Part four in my 2007 financial planning series.
A few years ago there was a Guardian cartoon called ‘Lost Consonants’, and one of my favourites showed aerobic OAPS and a young McEmployee alongside the caption ‘many students work to make their grans stretch further.’ These days students are lucky even to get a grant, so I certainly ain’t putting in hours to pay my granny’s yoga fees. But various surveys predict that around half of the UK’s students are now working between 10-15 hours and earning about £70 a week. That’s over £3600 a year, and for many this is a necessity.
Finding casual work during term time shouldn’t be too hard in theory. Looking in shop windows, checking the Uni's advice centre, looking at sites like Monster and Jobs Direct are good starting points. Right now various outlets will be looking for Christmas relief staff if you’re finding yourself short of money for the end of term. This is also really handy for the staff discounts to pick up cheap gifts! The usual bar, coffee shop, and temping jobs are some obvious options, but there are other ways to pull in some extra cash than pulling pints.
Look around campus for students needing participants in surveys or studies – these usually pay a few pounds for little effort. Or try googling for ‘mystery shopper’ or ‘paid surveys’ – there are a number of UK organisations which will pay various amounts for equally little exertion. And if you’re good with google and have an internet connection, you could work casual hours for the fun text service Any Questions Answered (AQA). Visit www.issuebits.com for more information.
Even if you don’t need the money, but you think you can spare the hours, consider some sort of employment, whether paid or not. Working, volunteering or ‘getting involved’ as the Uni folks in the know put it, all count towards those immeasurable soft skills employers want as well as letters after your name. This is great if you do need to work through Uni, because you’re getting more return than just an hourly wage, you’re also earning CV fodder. You ain’t just stacking shelves or waiting tables, you’re building team skills (putting up with that lethargic tosspot of a colleague), numeracy skills (figuring out how many CDs you’re earning on your hourly wage) and problem-solving skills (kicking arseholes out of your pub at drinking up time). Seriously though, it all counts, and could help you score a higher starting salary after Uni.
For this reason, office temping can be useful employment for students to gain office skills, and often pays more than service sector jobs. However, like call centre work, temping can be soul-destroying, and is less sociable than serving your mates at their local bar.