Working While Studying: A College Student's Viewpoint

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Regardless of what work you do, a formal education in terms of a college diploma will rarely be enough on its own to secure the best job. For many professions what is taught at university is necessary, but a college diploma cannot provide you with the knowledge and skills that work experience offers.

I've always wanted to do something that involves both working with people and a certain amount of administrative work. At the end of high school, I decided that I would work in two areas: events organization and media. These two areas encompass the qualities that are important to me: dynamics, working with people, and flexible working hours.

The first company in which I worked was a concert agency. I found a job for the summer vacation in between high school and college. Although I expected to be placed immediately in the sector organizing musical events, my first job was comprised of wrapping CD boxes. Through my eight-hour working day, I wrapped thousands of different kinds of CD boxes. It was a pretty boring and relentless job, and nothing like what I expected from a concert agency at the start. The job, however, gave me earnings, thanks to which I was more or less able to cease depending on my parents. Much more importantly, the job brought me contacts that I currently use in my everyday job. Whatever business or job you do, people surround you; these are your contacts and without them nothing (or very little) is achievable.

Eventually I advanced in this work, and instead of packing CDs into boxes, I started working in hosting, and eventually took an active part in organizing concerts for some of the biggest rock stars in the country.

During the summer break, going to work was not an issue. But, when the first semester started, managing learning while working became harder. The good side was that the job had flexible hours so shifts could be combined with the classes at college. At times, there were nights before the exam when I didn’t have time for sleep. With a little better organization, however, and removal of "time eaters" such as watching TV, socializing on social networks etc., things became more manageable.

The next job I did while in college was in the theatre. As with the previous post, I also started from the lowest position and managed to progress with consistent hard work. I had worked as a hostess for two years, when the heads of the international theatre festival offered me the job of PR assistant. One year later, they invited me to take over all media communication. That was an opportunity which needed to be seized. Right now, when I look at my mailing list, most of it dates from that period. In my current job I strive to learn something new every day from a practical perspective.

Alongside my job in the theatre, my studies became more demanding. There were more exams, the material was harder, and during exam times, it seemed to me that days became shorter. I always seemed to need a few more days to finish everything. I remember some critical weeks when I only slept four to five hours per day. Coffee was my best friend at that time. It wasn’t easy. The good thing was that in the field of political science, I learned about public relations, and was able to put into practice what I was learning at college.  It also made it easier for me to apply for the type of work I enjoyed doing.

To be completely honest, juggling college with work is far from easy. While you are on the move during the day, it is not a problem, even when you are switching concentration from listening to your professor to the practical assignments required by your employer. The real difficulty starts when you come home after a busy day and need to concentrate on studying. I am sure anyone who has experienced this will agree with me that all you want to do at that moment is to sleep, or go out with your friends. 

But that is one thing you need to give up if you choose to enter this kind of life. There is no free time. Hanging out with friends requires very careful planning; for example, meeting in groups because you do not have time to go out for coffee three times a week with different people. You see your partner rarely, and visit home only to sleep over. The good side is that you don’t need to worry about the places you go with your friends, because you have money for more expensive entertainments.

For those that wish to try this adventure, the hardest thing is probably not seeing immediate results. But don’t be discouraged. Just be prepared to start from the lowest positions and work your way up. The benefits come later, when you finish college and start searching for your first job.  Having a broader experience than many young people means you will be in the position to apply for better jobs. You will have enough contacts and practical knowledge that you may well not need to start from the lowliest positions.

When you first start looking for your student job, it is very important to try to find one that is relevant to the type of work in which you want to be involved in the future. This means it will not be time wasted and, apart from being paid, you will be gaining experience that will help in your future career.

I recommend every student should work for at least some time, no matter how hard it is to balance work and learning, because it is in this way that learning becomes practical. You gain good work habits, learn to work under pressure, learn how to prioritize, gain contacts, and develop useful practical skills that cannot be learned from books.  Of course the main reason to work is to earn money. This gives you independence, whether from your parents or your student loan. Last but not least, you will make progress, because you will be among people with similar interests. Working while studying at college may be difficult, but it is worth it.

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