Holidays are the perfect time to get a head start on the career ladder
Thursday 26 January 2006
With the student debt mountain showing no signs of shrinking, it is little wonder that more undergraduates than ever are on the lookout for part-time or holiday work to bring in some extra cash.
While the main reason to get a job pulling pints at the union or delivering mail shots is purely financial though, will that sort of mundane employment look acceptable on a CV?
In the view of many colleges and universities, part-time work during term time equates with tired students, inferior grades and may even reduce the likelihood of a decent degree at the end.
Prospective employers too are unhappy at the notion of their brightest talent washing up or laying tables in the evenings; although most say they do approve of proper work experience arrangements.
Would-be doctors and journalists have traditionally been encouraged to consider unpaid or voluntary work to get a feel for the job, but the pool of students who can afford such a luxury is dwindling.
In reality, many large organisations would prefer even low-grade, paid work experience flipping burgers or handing out leaflets to no experience at all and may penalise graduates who have never even attempted a car-washing job or a stint with a promotions firm.
In order to keep both tutors and recruiters happy then, it appears that full-time holiday work with a reputable employer is far better than casual, part-time work in the periods when there are essays to be written.
According to the recruitment firm employment4students, full-time holiday jobs with reputable employers tend to have more status than hourly paid, part-time work in the local hotel or bar and may even lead to full-time career positions when you graduate.
A decent holiday job can allow you to try different career roles before you "buy" and if you use the position to find out more about the firm, or about the career you are interested in, it can look very respectable on an otherwise unremarkable CV. A firm such as Tesco, for example, regularly recruits trainee managers from its army of student cashiers.
Recruiters agree that in practice, it doesn't necessarily matter how you earn that extra money - be it at call a centre or hypermarket - just as long as you use it as an opportunity to understand how commercial organisations actually function.
Dealing with customers as a shop assistant can help any student build valuable skills in communication and customer service, and may well offer important experience in working under pressure and being part of a team.
The lowliest factory job may not be challenging intellectually, but if it helps a budding manager to develop leadership skills, those six weeks assembling toy planes will not go to waste later on.
Although neither part-time nor holiday work should be taxed when you are a student, the weekly or monthly wage packet that will be offered for a full-time holiday job with M&S or with the Post Office will usually be far larger than the cash-in-hand payment you get for shelf-filling in a supermarket. And whatever job you do to make ends meet, it is important to remember that employers meet graduates with good honours degrees every day of the week.
What many of them claim is lacking in many would-be recruits are the social and communication skills that come from waiting at tables, or running a market stall - skills you can't get from paying attention in lectures.
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