Balancing work demands with school deadlines is a skill young people may find it hard to handle. On the other hand, working can be a great complement to post-secondary studies. Aside from the obvious monetary rewards that employment provides working students also benefit by:
- Earning work experience – Whether you are working in your chosen field or a different industry, having any kind of work experience will be beneficial to you. Aside from learning important skills, it will count towards building a strong resume.
- Networking – You will be able you to grow your personal and professional networks substantially while on the job. It will help you make those important connections in your field and even beyond.
- Learning soft and technical skills – You will meet, deal with, and work with different kinds of people and accomplish tasks that will help you gain various transferable skills. You will also see theories that you learn in school come to life if you are lucky enough to work in the same field as your major.
- Gaining a sense of independence – Working provides you with real-life experiences where you get to figure things out and decide on your own. Here, the consequences of your actions go beyond getting a passing and failing mark. These lessons help you gain confidence and boost your sense of independence.
- Finding your passion – Working can help you discover the types of jobs/tasks that you enjoy and excel in, the kind of environment that you thrive in, and the types of people you want to have working in your team.
Considering these benefits, it can be hard to pass-up the chance of working while you’re still a student. Despite the demands on your time and energy, working while studying can be a fulfilling experience and a great investment toward your future career. Here are a few tips to help you make it work:
Anticipate problems before the school year starts. Develop a plan of action for tackling them, especially during crucial periods like exams or finals week. If there are things that you can do in advance (for example, required readings), start doing them. This will lay the groundwork for a successful and stress-free school year. The earlier you plan, the better you will be able to manage your time later on.
- Know your schedule and work load at school. This will help you estimate the number of shifts you can handle for your job. Read your course curriculum and have a good idea of the demands of the course. Note when exams week or paper submissions are due.
- If your course is demanding, think of ways to make it easier on yourself. For example, you can free up travel time if you consider having an on-campus job. These can include teaching and research assistant posts, or working for on-campus business establishments like coffee shops, canteens or bookstores. To find opportunities, talk to your professors or go to the Career Services office of your school. Check listings online too, for example for students of the University of Manitoba, check: On Campus Jobs page.
Cultivate healthy habits
Establish good study and health habits to sustain your body and mind throughout this period.
- Take care of yourself – Eat well and exercise. Always have time for rest and relaxation (don’t forget to enjoy your college/university life!). Most importantly, get enough sleep. Drinking coffee or energy drinks may be helpful at the start, but the high caffeine content can later damage your health (read Energy drinks causing problems in young Canadians: survey, CTV News).
- Good time management makes all the difference – Make good use of your time. Not having to cram for studies and school requirements eliminates unnecessary stress. Also, know your learning style and work around it.
- Don’t procrastinate – If you are the type of student who starts school projects at the very last minute, it’s time to wean yourself out of this habit. If you’re a procrastinator, experts advice dividing tasks into smaller chunks so it won’t be so daunting. This will make it easier for you to start working on whatever task immediately.
- Avoid time-wasters like too much net surfing or posting on social media. Yes, you need to let off steam sometimes but scrolling through TikTok until the wee hours of the morning is not a good idea. Focus on your goals and know your priorities.
- Watch out for burnout – Falling asleep in class or plummeting grades? Always late for work or losing patience with customers? These are signs that you may have too much on your plate. Time to slow down, get help and reassess your direction.
Make your school and employer your allies
Take advantage of flexible arrangements with your professor and your employer. Check if your professor offers night, weekend or online classes, or take-home exams. Likewise, know your employer’s policy on leaves of absence, flexi-time or telecommuting. Show your dedication by volunteering to work extra shifts or during a holiday when you can. Being in your supervisor’s good books can come in handy when you need to request for schedule changes to accommodate school work.
Ask for help when you need it
Support from your family, friends, professors and supervisors will make all the difference in your work and school life. Let your family know your schedule to avoid misunderstandings and manage their expectations. Your siblings and friends are your best allies when it comes to lightening responsibilities at home and at work. Ask for help and advice from your professors and supervisors when you’re in a bind. They will be able to relate to your problems; chances are they were working students too.
Work smarter, not harder
- If possible, get a job related to your course. These are jobs that can count towards earning your degree, like participation in a research project, internships or paid apprenticeships. Consult your professors to discover these types of jobs.
- Have a clear understanding of what is expected, both at school and at work. Talk to your professor and supervisor if requirements are not clear to you. This will help you focus your time on the right activities.
- If you need more study time, learn to do it on-the-go. For example, get audiobooks or taped lectures to listen on your commute or write small flashcards to make it easier for you to study on your break.
Managing school and work can be hard but it is a rewarding experience in the end. Adapting the right habits and having clear priorities are essential to your success.
Sources: Top 10 tips for balancing work and school, Kerry Knapp, Monster; 8 back to school tips every student should know, Gabrielle Flank, Huffpost; and Top 10 tips on how to study while working, Skills you need. Accessed August 2, 2019.
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