Earn while you learn

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The Independent Online

Being skint at university is all part of the student image. It’s bohemian, it’s smelly, it’s grimy and it’s cool. It’s not hard to come across groups of students competing on who’s got the lowest bank balance.

The skint image is alright for a few months, but sooner or later it’s going to get to you; particularly when the rosy-cheeked exchange student next door runs downstairs to welcome a Ocado van, full of French cheese and fresh pasta, all paid for on their mum’s credit card, while you swallow down a tin of supermarket own baked beans for the fifth time that week.

You may begin to ask yourself, “Should I break away from the cool crowd and get myself a job?” The truth is, having no money and eating rubbish food for prolonged periods of time is actually quite depressing. A part-time job can work really well with some degree disciplines, where you canhave as little as two hours teaching time per week.

Your university website is a good place to start looking for a job, as they usually have apage dedicated to classifieds for part-time jobs that would be suitable for a student. There will also be noticeboards around campus, a careers service, and some will have job fairs.

And even for jam-packed degree subjects, there are ways of making money; you just have to be creative about how you do it. The convenience factor will come into play when looking for a job, and as a fresher, your campus bar may seem very appealing. Most universities pay their staff quite well, and you can expect a bit more than minimum wage.

But Tom Spindler, 23, from Leeds University has a warning. He worked in his union during his first year at university: “Serving your friends up drinks all night is not as great as it sounds.

They all want to be served first, and they always want it for free! I eventually got sick of serving up snakebite instead of drinking it.” But most bars, clubs, cafés and shops will welcome students to come and work for them, and pride themselves on offering flexible working hours.

Walking around the town centre of your university, you’ll see adverts in shop windows showing vacancies. Word of mouth is also definitely a good way to hear about flexible jobs suitable for students. Be warned, however, that some workplaces may pressure you to work more hours than you had originally intended.

Ollie Marsh, 25, from York University ended up working full-time in the kitchen of a pub for his entire second year. “The managers would rota us down for loads of shifts and would be really unwilling to make changes,” he says. “I used to feel completely obliged, and my university work definitely suffered. I had to work twice as hard in my final year to make up for it.”

Everyone can have a different experience with part time jobs, but the key for the university student is to ensure that your employer is flexible. This will make your life much easier, when it comes to the start of a new term and all of your lecture times have changed, when your dissertation is due the next day, or when a party that you absolutely cannot miss falls on a shift day.

Another thing to think about is doing something for your career. Sally Burrows, 20 from Manchester University has recently signed up to a childcare agency, where she gets contracted out to different schools and nurseries in the area. “I’m lucky in that I know I want to go into child psychology after uni,” she says. “The job is great because it’s flexible; I can increase or decrease my hours depending on my availability. It’s also really rewarding and I know it will look good on my CV.” She found out about the job on her university’s job page for students.

You also have to be creative within your situation. Alice Swan, 21, from Nottingham University lives with the landlord’s son. She cleans the house every Wednesday and the landlord pays her £40 for it. Tim Fitzgerald, 21, from York University can make £50 in two hours busking on his violin in the touristy areas.

You can also use your talents to create potential money for yourself. Make jewellery and sell it to local shops, set up an orange juice stall on campus, design a club night, sell your paintings, set yourself up to take photos at weddings, run a dance class, teach swimming lessons, do some freelance writing for publications, or write a book for Mills & Boon.

There are so many options and you just have to find what’s right for you, and don’t worry if you haven’t yet discovered your talent there’s always the less exciting but ever-reliable university careers service.