Employment during college: To work or not to work?
Even the most financially responsible student will likely find money tight in college, and being aware of that money is an important part of growing up. Maybe you got lucky and managed to find a part-time job before you came to college, or maybe you’re thinking of looking for one. Either way, as you enter college, you’re sure to come across the argument that you should be quitting that job, or not getting one to begin with while in school, to enable you to focus on your work and subsequent career. While it is true that holding that job in college will represent a time management challenge, and possibly isn’t for everyone, there are benefits to navigating that challenge.
1) Even a few hours a week can be good for your finances
Even if you get a scholarship, even if you have a reserve of savings to tap into, even if you have family support, college is still going to be expensive, doubly so if you don’t have some of that support. Extra money will always help you, though you shouldn’t work under the assumption that you can pay school off with it (here’s an Atlantic article disproving that). It’s less about paying off your student loans, and more about giving yourself some spending cash. Maybe one day you forget to pack a lunch, or you need a new notebook, or a memory stick, or even a coffee to get you through the 4 pm slump. Having the cash to pay for that will be a benefit. Either way, more money in the bank will always be a good thing, particularly when your schooling is over.
2) You may need to fall back on it post-college
Let’s face it: The job market is tough. College is all about connecting you to a career, and Centennial College does everything it can to put you in the workplace pre-graduation, including placements, co-ops, and apprenticeship programs. Despite this, there’s still going to be an element of luck to the employment game, and through no fault of their own, hard-working students may not get to work in their career job straight out of school. If that downtime occurs, it’s good to have some kind of a job to fall back on, even if it’s part-time while you get your career going. Apart from ensuring you’re receiving some income, it will help you avoid a ‘resume gap’ where you appear idle to employers for a time.
3) If you already have a job, quitting may make it hard to find another
Even part-time work can be challenging to find in Ontario, so don’t operate under the assumption that “getting a job” is something you can idly do one day. This means that if you quit one assuming you can simply return later, or just pick another one up at your leisure, you may be in for an unpleasant surprise. Sticking with your current job while you get your career started is essentially financial insurance.
4) You’ll get to practice universally essential skills
A huge complaint against part-time jobs is that they often have little to do with your career of choice, but that’s not really true. Even if you’re working in a retail position that has nothing to do with that engineering career you want to get into, there are transferrable skills you can learn. For one thing, any career is going to involve front-facing customer service in one way or another, even if it isn’t obvious. That engineer will still have to work with a team on projects, will have bosses to report to, may have to meet with clients, and do it all within a non-negotiable deadline. Time spent in the working world is time spent learning all the universal details of a career, and it’s a valuable life experience no matter the job.
A word of warning, though. The most common reason given for why you shouldn’t work while in college is time management, and there’s some truth to that. Work hours aren’t particularly negotiable, so you will have to balance your school time with your work time effectively. This US News article recommends no more than 15 hours a week of work, for example. If you genuinely can’t balance the two, don’t force yourself. But if you can make it work, the benefits are certainly worthwhile.
By Anthony Geremia