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Caitlin Irwin | University of Sunderland

English and Creative Writing BA (Hons)

Working While At University

work night (my work christmas do!)

From the very beginning of my first year I’ve had a part time job, I got the job in May and have been extremely lucky to have such a good employer. Trying to get a job while at university is on a lot of people’s agenda, and most of the time you’ll take any job that comes your way. But sometimes you have to be a bit careful, working while studying is a balancing act and one that you have to get right, the last thing you want is to either loose your job, or see your University work suffer. So heres a few tips to think about when working or looking for a job.

1. Don’t do to many hours.

Applying for that job that’s 22 hours a week might seem okay at the time, because I mean, you’re only in class 9 hours a week, right? NO. I can’t stress it enough, be careful how many hours you let your boss/future employer know that you are willing to take on. You might appear to have the spare time because you aren’t always in class, but remember to include all the hours that you have to do you’re assignments and study, as well as giving yourself time to relax. I originally worked 21 hours a week, dropped to 16 then dropped to 12,which is perfect for me. I wouldn’t suggest to anyone doing more than 16 hours a week if you can avoid it, but in circumstances it is unavoidable.

2. Studies Come First!

Your boss is never going to turn around and say ‘oh you have uni work, don’t come in all week’ – as much as you wish that they would. But a lot of employers are student friendly and aware that your studies come first, these are the types of people you want to work for. You don’t have to make a big deal to them that your studies are more important, but always make sure that your boss/future employer knows you are a student. The last thing you want is your boss ringing you at 6am asking you to start at 7am, when you have uni at 1pm – its not feasible. Student friendly employers won’t bother doing things like this (unless they’re really desperate) because they know you won’t be able too!

Screen Shot 2015-02-16 at 22.51.25

(picture from a work night out)

3. Know the Facts!

Bar work? Make sure you know if they are going to put you on a shift every single Wednesday (student night) and probably all weekend. When you ask them what time you will finish work – it’s not when the bar closes, ask them what time you will ACTUALLY get out. Weekend work? How much time do you get off? Does it give you enough time to go home and see your family? Make sure you know the facts about where you are being employed and who is employing you to avoid future trouble, check how much time you will get off, if they’ll ever ask you to do overtime, etc.

4. Being Employed by Sunderland University

A good way to avoid tricky situations is simple. Apply for a job here! At Sunderland University, Student Ambassadors are paid employees. The upside being you work when you want, if you can’t do a day because you have to many assignments, that’s no problem. This can be a great alternative, and something which I see myself applying for next year.

Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 20.08.45 (work selfie!)

5. Student Union Help!

If you do ever get into trouble with an employer, either disciplinary or other things, the Student Union are there to help. Most people don’t know but they can represent you at a work disciplinary and help you out if you think you’ve taken on to much and don’t know how to manage it.

So there is some tips from me for working while you’re at University. The delicate balancing act can be a difficult one, but can be achieved. Always make sure you have at least 1 day off a week, to just chill out from it all! I find diaries, lists and timetables really help me organise my time, so try some of them to help manage everything you have going on!


Caitlin x

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