The main reason that many college students work is because they need the money to pay tuition and/or for living expenses. However, a paycheck is just one of the many benefits of a college job. To discuss some of those benefits, Jodi welcomed Kenna Griffin, an assistant professor in Oklahoma City University’s Mass Communications department (www.okcu.edu).
Since 2003, Kenna has been primarily teaching multimedia journalism, media law and ethics and public relations. She also serves as the university’s director of student publications, which employs about 30 students each semester (www.mediaocu.com).
Kenna advised students that they should focus on full-time studies if they can, but that it’s not a viable option for most. They should choose a job that aligns as closely as possible with what they want to do post-graduation and consider working on campus if possible.
Working on Campus Part-Time: The Pros
- Campus employment allows the student to become entrenched in collegiate life, while networking with officials.
- It also allows for scheduling that’s completely flexible with a student’s course schedule and extracurricular activities.
- Many campus jobs serve as a training ground for students’ future professions, such as student media or university relations.
Working on Campus Part-Time: The Cons
- Campus employment typically pays minimum wage for up to 20 hours a week, which is just not enough for some students.
- Campus jobs can be boring if the tasks are unrelated to the student’s goals or interests (like filing all day).
- There aren’t enough campus jobs for every student to have one.
Working Off-Campus: The Pros
- Students typically can make more money working off-campus because they either get paid more per hour and/or can work more hours.
- Students are networking off-campus, which is always a bonus.
- “Real world” job experience/internships are great resume builders; all students should do internships before graduation.
Working Off-Campus: The Cons
- Students don’t have as much flexibility in their schedules when working off campus.
- Work that is unrelated to a student’s post-graduation goals doesn’t help build their resume.
- It may be difficult for students to maintain a high GPA if they’re working too many hours or spending too much time commuting to an off-campus job.
Tips for Balancing Work and Academics
Students should be realistic about the number of hours they can work, as academics are a full-time job. They should be sure their work schedule is flexible enough to allow them to participate in non-academic campus activities too; you don’t get that time back. Try to work in a field related to your post-graduation goals, while building your resume.
Financial Aid Work-Study Programs
Students who receive financial aid work-study as part of their aid package should try to get work-study placement in a campus job that will build their professional experience. But they need to treat it as a “real” job, and make it a priority. Don’t forget that who you know is critical after college. Make a great impression, even if your job assignment is boring.
Branding Your Resume for Career Search
Focus on applying for jobs in your area of study/interest. Look for on-campus jobs that build your resume or expose you to influential people. Consider the benefit of volunteering and participating in campus organizations. These networking experiences also help build resumes.
Tips for Parents
Some parents find that their students are struggling to balance work and school. Kenna’s advice is that if the student’s grades are slipping, they need to cut back somewhere. A student who frequently is ill also likely is pushing too hard. Parents can help the student assess if they’re spending too much time socially, not sleeping enough, working too much, etc. Parents should trust their instincts; remember that college is also about learning time management, so support your child as much as possible so they can have a positive collegiate experience.
Priorities: Off-Campus Work vs. School Work
Be realistic with your employer about the number of hours you can work, making sure they understand that your schedule will change every semester. Work your tail off when you’re there, so they don’t resent the flexibility you require and make a great impression.
Kenna’s media blog is www.profkrg.com.
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