But some student jobs are just grim, let’s be honest. And when you’re totalling up whether that 4 hours of your life you’ve just spent answering customer complaints is worth 20-odd-quid, it’s easy to dream of a part time job where you can rock up in your jeans, do something you love, or even just wonder “I can’t believe they’re paying me for this!”.
Our ‘dream student job’ round-up is comprised of real jobs with pay that’ll trump your usual modest rate. Fancy eating for a living or developing skills you can directly use in your future career? Bring on the money!
If your university (or a college or university in the same city) offer any sort of food technology or nutrition course then pay attention – this could lead to the best job you’re likely to have. Ever.
Food tasters usually work on behalf of a specific supermarket and the sessions will be coordinated by university staff or students involved with the food and nutrition department. Typically this sort of work is popular with retired people and students who have the odd couple of hours free but can’t commit to regular part time work.
You don’t have to like everything to be a food taster and, if students who have done this type of work are anything to go by, you won’t be tasting any iffy prototypes – you’ll be testing the stuff which usually ends up on the shelves. ‘Employees’ will usually be notified via email when shifts are taking place and what they will be sampling. Tasting sessions will usually be held during the day and will last 1-2 hours.
Typical wage – Between £7/£8.50 per hour + holiday pay.
Find it: This seems to be very much a university/supermarket collaboration, so speak to nutrition departments and ask to be notified if anything comes up. Check university job boards too.
A nice office job is ideal when you want your weekends free and if you’re really lucky, a good, flexible boss should be happy to let you work your shifts around those deadlines.
A job in accounts or administration can undoubtedly equip you with more ‘business’ focused tasks. From helping with tax returns to assisting with sales and ‘paperwork’, this style of work can tell graduate employers that you’re organised and comfortable in a professional working environment.
You also have the opportunity to have more of an impact on the company too – why not suggest helping with a small company’s social media? If your boss started work when social media (or even the internet) wasn’t widely used, then simply offering to set up social profiles and monitoring them can help develop your online marketing skills.
Victoria, a recent graduate who worked in both a retail and accounts role simultaneously, believes that working as an assistant for a small landscape company offered far more than a high street retail role:
“I don’t feel that working in retail offered as many transferable skills as working for a small local business. My office job allowed me to have a real impact and the company owner gave me a lot of responsibility. Even basic typing and phone answering allows you to have an impact in managing the day to day operations of the business”.
Typical wage: £6.50 + per hour
Find it: Check your university jobs board for local opportunities or scour job boards and local recruitment agencies.
Post-graduate research participant
This isn’t about taking part in lengthy and potentially invasive trials, it’s about finding those little gems that pay you for simply sampling a new app or keeping a nutritional diary (true story).
Often word can get around from friends of friends looking for help with their postgraduate research, but look out for emails too. Departments will often send out information on behalf of their students and, in most cases, the students looking for participants will work around you. Suddenly that study session in the library has merged into a 20 minute interview and a £10 Amazon voucher in your back pocket.
Typical wage: Anything from vouchers to cash (£10-£50 is typical)
Find it: Be diligent with emails and department notice boards and keep your ears open.
‘Digital Guru’- Freelance work
Student Gems are awash with small business owners looking for CMS help, copyediting or part time web development. While you may sometimes be working with a small business owner or self-employed individual (so a graduate role might not always be possible), the benefit of this ‘semi-freelance’ work is that you can work from home when it suits you.
The great thing about this sort of work is that you can really develop career-related skills. From dress making work to photography, many students have found themselves well on the way to self-employment by harnessing their existing skills. It goes without saying, never give personal information out online and aim to meet a potential employer in a busy public place. Ideally arrange for a friend to drop you off and pick you up too.
Both students and employers can leave feedback on Student Gems, so check any potential employers before starting work.
Typical wage – Varies considerably from one off fees to hourly rates. We’d recommend knowing your worth where this is concerned – freelance web developers can charge a hefty hourly fee, so make sure your professional services are being valued.
Find it: www.studentgems.com – sign up for the newsletters to get regular notifications.
Work directly for your university
University jobs are often competitive as everyone wants to work on campus. 10 minutes from home and 5 minutes to lectures? What’s not to like?!
Applying during the summer before you’re due to start is a good way to get around this competitive element when university bars, cafes and shops are usually looking to replace students who have just graduated.
The great thing about working for your university is that it’s a little like working for your uncle Bill. You’re expected to pull your weight, but your employer has a vested interest in you. This means that those awkward “I can’t really work 35 hours a week around my MA in Civil Engineering degree” conversations are unlikely to come up. Most universities don’t like their students to work anymore than 16 hours a week and any university employers (or franchises) will be well aware of this.
There can also be surprising managerial rewards for students willing to stick it out. Often, student nights are staffed entirely by students with one or two shift managers. After 2-3 years of work students staying on for their MA often get a higher wage in-keeping with extra duties (for example training new members of staff or holding keys to store rooms etc.)
Claire, who recently graduated from the University of Manchester, was employed by the university in her final year and found it easier than she'd thought to juggle the job with her increasing workload, thanks to the supportive university staff:
"In the first semester of my final year I found myself with a lot of free periods in my timetable, so I applied for a university ambassador job. Being an ambassador involved manning the reception desk in the main university building, answering queries and giving advice to students. This could range from where certain lectures were being held to what they should do if they weren’t settling into uni life.
As I was in my final year I knew the campus well, so was always able to help people or point them in the direction of someone who could. When the desk wasn’t busy I was able to get on with my work on the computers provided. This was a plus because I knew I’d have real trouble finding a free computer anywhere else in the busy university!
Eventually, when my workload became too much and I had to cut down my shifts, the uni staff were really understanding and supportive. Overall it was a really valuable part-time job. I learnt more about the university, met some lovely people and developed skills to add to my CV.”
Typical wage: usually slightly more than National Minimum Wage
Find it: Your university job shop or careers portal
Have a similar student job which you want to shout from the rooftops? Let us know what you do and where you found it.
Victoria is a recent graduate and blogger for IEC Abroad, an international education consultancy which specialises in helping international students apply to universities around the world.