Studying and Part-Time Work: The Lowdown

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Part-Time Work infographic

Despite its small size, St Andrews offers an array of part-time work for students to choose from. Whether you work for the University of St Andrews itself as a student ambassador or telephone caller, in the food industry at one of the many food chains or restaurants, or in hospitality with one of the several hotels, one question remains: does having a part-time job whilst studying work?

The question is: What is the objective of getting a job? While there is naturally a multitude of reasons as to why someone might get a part-time job, the most common reason is the compensation. However, for several students, working in St Andrews gets them out into the community and familiarised with the town and for some, getting a part-time job serves as a preferred alternative to a university-managed extracurricular
activities.

Madeleine Richards, a second-year student who recently began work at a hotel near St Andrews, has found this to be just the case, citing the job as a great way to get out and acquaint herself with the town: “As I’m not deeply involved in any societies and I don’t play a sport, this job has been a great way to meet people.” Furthermore, no matter what the industry, working in St Andrews is incredibly appealing due to the low-pressure and relatively safe and understanding environment it serves as for individuals new to the workforce. Kirsten Ross, a second-year student studying Italian, finds her job on Little Italy’s wait staff engaging and enjoyable. “[Little Italy] is a great place to work because there’s always a friendly atmosphere among staff, despite the fact that not all staff are students,” she said.

The variety of jobs offered in St Andrews places students alongside both other students and young adults, given that it is predominantly a university and tourist town. Ms Richards continued, “most of the people that I’m working with are other students, many of whom are just as new to the job as I am, which has made for a really friendly and sociable environment.” “Plus,” she added, “Stacking chairs and clearing tables at 2am is an excellent bonding experience for anyone.”

Does working detract from your focus on extracurricular activities and studying?  Depending on the type of job, working part time can vary in terms of how much of your time it takes. As a first-year, I worked the fall telephone campaign with the St Andrews Development Office. The job was valuable in that I learned a lot more about the University, for example what projects were happening and what types of events they hosted for alumni all over the world, and overall getting to speak to individuals who had been involved in the same courses or societies as I proved to be very exciting and interesting.  However, due to the fact that it was a campaign and the office needed to meet a certain goal by a set date, the job was a noticeable time commitment and understandably, required each caller to take on three shifts a week. As a result of my class
schedules and certain extra-curricular activities, I had to take on shifts on that required me to miss out on other activities.

For Ms Ross, however, working in food and hospitality has proven compatible with her class schedule: “working at Little Italy has been manageable and time friendly. As a student, I’ve found that they’ve been incredibly understanding of my busy and ever-changing schedule, and offer flexible shift patterns, with a new schedule given to me every week based on my availability.”

Ms Richards finds working at a hotel just outside of town has been just as accommodating, if not more so, than the jobs in town. “I was nervous when I first got the job about the possibility of it interfering with my studies,” she confessed, “but I’ve found that ‘no minimum requirement’ really means ‘no minimum requirement’.  Zero- hour contracts are potentially exploitative for some of the adult workforce, but they’re tailor-made for students. I worked two shifts in my first week and then didn’t work for almost a month because I had a lot of deadlines, and I was met with no negative consequences on my next shift.”

With such a high demand of students looking for work in the Bubble, it is not surprising that much of the restaurants, hotels and retail stores do as much as they can to work around their student staff schedules. As for jobs with the University, although they take up more time than your average job around town, these jobs usually help to better acquaint that student with the University and thus every minute more is arguably worth it.

What are the benefits of working, other than earning money? Working in and around St Andrews is a fantastic way to meet new people, especially if your job is with the University. After working last year’s fall telephone campaign,  I met students I probably would have never met otherwise in different years and courses than me. This year, I’ve run into several of them again, working with some in societies or clubs,
while others I’ve stayed friends with since meeting during the campaign. Along with getting to know other students, working a part time job gives you experience in the workforce and offers new challenges and tasks that university life does not. The telephone campaign taught me a bit about phone etiquette and negotiation tactics, skills I was able to transfer and use in an internship last summer, where I was required to conduct phone interviews with several professionals. Working at established companies is also an opportunity for
students to meet professionals and find internship and work opportunities beyond the Bubble. “Because I work in one branch of such a large hotel chain, some people on the team have years of experience with this company and hospitality in general,” said Ms Richards, so “being able to meet and work with them is alsoa great form of networking for the future.” Working while still at university can give students a head start, but more importantly, get them thinking about the inevitable: work and future career prospects.

Still worried about taking on a ‘real’ job? Balancing your workload at university with weekly shifts at a company or shop can be tricky, but finding the balance and learning to manage your time while at university is one of the best places and times to figure it out yourself.  As Ms Richards said, “there are bound to be moments of stress in any job, but it is helpful to remember not to take things personally.”

“Sometimes people won’t bother learning the names of part-time workers,” she continued, “but I just remember that this is not necessarily a reflection of how they feel about you. It’s probably just a time-saving measure. The best and most helpful way to react to making a mistake is to apologise, try to correct as best you can, and then shake it off.”

The benefits of working while studying in St Andrews go beyond the fact that you are earning money, as usually you are met with friendly customers, understanding employers, and shorter commute times to and from your home and workplace. Working a part time job while studying at university is definitely doable, and even serves as a positive, prominent, and integral part of some students’ time at St Andrews. So, in conclusion, whether you’re heavily involved in university or not, there is bound to be a job flexible enough for you to manage alongside your studies if you do decide to work part-time.

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