strike a healthy balance between keeping a healthy social life, staying afloat financially and enjoying academic success. It may sound like a gargantuan task but it really is within your grasp.

You are not going to be qualified for any really well paid jobs until you graduate. As a student you are likely to earn the minimum wage or if you are lucky a bit more. Sometimes you may question whether it is really worth all those hours slaving away for the pathetic pittance you get. It is very irritating to work in a pub or restaurant and realize that one drink costs you an hour of your time in work. But you also must remember the time that you spend working you are not spending those precious pennies, so a part time job keeps you from blowing all your money on random whims.

My advice (to lean on a cliché, used once or twice before) work hard and play hard academically, economically and socially. Strike that perfect balance, safe in the knowledge that in years to come you will, unfortunately, be totally unable to join your contemporaries as they rant and whinge about their debt, which is just one very long hangover.

Okay, you're somewhere between having your own neighborhood lemonade stand and working at a real job, so what should a young teen do? Many states have laws that limit when teens can get a job and how long they are allowed to work per week, so how are you expected to make the money you need for clothes, dates, cars, etc.? The answer: Go into business for yourself!

Before going into a list of ideas for your new business venture, let's go over a few rules you need to follow to ensure some level of success:

  • You must be able to promote the business to potential customers and clients -- thus, you need to be able to talk with people and be able to try to sell them something. Without customers, of course, you do not have a business.
  • You must be able to make a profit with your business. Sounds kind of obvious, right? But it is sometimes harder than you might imagine. You need to be able to set prices -- and stick to them (and be able to collect them) -- above your costs.
  • You must know one of the most important rules of marketing (and one I force my students to chant) -- you have to satisfy the customer! You must do a good job in your business or you are going to lose customers. Also, the better you are at satisfying customers, the more likely that they are going to recommend others to you -- so you can actually increase your customer base just by doing a good job.
  • You must avoid serious errors -- in actions of judgment -- in running your business. If you do something wrong, regardless of whose fault, it can cause anger, disappointment, bad publicity, and at the ultimate -- a lawsuit. You are running a business, so make sure an adult family member knows exactly what you are doing in your business, and if anything bad should ever happen, make sure you face it immediately and deal with it.
  • You must be prepared to work long hours at establishing the business -- and then even more hours running the business. They call it work for a reason -- you need to be truly dedicated and determined to establish your own business.

Okay, so those are the rules. They are not meant to scare you off, just to help you do a better job at it. Running a business can be a great experience for you. You can make money, you can gain valuable experience, and you can use the business on your resume and college applications.

So, what are some ideas for a business beyond a lemonade stand or babysitting? Here goes:

A cleaning service.

Maybe you hate doing your chores at home, but getting paid for doing them is completely different! You could offer complete housecleaning services, or specialize in one or more areas, such as attic/basement/garage cleanups.

A yard maintenance service.

There is always something that needs to be done…mowing lawns and weed control in the spring and summer, raking leaves in the fall, and shovelling snow and planting for the spring in the winter.

A car-detailing business.

With so many people working multiple jobs and having such busy lifestyles, very few people have the time to really take care of their cars -- and you could offer a weekly or monthly service of washing, waxing, vacuuming, etc.

A pet sitting service.

Typically more of a summer business when people tend to go on vacation, but you might be able to have a year-round business by offering pet walking, bathing, cleaning, etc. services.

A PC tutor/Web site development service.

Are you a whiz with computers and the Web? Well, many adults are not, and you could make a good business helping people learn to use PCs and develop Web sites for their families -- or for their businesses.

A catering service.

Do you enjoy cooking and baking? In these busy times, if you can provide a service that offers well-cooked meals, you could do quite well.

A painting service.

If you have some experience -- or there is a few of your friends that want to go in business with you -- you might consider a painting business. People are always renovating…and you could paint exteriors in the nicer months and interiors during the colder months.

An errand, messenger, or delivery service.

This idea works best in larger cities where there are more people and public transportation, but these are busy times and people need help with all sorts of errands.

An educational tutoring service.

If you have expertise in one or more areas -- music, foreign language, math and science, or others -- you could offer tutoring sessions to children, teens, and adults in your neighborhood.

An online Web business.

If you are a master at creating Web pages, perhaps what you need to do is brainstorm a concept for an online business -- where your potential customers can come from anywhere in the world, not just in your local neighbourhood. A freelancing service. If you are truly gifted in a certain field, such as writing, drawing, or photography, consider starting a freelancing business where you sell your wares to various businesses and media outlets.

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