Working alongside your studies in University can be hard, but it is essential, and one of the main ways you can progress personally, academically and professionally – way before anyone else does.
I have been working alongside my studies since the first day I arrived in Dundee. I quite literally walked into the nearest café, handed in my cv and got a trial shift the next day (hence, I know I got lucky). However, lucky or not, Dundee is filled with cute restaurants and cafés that almost exclusively hire students. Furthermore, the University of Dundee offers incredible amounts of career progression prospects for student. In my second year in university I started working as a student ambassador, where I am now one of our Senior student ambassadors. I have also had the pleasure of being hired as part of the Centre of Entrepreneurship’s team, where I am the Marketing and Social Media Officer – so you could say, I have quite a lot on my plate.
Working in university is challenging, but incredibly rewarding. Here are just some of the things I have learned while working and studying over the last 4 years.
First of all: It is hard – ten times harder than having a full time job.
I basically haven’t had a day off since September (and that isn’t even an exaggeration). My schedule is crazy, and I don’t get much time to relax. However, this “work hard, play hard” cliché lifestyle has taught me a few things I couldn’t live without as I approach my graduation in June 2019.
Hard work pays of – so stay organised- and I mean, crazy organised
Transferable skills are high on any employers list, which is why they value term-time work experience so hard. Forcing myself to stick to a busy schedule and learning what the consequences are, both academically and professionally, when I don’t stick to that schedule, has made me much more organised and productive. I update my weekly schedule every Sunday (while enjoying a cup of camomile tea and wearing a face mask), schedule all the promotional material that I can in advance, finish deadlines at least a week in advance and keep daily to-do lists to keep myself productive. And guess what? It keeps me less stressed than I otherwise would be.
Term-time work experience is worth more than a summer internship
I have done both. However, it wasn’t till I started working jobs such as Senior ambassador and Marketing Officer that my applications and linkedin profile started truly standing out. Again, your hard work will pay off. I recommend getting as much experience you can while you’re in university – and really seek out the opportunities that Dundee uni offers, such as the student ambassador scheme, the careers service or the DUSA Exec team elections. These are all things that will undeniably make you much more successful when it comes to applying for graduate jobs.
You will be ready for whatever life throws your way – whether that means balancing internships, side hustles or a job that you might feel under qualified for. It has allowed me to mentally prepare for the fears of entering the job market post-university, by showing myself that everything will be ok – no matter how crazy or stressful a project or exam period feels. After working during term time, you become aware that you are capable of handling a lot on your place, and that you know you are able to manage your time in an effective manner.
You can make any situation more enjoyable by having a positive attitude. Working as a waitress for example, was a lot more tedious than working as a Marketing officer. And even today, working in a great team and a great position, there are still tasks that I don’t want to do. But I have learned that starting the day/a task/a meeting with a positive attitude, is the only way to turn that around. That is a lesson that I take with me to assessment days, job interviews and some time soon, into my first graduate job.
Every job leads to an open door. Even working as a waitress or a student ambassador? I made contacts over food orders, at open days, and now through the amazing networks of the Dundee business world. They might sometimes be unrelated to my interests, but, so what? Every job is a stepping stone to your next opportunity, and sometimes, when opening up the café at 6am on a Saturday morning, it’s ok to remind yourself of that. Allow yourself to grow as an individual, and grow your network and opportunities while doing so.
Lastly, it is important to have “me time”. It is sometimes ok to (if reasonable) postpone a task, to go have a pint with your friends, or hang with your team in a non-professional setting. Developing your personal interests like extracurricular activities, and social skills by spending time with your friends (and by yourself!), is incredibly important in developing emotional intelligence – which is essential to your success, not only personally, but also academically and professionally.
If you have big ambitions for your future, make sure you come to university with a plan – and work tirelessly towards getting where you want to get (while having fun and enjoying the incredible times you’ll have in university!).