Part-time work: want it, find it, ace it

The first month of university is over, and chances are that all over Edinburgh pockets are being turned inside out in desperate search for some spare change. Need more money? A part-time job is an obvious solution. For whatever reasons that you may want (or need) to work, there is plenty you can do to make sure that your fanciful aspiration of employment becomes a rewarding reality.

Where do you start? Try and find vacancies that suit you based on your preferences and past experience. You will find something – MyCareerHub (the university’s jobs portal) advertised over 2500 part-time vacancies last year alone, including a huge number of opportunities with EUSA and the university itself, and can be accessed through MyEd. There is, of course, the likes of Gumtree and Indeed as well, but MyCareerHub is specifically tailored for student employment.

Beyond the computer screen, a consistently reliable method is to print off a handful of CVs and hit the streets. Walk right up to those shops, bars or wherever else that appeals to you and ask them if they have any jobs going. Online jobs portals are great, but they will never have everything. Many places favour the traditional ‘piece of paper in the window’ strategy, while some may have opportunities they are not openly advertising. Whoever you ask, appear confident, polite and eager to work. Even if there are no jobs going at the time, most places will have the decency to keep your CV on record in case anything does come up. Make sure that they remember you.

Speaking of which, make sure that CV of yours is as high quality as you can make it. It needs to have no spelling or grammar errors, give a good overview of your skills and experience, and it has to do all of this in two sides of A4 or less (most employers won’t bother reading anything longer). Whoever is reading it will be throwing this majestic chronicle of your employability right into the recycling tip if they so much as sniff an error or inconsistency. The Careers Service are in the best place to help you with your CV to make sure that you really stand out. This is the kind of thing that Careers Consultants, in particular, are there for, so book an appointment with them through MyCareerHub.

Not to cast something of a downer, but buckle up for a big helping of disappointment. It can’t be avoided – some businesses won’t have vacancies, won’t reply to you (which is very irritating) or just outright reject you. Just think of them as an ex; you are too good for them anyway.

And eventually, with grit and determination, an opportunity will present itself to you. Do not let rejections or hopelessness overcome your efforts, because when the stars align there really is something for everyone out there. You just need to have perseverance – which is, in itself, a skill employers really value.

If you are lucky enough to hear back from someone, be realistic about why you want the job. Coffee shops and your local takeaway are not going to kid themselves into thinking that students are going to forge a career with them. When applying for vacancies and, if you’re lucky, talking in interviews, don’t feel like you have to express some deeply held desire to work tills or flip burgers for the rest of your life. Be honest. Tell them that you are eager to get some employment experience and that this enthusiasm will come across in the workplace, highlighting your skills. Show them this too, with that infectious personality of yours – employers will quite literally pay for your smile.

Finding a job is not the end of the story though. Be mindful that the number of hours stated on your contract may not be the number of hours you actually work in a week. Overtime is common. Have the courage to say no to employers if the balance between work and university is becoming too much. They might not like it, but at the end of the day, university needs to be a priority.

The exact number of hours you should work is a thorny question. The current advice is up to fifteen hours a week for undergraduates and nine hours a week for postgraduates (this has been recently revised up from six). This is however subject to an endless number of variables – your financial situation, your timetable, visa restrictions and extra-curricular activities to name a few. A recent report for the charity ASET found that some students work over 30 hours a week and report less difficulties in managing their lives than students working half of that. It ultimately depends on you – you are the best judge of your own situation.

Finally, as much as you can, enjoy what you do. Part-time work is great for a little bit of cash, but having a good time there and having positive relationships with colleagues makes it all the more valuable. You want to look forward to starting work, rather than dragging yourself out of bed at seven in the morning in order to make yet another soya latte.

To summarise (and there is a lot more that could be said), here is what all the job-hunters have to do: (1) Polish your CV, (2) Find the opportunities, be it online or on foot, (3) Come across as eager to work and able to make a valuable contribution to the workplace, (4) Be realistic when you land a job as to what your capabilities are.

That last point is a case of ‘when’ because, if you nail stages one to three, it is only a matter of time before scrambling for change becomes a thing of the past.

 

Image: Geralt via Pixabay

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