February 4, 2019
Juggling school and a part-time job is a reality for many students pursuing a post-secondary education. For them, it’s important to strike a balance between the two and know their limits so they don’t compromise their education, which should always be the priority.
Education pays off! But it’s not free…
The need of money is often what motivates young adults to work while in school. The cost of post-secondary education can be quite daunting and no one wants to be stuck with a whopping student debt after graduating. But let’s not lose sight that post-secondary education is an investment. The reality is that, more often than not, young people have to incur some debt to study. The way I see it, a student loan is like a mortgage: it’s a necessary evil. However, if the student has the chance to have an RESP in his or her name, it’s now time to use it! By benefiting from educational assistance payments (EAPs), he or she will have the opportunity to work a little less and get a pertinent work experience without having to choose based on salary. Plus, in Quebec, the Loans and Bursaries Program is quite helpful, but it doesn’t take away the fact that post-secondary studies represent important sums to be paid out, especially for students who have to pay for everything on their own: tuition, school supplies, transportation expenses (car or bus), rent, groceries, etc. So, working becomes inevitable.
However, a student job shouldn’t be perceived as a constraint; it can offer much more than just a source of income, both on the short- and long-term. Let’s go over these benefits and then I will pass on some pointers that have helped me manage having a job during school.
A Host of Benefits
Learning useful skills
Some people only see the bad side of working during school. But while a job might cost a student a few study hours, it can also be a valuable learning experience. For instance, “traditional” student jobs, often in the customer service sector, foster responsibility and organization, thus preparing young adults for the reality of the employment market.
If they can, students should aim to find work in their field, as this is a golden opportunity to gain experience in their future profession, learn a slew of useful skills and confirm they are on the right career path.
In addition, experience in their field will help new graduates stand out from other candidates on the job market. It’s no secret that for employers, experience is key when it comes to selecting their future employee. In 2019, having a post-secondary diploma is no longer enough to land your dream job!
Building a contact network
Students who can juggle work and school successfully prove they are responsible and manage their time efficiently. Their jobs also offer the opportunity to build a contact network, sometimes even in their field, and contacts are always essential as they significantly increase the odds of finding a job. So, in some way, working supplements a student’s education and shouldn’t be seen as time wasted not studying!
Finding a student job
For students, finding a job in their field before graduating is not always as hard as we might think. Motivation and determination can do wonders!
Several schools have employment agencies especially intended for students, such as the service de placement of Laval University in Quebec City and the service aux étudiants of Université de Montréal.
The advantage is that employers who post job openings on these sites are actually looking to employ students and know they have to adjust to a school schedule.
What’s also useful with these sites is that students can search directly by field and job type (full-time or part-time, internship). Emploi Québec’s website and New Brunswick’s NBjobs’ website also allow to search for jobs strictly intended for students. Moreover, the Government of Quebec’s Work/Study Program offers help to students with financial difficulties who are looking for a job. To learn more visit http://www.afe.gouv.qc.ca/en/work-study/workstudy-program/.
A Healthy Student/Work Balance
If there is a healthy balance between work and school, grades won’t slip. Students shouldn’t work too much, nor should they spend too much time in their textbooks!
What often pushes students to take extra shifts is a financial need. Sometimes the solution is spending less rather than working more! A lot can be saved by making a budget; people often realize they spend on unnecessary things. There are several simple ways to reduce expenses: cooking instead of going out or ordering in, choosing a cell phone plan with 1G of Internet data rather than 5G, buying essentials only, etc. As an extra perk, reduced consumption is eco-friendly!
Knowing your limits
You don’t need to be a pushover to be a good employee. Student employees have to be firm when is comes to their availabilities and the number of hours they can work, and shouldn’t hesitate to speak to their boss if the workload gets too heavy. Good employers know that education is the priority and will act accordingly. In general, students shouldn’t work more than some fifteen hours a week, although each person ought to adjust to their own situation.
Another interesting solution is to take some courses online. This can help students manage their time between work and school more easily. However, online courses require discipline, which is why this option is not suited for everyone. It all depends on the type of course and the way the student learns (some need to hear and see the teacher, which is not possible with online courses). It’s still good to know this option is available and, without taking all courses online, taking one or two can offer a little leeway in terms of time management.
Obviously, there are many ways to find a balance between school and work. Students really need to take some time to consider what suits them best according to their needs. Work experiences, good or bad, will always be rewarding. A student job enhances education by bringing a practical dimension to the more theoretical side of school.
Marie-Rose Emond, student and intern at Kaleido
Sources and useful websites
- Government of Quebec: Work/Study Program
- Table régionale de l’éducation Centre-du-Québec: La conciliation études-travail (viewed January 3, 2019)
- Blogue du service de placement: 7 conseils pour bien concilier études et travail (viewed January 3, 2019)
- Service de placement de l'Université Laval
- Service aux étudiants de l'Université de Montréal
- Emploi Québec
- Indicateurs de conditions de poursuite des études (viewed January 3, 2019)