There are two things that college students almost always need: more time and more money. And the worst part is that, in order to get more money, you have to give up some of your time. I spent the morning working at my off-campus job, and now have to read about 200 pages and write a seven page paper, in German, and had to get groceries (quite literally eating up my paycheck!). Besides my work at Old Navy, I also currently have three different jobs on campus, all various forms of tutoring. Those are a little less difficult to balance, because on-campus jobs are obligated to work with your schedule, and I can work in the Writing Center for an hour between classes, or meet with a student before dinner.
But working off-campus is hard. Because you have to give up at least four or five hours a shift, and need to be available times when you might rather be doing something else; no one is going to want to have a writing tutorial at 8:30 on a Friday night, but there are a lot of people who want skinny jeans at that time (and seriously, we actually have some pretty cute skinnies!). And since your schedule changes week-to-week, it makes it hard to set up regular meeting times for on-campus activities as well. That being said, I know a lot of people with jobs like me, and we manage to make it work.
I love it when I pun accidentally.
And here’s how we do so:
1. School comes first. I’ve given up some social activities to go to work, but if I have a massive project due on Thursday, I’m going to take Tuesday and Wednesday off to make sure that I get it done. You’ll need to try and stay a little bit ahead in schoolwork, because after getting off work at 10 PM, I really don’t want to start reading 100 pages of Norse mythology.
2/ Be responsible. Yes, school is the most important, but that doesn’t mean you get to blow off your job because you feel tired. Talk to your boss about your schedule and how many hours you can work, and make sure that you make all your shifts.
That said, try and find a job where they are willing to work with you. I am SO LUCKY at my job, because I feel like I can always approach my managers, and they work around my rather unforgiving schedule. I really like the people where I work. While you may not always get the hours you want, if manager consistently schedules you for when you’re in class even after you’ve told her, and then gets angry if you can’t make it, it may be time to look for a new job.
3. Know what you can handle. I work about 12 hours a week on-campus. There is NO WAY I could do more than 10-15 at Old Navy. I average about 8, and that is PERFECT for me. This could be too much for some people, and not enough for others, but you have to know your limit. Don’t try to do it all; when you do that, everything suffers in quality.
4. Make some work friends. This is probably always good advice, but I have found that, because I work fewer hours than a lot of people and come and go at odd times, I could pretty easily isolate myself at work. But not only do friends (or even friendly acquaintances) make the time go by faster, it’s also nice to have a social set outside of campus. I work with some pretty awesome people, with whom I’ve had a lot of fun (and commiseration), and that helps get me through a less-than-awesome shift.
5. Small rewards. School is stressful. Work is stressful. So just the knowledge that there’s a Diet Coke waiting for me in the car for my drive home, or buying brand-name cereal (I got Lucky Charms today!) from time to time can make life seem a little more bearable.
I’m lucky. I don’t dislike my job, have amazing coworkers and managers, and am pretty good at time management. While not everyone gets those advantages, I do think that you can make an off-campus job work, as long as you’re willing to make the effort.