Working full-time while in higher education: It's tough but doable

 

The challenge for today’s student is to be able to find a job while at university that not only benefits them financially but that also reflects well on their chosen degree and career path.

The student loan system guarantees graduates a safe passage through university, but the harsher reality of having to repay this debt as soon as one begins to earn looms just around the corner.

Where a majority of students prefer either not to work at all, or to work part-time to earn some money on the side, there is a new generation of students beginning to get to grips with the trials and tribulations of balancing a demanding full-time job with a degree.

When I started higher education almost three years ago, I was acutely aware that work would become an inevitable part of the student life I was about to adopt. Despite my eagerness to work my way through a three-year PR degree, I immediately realised that being a self-supporting student in London with a part-time job was tougher than expected. Being an EU student, the tuition fees were covered by the The Student Loan Company, which still left me with an average of £15,000 of living costs a year to take care of.

The student handbook strongly advises all students to work no more than 15 hours a week so they don't compromise their degree. However, I soon discovered that finding a full-time and decently paid job proved to be a much easier task than any part-time job with suitable hours.

Assuring my future employers that I could cope with full-time hours was a good way to get their attention, so they'd even consider me as a serious candidate in the first place. It was not easy to sacrifice breaks and holidays to show work that I was serious about my job, but gradually it became easier to negotiate a more flexible and study-friendly schedule.

Working in the service industry is a natural choice; I feel I have learnt much of what I know about society from the food its people eat. Studying public relations, I was always fascinated by restaurants where London’s movers and shakers would be part of the regular scenery.

Hence I decided to walk through the doors of The Ivy. It just so happened that they were in need of someone to take a waiting job with immediate effect. It  was a combination of  luck and being at the right place at the right time, but it took a lot of dedication to stay employed there. Instead of being star-struck, I admired the discretion of this culinary institution; how the staff knew exactly how to be proactive when needed and how to keep distance when required. It was a great challenge to keep up with extremely driven individuals and to work myself on the same level as everyone else, especially with my degree  being a big part of my life.

Eventually my ambition drove me onto a further challenge, that of becoming a Maitre d’Hotel in another London top restaurant.

The London high-end restaurants I have worked at until now have all been  canteens for the PR industry and there are many parallels to be drawn between the two. Like in PR, a crisis in a restaurant can happen at any time and you need to be ready to react to any kind of setback. It takes constant awareness and understanding of people and their reactions that makes customers so loyal as they are.

Naturally, walking the fine line between the professional and student life is what I have preparing myself for all these years but it has still put a lot of pressure on my personal life. That said, pressure can be the best form of motivation a student can have and working full-time does not necessarily contradict high results. While the experience of working triple the recommended hours is beneficial in the long run, it also offers an instant benefit for the standard of living.

I feel comfortable in my North London flat, shared with only one other person, and the financial control over my own life as a student gives me the confidence I need. Furthermore, the professional confidence I have gained over the past few years  will undoubtedly provide me with a headstart on the job market as a prospective graduate. Having learnt a lot about my own strengths and weaknesses is why I recommend this to anyone who finds himself questioning whether a university degree is a journey worth embarking on.

My current job combines every aspect I love about restaurants and helps me further understand how people react and behave, and what will motivate and annoy them. Sharing my experience feels particularly relevant right now: by the time I will be graduating, I have found a job I love, that is also a stepping stone towards my future career. My experience shows that full-time working students are not an urban myth.

Ingrid Valk is a third-year student in University of Westminster. Follow her on Twitter here.

News
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal
peopleThreats follows actress' speech on feminism and equality at the UN
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Arts and Entertainment
Worldwide ticket sales for The Lion King musical surpassed $6.2bn ($3.8bn) this summer
tvMusical is biggest grossing show or film in history
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drink
Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Cover Supervisors needed in Cheshire & Shropshire

Negotiable: Randstad Education Chester: Job Opportunities for Cover Supervisor...

Welsh Medium Teacher

£85 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Job Opportunity for Secondary ...

IT Teacher

£85 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Job Opportunity for Secondary ...

Cover Supervisor

Negotiable: Randstad Education Chester: Job Opportunities for Cover Supervisor...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits