5 Lessons I’ve learned from working during university

A high school teacher of mine once told me that the average person will hold a dozen jobs in their lifetime. Recently, I came to the realization that I’ve already reached double digits on the number of jobs I’ve worked! These include server, French tutor, community assistant, tour guide and currently, digital marketing assistant. Most of these jobs I held during my time at Ryerson, with the rest coming from my days in high school. 

After some reflection, I’ve come up with the five biggest lessons I’ve learned during my work experiences. You may want to keep these lessons in mind the next time you’re looking for a job.  

Set realistic financial goals

Income earned solely from a part-time job may not be enough to cover all your expenses. And on the other hand, working full-time is usually not feasible for most students’ schedules. 

I ended up learning this the hard way. In my first year of university, I was living paycheque to paycheque. I was struggling to keep up with my expenses and by the end of it all, I didn’t have any money to put towards my savings. 

So, rather than trying to take care of everything, set a financial goal that is reasonable for you to hit. It can be paying half your tuition, or just having enough money for groceries each week. The rest can be covered by your scholarships, grants, loans and/or your family. 

Not all part-time jobs are created equal

I consider my time to be more valuable than money. If I’m going to be spending my time doing a job, then I’m going to make sure it’s worth the experience; even if it’s just a simple part-time job. 

Experience gained can come in the form of technical skills to complement your studies or soft skills that you can carry with you into any workplace. 

In another sense, your part-time job can also give you much needed relaxation from the stress of school. It may not be the most challenging, but just enjoying the experience of being there and doing the work can make it worthwhile.

It’s all about connections

Each and every person you interact with can add immeasurable value to your life. Keep your coworkers, friends and family close to you and show them support when needed, and they’ll do the same for you. 

Past employers can also serve as valuable references when applying for other jobs. I actually have learned of certain opportunities just by leveraging my connections. So nurture those relationships and build your network. 

Finding your work-life balance takes time

“It’s easy to have everything you want in life” — said no one ever.

If you plan on having it all, expect the journey to be long and expect to fail along the way. It took around two years of biting into more work than I could chew for me to find some semblance of balance. I would beat myself up over not being able to excel at school and work, train hard at the gym, spend time with my friends, improve my guitar playing and cook Michelin star-worthy meals every night all at the same time

Aside from being overzealous, younger me hadn’t developed the skills associated with balancing all these activities. Introspection, discipline and time management skills take a while to develop, and require you to learn from your mistakes. 

I still have days where I don’t feel accomplished, but I’m now a lot better at reminding myself that life isn’t a race. 

Location, location, location

You might have heard this saying in the context of real estate. However, I think you can also make a case for the importance of location when considering a part-time job. If you’ve had classes all day long, then chances are you do not want to travel far to get to work. 

One thing you can do to make working while you’re in school easier is to just work at school. Whether at the Student Learning Centre, at one of our gyms, in residence or even creating content for WhyRyerson, there’s work to be found on the campus through the Career Boost and Work Study Research Assistant programs.

 

Remember—your job should never feel like a burden. You should treat it as an opportunity to work on your career, as well as yourself. 

I hope this will help those of you who are considering working while you’re attending Ryerson. 

— Jeremy

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