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Advice for working while you study

Find out if a part-time job is the right choice for you and how to get one in Portsmouth

Getting a part-time job in 2020/21

The advice on this page relates to normal circumstances but finding part-time work will be a little different in 2020/21. Remember to follow Government guidelines on working safely during coronavirus when you use this advice.

Many students do part-time work while studying to earn extra money and learn additional skills.

Part-time jobs can be anything from bar and restaurant work to retail and customer service roles. This may involve working during the evenings, on weekends and on your free days during the week.

Any part-time job you get contributes to your CV and shows future employers that you're already competent at working in a commercial business.

Use this guide to help you decide whether you need a part-time job and make sure this work doesn't get in the way of your degree.

Consider if you need a part-time job

The most important thing to consider before getting a part-time job is to make sure you can fit it in around your studies.

Consider the following to see if you can balance part-time work and your study schedule, and if you need to work at all.

Work out your budget

Working out your budget at uni will help you see if you can cut costs that could reduce your need for a part-time job.

While many students benefit from the extra money, you might find that you can reduce how much you spend in some areas. Sometimes the money you save can add up to the same amount you'd get from a part-time job.

Use this guide on how to budget at uni and our budget calculator to estimate how much you need to live on each month at uni.

Think about working seasonally

Some students choose to work in the winter or summer breaks, rather than during the academic year.

Many shops hire new staff to work for 2–3 months over the Christmas period to help with the rush, and the hospitality and tourism industries is a great source of work in the summer.

Working seasonally means you don't have lectures or seminars, so you can pick up more shifts and work longer hours than during the academic term. However, you might still have exams and deadlines to prepare for, so think about this when agreeing to work long shifts.

Pros and cons of working part-time at uni

The biggest disadvantage of working part-time at uni is the risk of not prioritising your studies. When you start uni, you're committing to a few years of full-time study – you don't want to get sidetracked by making money in the short-term if you can live off what you already have.

If you decide to get a part-time job, the benefits include:

  • An extra source of income – you can use this to fund educational field trips, summer holidays or save for life after graduation
  • Getting a job in your industry – working a job that complements your field of study gives you added experience for your CV
  • Picking up more transferable skills – such as time management, budgeting, customer service, presentation skills and commercial awareness
  • Meeting new people – make friends outside your course and accommodation and friends local to the area

How to balance part-time work and study

Many students balance a part-time job with their studies effectively. It just takes a little more planning to make sure your grades stay on track.

Work out how many hours you can work part-time

You should aim to study for around 35 hours each week. So when you start at your job, be clear about how many hours you can work around your studies each week. Most universities advise you not to work or volunteer more than 20 hours a week as doing so could harm your studies.

When you're applying for a part-time job, how many part-time hours the employer is looking for is usually stated on job ads. This will help you find jobs that fit around your studies.

Know when your exams and deadlines are

Keep a long-term calendar so you can see when exams and deadlines are coming up and plan your work accordingly.

Many part-time jobs will offer you extra hours as overtime – knowing when you need to focus on an exam or deadline will help you avoid spending too much time at work when you should be revising. You can also use your calendar to book time off work if you have a string of exams coming up you need to focus on.

Don't take on too many shifts

You'll want to make sure your shifts don't get in the way of classes and lectures. You also want to make sure you have time each week to study outside of class.

If you take on too many shifts, you might feel overwhelmed and this can lead to under-performing at work and in your course.

Put your studies first

Getting a part-time job can help your CV and your bank balance. But if you work too much outside of uni, your grades might suffer. If you find yourself falling behind in your course, get advice from your course leader and your manager at work on the best way to get back on track.

Take some time off

Every manager knows that their staff need time off to rest and return to work refreshed. If you need to take some leave, book it off. If you find yourself exhausted on a regular basis, you might need to reconsider your working hours.

You can also make use of guidance and support services at your university who can help you plan your time and your budget to find out the best routine for balancing part-time work and your studies.

