Finding a Part-Time Job While In School

Over the past few years, Canada labour force surveys show that an increasing number of Canadian students are earning less over the summer (if they are able to find work at all), and are having to pay more in living costs as well as tuition that is outpacing inflation by wider and wider margins. This squeeze is being alleviated more and more by quests to find part-time work that can fit in with a student’s academic goals. While many students see this as a relatively small thing, it can actually have a pretty serious impact on your social life (NO!) and grades (oh yah… those too) amongst other things.

When checking out and applying for jobs you should definitely start by taking a look at our resume and interview tips, as well as get a jump start on finding a great summer job for next year so you have a little more flexibility at this time next year. Then pound the pavement and get after it! The more people that contact you back and are interested in taking you on, the more options you have, and this will likely become key. I have seen part-time work absolutely wear students down if they choose a job that requires too much out of them, pays very little, and has a boss that they day dreamed about taking a long walk off a short bridge. I have also witnessed situations where people loved their jobs, and the experiences helped propel them into careers after they were done school. Obviously the majority of experiences will fall in between these two extremes, but it is important to find a job that is a good fit for you, regardless of if it is on campus or off campus.

Mo Money Mo Problems

Many students are quick to check out the bottom line when they are presented with a viable work options. Whatever appears next to the dollar sign is often the key factor in determining if a student will take the job. This is definitely a mistake for a few reasons. First and foremost, if you fail to take account the direct and indirect costs of commuting, you might commit to a job that pays a little more but is more expensive to get to, and will eat up valuable minutes in your day all year long. It is also important to take the type of work and work environment into consideration. My female friends used to laugh at me saying that I could never make it as a waiter since I was too abrupt with people who treated me badly or were just jerks in general. I always agreed and responded that’s why I didn’t do it. There is no doubt in my mind that I if I was placed in the majority of service industry positions I would absolutely dump someone’s food on them, or tell someone off to the point where they never returned to the establishment. Obviously that wouldn’t be ideal from an owner’s perspective, so needless to say I pursue other options. Contrary to popular believe, your part-time job doesn’t HAVE to be something you love (don’t you just treasure the advice everyone gives these days about how everyone has to have a perfect job their entire life that completely fulfills them as they flash their YOLO tattoo?), but it really should be something you don’t hate.

If Flexibility Is Your Thing, Look For Female Gymnasts and On-Campus Jobs

Maybe most importantly for the majority of students is the fact that your job should be flexible. Students just don’t keep the same hours as the rest of society. Night classes and exams schedules are sometimes necessities that have to be accounted for if your part-time job will work out for the long term. I definitely understand the idea of being hesitant to bring this up when you’re desperate to find a part-time job, but it will help in the long run if you make it clear from the beginning that you are a student and arrange for a schedule that works for both employer and employee. I won’t lie, this might cost you the odd job, but chances are that either your grades, your sleep schedule, or your job was going to suffer soon anyway (because we all know that the beer drinking schedule was the whole reason you got the job in the first place!). Purely for flexibility and commute reasons I recommend taking a look at on-campus jobs. They are naturally very respectful of student schedules, and being right on campus cuts down on a lot of commuting stress (a real key for me). Here are some great options we checked out while on campus:

  • Tutor
  • Intramural Referee
  • Resident Advisor
  • Special Events Staff
  • Student Union or Student Council Position
  • Administration Assistants (various places)
  • Book Store
  • Food Services
  • Teaching Assistant
  • Library
  • Technical Assistance (Audio/Visual)
  • Lab Assistant
  • Campus Gym Position (various)
  • Mail Center and/or Copy Center
  • Security
  • Lifeguard
  • Daycare Center
  • Tour Guide
  • Youth Programming
  • Other: There are literally thousands of jobs available on many post-secondary campuses across Canada. Many colleges and universities are like small towns and offer a full variety of jobs just waiting for you!

If you decide you have to supplement your income with a little bit if a side gig this upcoming school year, make sure you don’t completely hamstring your experience in the process. Student life often comes down to balance. I’m definitely not saying you should be lazy and sleep until 11AM every day, but merely that sacrificing grades or sanity for a minimum wage job 40 hours a week is not a smart long-term decision.

Anyone have any great or negative stories about part-time summer work that they want to share for everyone’s benefit?

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11 years ago

I enjoyed your point about not focusing JUST on money. There is only so much you can do without it directly affecting your social life – which is really important in college. Many of my closest friends are ones from college.

11 years ago

While I was going to school, I had a summer job as a cashier team leader at a local water park. It may not have been the most glamorous job, but it certainly served a purpose. I had a full-time summer job to automatically return to each summer, and received a raise each returning year, as well as a small cash bonus for working hard. It might not have been relevant to my field, but it earned some much needed money to support myself during school. I was also lucky enough to have a job on campus, during the school… Read more »

11 years ago

My nephew is a very talented college young man. He is into writing and music which is why he is good at money making during his school. I am sure this is a very helpful blog for students out there looking for ways to earn money. There’s a whole lot of choices about where they can choose from.

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