Working While In College
Remember, You’re Human
Deciding to work will change the course of your college career. Youʼve heard the saying that “time is money”, and we would agree with that statement. In the case of college students, the way time is spent during college will have a direct effect on the money you earn afterwards. Spend your time well, in a balanced manner, with specific goals in mind.
You will hear about students who work 40-50 hours a week, join a menʼs organization on campus, and take 16 hours their first semester in college. Is it doable? Yes. Do we recommend that? Absolutely not, especially if youʼre wanting to get ahead from the very beginning. In the coming sections it may sound contradicting, but read the section in its’ entirety and then decide.
Balance, Balance, Balance
Working in college is for some students - whether it be out of necessity or out of desire to have extra income and financial freedoms. College recruiters love students that work AND have a competitive resume. That balance, which is hard to come by, is actually one of the things recruiters respect the most. Ironically, this decision can also be one of the single most harmful things to your future recruitment.
Story time. For these purposes we’ll refer to this man as “Derrick”. Derrick is both a Stanford grad and Harvard Business School grad, and he discussed this dichotomy with us which left a lasting impression. He explained that there are a few key differences between a student with a 3.4 GPA that worked 20+ hours a week and a student with a 4.0 GPA who never worked a day in college.
For one, the student who worked has the upper hand from the beginning due to a perceived sense of responsibility, balance, and time management by the interviewer or recruiter. The student with a 4.0 GPA was able to navigate college courses with excellence, and that’s about it. It is commendable, but it is not truly distinguishable. The other key difference is that the student who worked likely has much more rich relational experiences throughout college than the student who never worked. They had assignments, coworkers, bosses, teams, and spent more time interacting with people.
Two Good Options
There will be many job opportunities in a college city, but they aren’t all a good choice. Yes, you could deliver pizzas and make decent money. However, that is the type of decision we’re encouraging you steer clear of. You need to think more strategically than today or this week – make decisions with the end goal in mind.
One great option is to find a basic on-campus job, whether it be in the bookstore or rec center. These jobs are traditionally flexible and will even allow you to come back to work after a summer away interning elsewhere. Additionally, there is obvious convenience as you can quickly transition from class or studying to work within minutes.
Another option to consider is within the same realm, but it is a bit more focused. Instead of just working any job on campus, consider trying to work for the department of your declared major. Many departments offer jobs to students in research, tutoring, and/or as a teacher’s assistant.
When To Stop Working
However, and itʼs a big however, if working is having a significantly adverse effect on your grades then you must reconsider the amount youʼre working or working period. Sacrificing competitive grades in order to work is not a good practice. If youʼre able to do both and maintain a competitive resume, then keep working.
As a disclaimer, we understand that some students absolutely have to work. There is likely pressure from parents or personal conviction to work, and to that we would ask “At what cost is working a necessity in college?” If you pay for college and are debt-free when you graduate, congratulations. Are you employed? If not, it may have served you well to work less hours. Itʼs a tough call, but itʼs important that both parents and students are honest with themselves about the effect working is having on the academic standing of the student.
If You Never Work
For the student that never works a job, there are ways to combat that fact. The two most productive ways are to gain experience as an intern and to invest in organizations on campus where leadership experience can be gained. From the perspective of a recruiter, they are looking for very specific characteristics. Can this person communicate effectively? Does this person exhibit leadership among peers? Can this individual remain effective when placed in a team? Is this student an initiator? As a student pursuing an internship or full-time job offer, you must find a way to display that you are worth their investment.
Often times thatʼs through a job you had during college, a previous internship, campus involvement, or a combination of those factors. Regardless, the competition is stiff and youʼll likely get lost in the recruiting shuffle if balance does not exist on your resume. If youʼre hired into a full-time job, companies are choosing to spend money on your benefits, your salary, your annual training, your 401k matching (if available), and a myriad of other things. They do not take their decision to offer jobs to students lightly.