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Sunday, November 16, 2014

Working Part-Time: the Best Job for You

I have not touched the subject of working part-time during post-secondary studies at all in this blog.  Over a year, more than 50 posts, and not a word about work.  Isn’t that strange? It should be.

So here we go.  My first post about working part-time during post-secondary education (I’ll post another time about summer jobs).

Working part-time is a fantastic way to increase your budget during your studies.  With the number of class hours lower (in general) than in high school, and a more flexible schedule, finding a part-time job is not as hard as before.  As well, many companies like hiring the ‘more mature’ students because, contrary to high school students, they are more organized, have proven to have a head on their shoulder (after all, an institution of higher learning has given them admission) and they are more flexible and more in control of their own lives than high school students (they do not ask mom and dad’s permission to come home after 10pm).  Finally, for many of them, this job will not be the first one.

So what is the best job for you? I would like to use the idea that Trent at the Simple Dollar explains: your hourly wage. 

The amount you get paid for your job is very important in choosing a part-time job.  With limited free time, you want to find the highest paying job you can obtain.  However, what Trent explains, you have to differentiate between what you get paid (like $15/hour – pretty good for a student) and what your ‘real’ hourly wage is.

For example, let’s say you can secure a job, let’s call it job A, at $15/hour.  The work is 4 days a week (or four evenings), for 4 hours each time.  So, a total of 16 hrs per week.  There is another job, job B, at $13/hr, with similar conditions such as 4 x 4hr shifts (16 hrs per week).  However, job A requires you to take a bus to get there for a total of 1hr of travel to get there and 1hr of travel to get back, while job B is 5 min away by foot.  Because your bus pass is included with your school fees, you figure that taking the bus doesn’t add to your expenses, so job A still seems to work.

But let’s change the calculation here: job A takes you 6 hrs for each 4 hrs shift because of travel.  So 4hrs x $15/hr = $60; however, this costs you 6 hrs of your time, so you are only making $10/hr ($60 ÷ 6).  Oh oh, not such a good hourly pay anymore.  This doesn’t mean you should not accept job A.  You will still make more money, overall, with job A ($240) than with job B ($208) per week.  But, you have to account for the extra time you will spend traveling per week (8 hrs) for job A.  Can you afford the extra time? Are you a night owl who needs to read a good book in order to fall asleep and could do that after work on the bus? Can you study on the bus (solving physics problems may be difficult; reviewing Spanish verbs? much more do-able) or do you need to transfer 3 times? Could you use your bike to commute to your work and get some exercise at the same time?  All these factor in. 

Besides the hourly wages, you should look at the type of work you’d be doing.  Is it hard physical work that will leave you exhausted and not able to study? Is it stressful work that will bring your overall stress level too high to be an effective student? Not every type of work is equal and some work is better suited for some people.  For example, someone battling an eating disorder can find it difficult to work in a fast food place.  Someone who is very shy may find it very stressful to be a sales person in a store.  Someone with health problems may find it better to work at a desk instead of standing up.  You need to find a job that not only works for your schedule, but also the type of work you enjoy and finds engaging.  As an undergraduate student, I worked as a teaching assistant for students learning French at McGill – many students came to MontrĂ©al so they could learn French but wanted to study in their first language (English); therefore, FSL courses at McGill needed many teaching assistant, more than their French department graduate students could offer.  I got hired.  I enjoyed it and found it gratifying to use my knowledge of both official languages for my work.

As you can see, there are many aspects of a job to consider before accepting one; however, remember that even if you find out after a few weeks that you don’t like your job, you can leave.  Of course you need to give proper notice (typically two weeks), but you are not married to this job – if it’s a bad fit, move on.

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