“I have work tomorrow morning!” my friend cries over the blaring music in an all-too-relatable mix of self-pity, anguish, and the blurry excitement of wrong choices. She checks her phone – work in four hours! We all laugh and carry on dancing, drinking, and disregarding responsibility for the night. It feels good to let off some steam.
I’m going to reflect a bit about jobs at university, now that I’m no longer working mine. A lot of my friends work in shops, do online jobs, or work in hotels and cafes, and I am no stranger to his world either. Working a job at university is like any one of the many other commitments: classes, deadlines, sports, the gym, societies…the list goes on. Many nights I’ve sat staring at a blinking screen, with hastily scrawled To-Do lists littering my workspace almost as much as my clouded mind. I count the number of hours until I need to be up, and sacrifice sleep to joyfully cross things off my list. I can write a blog article, manage social media, and get all this research done in the next hour, right?!
However, despite the stress, commitments – particularly a job – are undoubtedly rewarding. Maybe you scoff at this – how does working in a shop, or bringing take-aways to people’s doors lead to a sense of achievement? The fact that you can juggle this in your hectic schedule shows an important capability that is drilled into us from a young age: balance and achievement. But it isn’t just important for future employers – it’s a personal sense that you are in control, working towards something that makes all your efforts feel like they do count.
But with this comes the inevitable difficulty of balancing a job with university. Though the work load in first year will only grow heavier, and arguably more important in the years to come, it can be difficult to manage time as you adjust to new deadlines, new exams, and a new life in general. It took a long time for me to learn how to prioritise. I constantly argued with myself: which was the bigger sacrifice? Did I want to put more effort into an essay, or into keeping my employers happy?
The idea of added stress didn’t daunt me too much because of the pressures I felt throughout high school in the USA. Many a time, I found myself rushing back from classes, clutching cold coffee and perhaps sporting a dull headache from the night before. I’d slump down at a desk full of foreign policy textbooks, French novels, and the never-ending “To-Do” lists that seemed to mock me, and hastily sign on to Skype to see what I had to do for the day.
I cared a lot about keeping everyone happy – professors and employers – maybe to the point where I felt under too much pressure. But this was also a good kind of pressure, the sort that made me want to succeed. I felt like I was working towards something and learning along the way, as cliché as that sounds. I was very lucky to have a job in which I was required to research and communicate with people constantly; each day brought something different to do, and it often came as a nice break from predictable university work.
Above all, I’d really recommend working at university. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there; apply for anything and everything. If not to just earn a bit of extra money, it gives you a sense that you’re moving in the right direction. It prepares you for future internships. It teaches you how to communicate with people in the world of work. It shows you how to accept criticism, but also praise. It shows others, as well as yourself, that you are conscientious despite everything else that is happening in the blur of the Bubble around you. Putting the time in now will help you build skills that allow you to go far.