Published August 30, 2013
College is expensive beyond just the tuition price as the costs of textbooks, extracurricular activities and lodging can add up to a hefty amount, and force some college students to take on a part-time job.
Not only can taking on a job help make ends meet, but it can also teach valuable time and money management skills.
“It’s very tempting to live in the now but those college years are so important to set yourself up right for the future,” says Molly Merez, executive director of Ticket Summit. “If a student is able to accommodate it in their schedule, even something as little as five or 10 hours a week, it’s something I always encourage.”
A recent survey by Citi and Seventeen Magazine found nearly four out of five U.S. students--including those in high school, community college, online college, or traditional college or university--work while in school, with the average working student putting in 19 hours a week during the academic year.
While students should assess their financial needs and academic schedule when seeking out employment options, finding paid internship opportunities and temporary positions in their field can boost their resume in the long run, says Robyn Dizes, manager of career development services at Peirce College.
“If you choose employment that meets your needs, you will be more likely to continue to work there long-term, and long-term employment is attractive to employers, builds your resume and allows you to have stability in your career,” she says.
Here’s what experts say to look for in part-time employment opportunities that are student-friendly and will help build valuable experience.
Job-Searching Tip No.1: Look for Jobs on Campus
Student should look for on-campus jobs through the campus career center, college job boards and by word of mouth to find a position that offers relevant skills in close proximity to their academics, suggests Dizes.
“Campus positions are available for students to add to their experience and gain knowledge in their field and finding a permanent position is possible if you have a positive work ethic and build relationships with people you meet along the way,” she says. “If they give student workers hiring priority, this can be a valuable investment of your time and effort.”
Students can oftentimes find unlisted or unofficial internship and part-time opportunities by connecting and networking with professors and department heads, Merez explains.
“Be proactive and ask a professor, ask a mentor, ask a dean because oftentimes there are opportunities that never make the job posting board,” she says. “Sometimes there’s a professor who just wants an intern for the summer to analyze data and maybe he or she didn’t realize it until a month or two before and they’re just advertising it by word of mouth.”
Job-Searching Tip No.2: Take on Freelance Opportunities
For students balancing a full course load, cramming in study hours and finding time for extracurricular activities, freelance work opportunities can give them the flexibility and financial support to fit their busy schedule.
Freelance work can also demonstrate to employers that students are comfortable working in their field outside of the classroom, says Merez.
“It shows that they are navigating outside of those waters, and seeking opportunities outside of school while they’re in school is definitely regarded favorably,” she says. “Freelancing sends a lot of messages regarding how serious they are about a field--it shows I’m not just doing this to get a degree, I’m doing this outside of my comfort zone because it’s what I want to do and what I want my career to be.”
“Oftentimes companies don’t have the budget for a full time employee but do have the money to pay on a project by project basis.”
Job-Searching Tip No.3: Consider Retail/Sales Positions
While finding a part-time job that is financially supportive and a resume booster is the ideal scenario, students may need to take on positions that may or may not be totally relevant to their field to keep up with expenses, says Kim Whiteside, manager of the Career Services Center at Bellevue University.
“I hear ‘I just need a job, any job . . . now’ far more often than I hear ‘I’m looking for a position that will give me experience in my chosen field,’” she says.
Students can find lucrative part-time work openings in customer service, retail, and hospitality and potentially longer-term opportunities in seasonal sales, non-profit agencies, and staffing agencies, recommends Whiteside.
Although it may be tempting for students to default to temporary retail and sales positions for a steady paycheck requiring little or no experience, seeking positions that will help them build more quantifiable workplace skills and will ultimately be a better fit on their resume can be an invaluable investment of students’ time and energy, says Merez.
“If you see yourself in the retail industry in five or 10 years from now, then absolutely go for that but if you don’t, definitely seek opportunities in your area of study that really shows, this is what I’m interested in not just for a degree but it’s what I want to do five, 10 years from now which is why I’m seeking experience,” she says. “That is indefinitely seen more favorably from employers than simply retail jobs with a higher turnover rate.”