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  • Writer's pictureTan Armado

5 Takeaways I Earned While Working Part-Time as a Uni Student

Part-time jobs are a great entryway for us to have a taste of what it is like to be in the working world. I always saw these jobs as an opportunity to learn new transferrable soft skills, interact with people, and explore an industry that I might never find myself working in soon.

My part-time stints used to be limited to during the winter or summer breaks, to earn extra pocket money and equip myself with basic job skills. Some of my jobs included being an event staff to working as a bartender and service crew in a pub. These jobs proved to be rather lucrative and paid good money, especially with the rising costs of living and being a student in Singapore.

However, lately, I found myself in a situation where I needed to work part-time to support a rough patch my family was going through given the Covid-19 situation. The initial thought of having to work while meeting the demands of university life seemed to be a daunting experience.

Looking back, I would not have done anything differently because I took away many important insights. Here are 5 takeaways I earned while working part-time as a university student!

1. Learning to Use My Time Wisely

(Credits: Medium)

I’m sure we have all seen the trinity of needs meme; good grades, social life, enough sleep and how we can only choose 2 out of the 3 with the limited amount of time we have in university. Adding work to the mix, I was pressed to decide between the four.

The initial transition felt weird. In the previous semesters, the only things I had to worry about were trying to meet deadlines, focusing on surviving the bell curve. I spent my spare time hanging out with my friends and with my family. Unfortunately, I could no longer commit time to the latter two as my week was essentially turned into a full-on work-study arrangement.

I was forced to neglect my social life and family time to compensate time for work. Every week became a repeated cycle of attending classes both on-campus and online, working long hours before heading home to complete my work. Free time essentially becomes something highly sought after, almost like a currency.

At the start, I tried to balance everything that I had on my plate, but it was evident that sacrifices had to be made with limited time on my hands. Though there was an initial struggle, I made the best out of the situation.

I decided that I would maximise any amount of free time that I had on my hands and channel my energy into what was needed to be done at that given moment. Additionally, it was important to maintain a healthy work-life balance and manage my stress levels in a positive manner.

I learnt to work smart rather than simply working hard when it came to my studies, breaking up my study load and studying whenever I could (even during my commutes to school and work). I chose important components and topics to focus on, especially those highlighted by my professors in lectures or during my consultations with them.

I decided that I should maximise the time I had with my friends and family as well, emphasising more so on the quality of time spent rather than the quantity. These days, given the fast-paced nature of the world, it is easy to take things for granted. It’s nice to slow down once in a while to embrace and enjoy the moment.

2. Appreciation for Hard-Earned Money

(GIF Credits: GIPHY)

Getting that paycheque and seeing your bank account increase in value hits different.

Because you are paid on an hourly basis, the saying “Time is Money,” spoke to me differently. I'm sure those who have worked retail or F&B jobs can relate to this sentiment. The more hours you worked and clocked in, the bigger the rewards you would reap.

Previously, I worked part-time jobs to earn some extra pocket money. I always felt a strong sense of achievement when I was able to buy something with my own hard-earned money, contributing to a greater sense of independence.

Given there was a shift in focus as to why I had to work, I developed a greater appreciation for money and became much more cautious about my spending habits. I had to take into consideration how a portion of my income had to be channelled towards paying the bills and helping the family out.

Overall, I felt that there was an added sense of responsibility to manage my money wisely as I was playing an integral part in helping the family. This translated to me developing a habit to better manage my expenses for transportation, meals and to set aside an amount for future savings or a rainy day.

3. Obtaining a Wider Worldview and Skillset

Apart from having a greater appreciation of money, working part-time has allowed me to obtain a wider worldview and earn transferrable skills that prove to be applicable both in work and in my studies.

Working a part-time job (or even an internship) teaches you how to be street smart. In the real world, nothing is set in stone like the scenarios presented to us within a classroom setting. The dynamics of a job are ever-changing, and it is important to adapt and constantly adopt a proactive and problem-solving mindset.

(Photo Credits: Quickmeme)

I found myself developing and improving my emotional and situational intelligence, being observant of someone else’s body language and how they behaved before approaching them.

In the service industry, there’s a common saying of how “The customer is always right.” From the perspective of a service crew, though the saying holds true in the eyes of the customer, in reality, it does not. When approaching customers, exercising a certain degree of tact and humility proved to be useful.

Navigating the workplace proved to be a challenge too. I'm sure we are familiar with having to enter a new social or work environment and being unfamiliar with the social dynamics in play.

Most workplaces have a hierarchy of authority or seniority in place and being a newbie in the environment, you might get easily taken advantage of. It is important to stand up for yourself when necessary, especially in instances when intimidation and manipulation are largely present.

4. Importance of Interpersonal Skills

(Photo Credits: LATimes, Gettyimage)

Employment provides us with an opportunity to network and interact with people. In most jobs, interaction is essential, and this helps to build on a person’s confidence and speaking skills. I found my communication skills to have greatly improved as time went by which proved to be useful both at work and in school.

You learn how to traverse and navigate the work environment too, interacting with different personalities in the workplace while being sensitive to the cultural differences of the environment. You meet people from different educational and financial backgrounds and learn to work with them to achieve a common goal.

Having the right people skills are vital for any context and environment, as they help to create and maintain good relations and rapport with others. Good interpersonal skills allow for you to be approachable, relatable and well-liked among your peers.

5. Greater Appreciation for Others

Out of all the takeaways mentioned, I feel that the biggest and most important one would be an increase in awareness to express gratitude and appreciation for the people around me. Adopting such an outlook was not solely limited to my friends and family but towards people who worked in the F&B and service industry.

Generally, the customers that I have served have been rather pleasant and genuinely nice. However, once in a while, you do meet a nasty customer or two. While they may be having a bad day, I always thought to myself that it does not give us the excuse or entitlement to be nasty to other people.

Everyone is working to make a living for themselves, and we ought to be considerate to each other. We should do our best to place ourselves in their shoes and make an attempt to empathise with them too.

That being said, we may never know how they truly feel and the exact experiences they are going through. As such, the least we can do is treat them with common courtesy and respect deserving of a person.

(GIF Credits: GIPHY)

Final Thoughts

All in all, though having to work part-time while studying was something that I was not willing to take on by choice but rather circumstance, I would not have done things differently.

Studying and working each offer their own set of challenges. Having to take on both concurrently definitely heightened the levels of pressure but the returns were no doubt rewarding. I found myself to have grown and matured as a person and I do feel that the takeaways I have garnered from the experience would definitely aid me in my future endeavours too!

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