How to get a part-time job at uni

You'll find plenty of support at uni if you decide to get a part-time job alongside your studies.

Use the university careers service

Most universities have a careers service that advertises part-time jobs in the local area across all different sectors. Get in contact with your uni's careers service or sign up for their jobs board to create a profile of your skills and availability.

Your careers service will also have advice and guidance on income tax and National Insurance. If you're an international student, they can also advise you on how to apply for a National Insurance number and your restrictions on working with a student visa.

Develop careers skills

Your careers service will also run workshops and events where you can develops skills to help you find a part-time job, research employers, develop transferable skills and practice for interviews.

Our Careers and Employability Service gives you careers support from the day you start your course and for 5 years after you graduate. You can go to them for 1-to-1 appointments or join their group careers workshops. You also get free access to their online jobs board to find part-time vacancies advertised by businesses in various sectors.

Look for jobs on campus

As well as using the careers service to find jobs in your university town, look out for job openings across campus. On-campus jobs for students are always flexible and come with the understanding that your studies come first.

The roles available will depend on your university. You might find part-time roles such as student ambassador, student guide, residence assistants and marketing assistants advertised throughout the year.

Write a CV and cover letter

Almost all job ads will ask you to submit a CV and some will also ask for a cover letter. You can get guidance on writing these from your careers service, and some careers teams will review them for you when you're ready to apply for jobs.

Prepare a CV

Your CV lists your achievements and skills – it's a piece of personal marketing that you use to convince an employer that you have the skills and experience to do the job.

You should:

  • Target your CV to each role you apply for
  • Make sure all relevant information on the first page
  • Check for and correct all spelling and grammar errors
  • Make sure your contact details are correct and clear

Our Careers and Employability Service have an example CV for a part-time job (pdf) that you can use to help structure your own.

Write a cover letter

A cover letter should highlight your reasons for applying for the job and why you'd be a great fit for the role and the company.

You should:

  • Target your cover letter for each role you're applying for – research the employer first to make sure the letter is personalised to the employer
  • Use your cover letter to explain any gaps in work experience in your CV – for example, if you didn't work during the summer before starting uni but can show that you took an online course or prepared for your course
  • Try to address the letter to a named person in the company
  • Keep your cover letter to one side of A4
  • Check for and correct all spelling and grammar errors

You can book an 1-to-1 appointment with an expert adviser from our Careers and Employability Service who can review your CV and cover letter, making sure it's what employers are looking for.

Want to start applying for part-time jobs as soon as you start uni? See our guide to boosting your CV before university.

Prepare for the interview

If you're successful in applying for a part-time job, you'll usually be asked to attend an interview with the company. The more prepared you are for job interviews, the better you'll perform.

Top tips for job interviews:

  • First impressions count – if you're not sure of the company dress code, dress smart rather than casual
  • Be polite, try to maintain eye contact and smile – positive body language will help you come across as confident, even if you're nervous
  • Plan to arrive early
  • If the interview is online make sure you have a good internet connection
  • Prepare for common interview questions
  • Plan for different types of interviews including panel, technical, telephone, video and group interviews

Stay safe from scam jobs

Unfortunately, some students have been the victim of fraudulent job offers. We work closely with the Hampshire Constabulary, who have shared the following advice on what to be wary of and how to stay safe when job hunting.

Advice from Hampshire Constabulary

Be wary when you see a job advertised on social media, as it may be a fake job posted by potential scammers hoping to secure your financial information.

To prevent scammers from getting your personal information, follow our 3 top tips:

  1. Do your research – be sceptical when someone approaches you with a job offer and always research a potential job and its source to make sure they're genuine
  2. Use the University's online jobs board – the Careers and Employability Service make sure all jobs they advertise are authentic
  3. Protect your bank details – an organisation will only need your bank details once they've given you a guaranteed job offer, to make sure you get paid, so never give your bank details to someone over social media and be wary of jobs that ask for a fee or money upfront to apply

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