Working part time while at school
I’ve spent a good part of the course working part time; about nine months in total. The school doesn’t recommend it, but many people manage to fit it in. I’ve enjoyed it, and would happily make the same choice again. But there are a few things to consider. Namely, opportunity costs.
You’re paying a significant sum to gain access to the school’s tuition and resources. From an academic perspective, those who get most value from the course are those who’re actively engaged with the content; those doing the core reading, additional reading, assignments, thinking about how lessons apply to real-world problems, etc.
Everyone lies on a continuum from:
a) the perfect student (described above)
b) the student who forgets he is actually a student
Wherever you place yourself on that spectrum, an hour spent working is an hour spent not doing what a student is normally expected to do. And whatever you’re being paid for a term-time role is likely less than what you’re paying to be to attend school.
So the decision to work should be based on some serious analysis of what you’ll gain in return. Because taking 2-3 days out of your week will reduce your focus on academics and club activities. Even if you’re working in what used to be ‘free time’, you’ve now lost the option to do spend that time on whatever ad-hoc events may arise – sleep, a coffee meeting, an interesting talk, or just hanging around with friends.
Building the CV is the main reason why people choose to work. Particularly for those wanting to switch career, anything that demonstrates an interest in a ‘new’ field, is beneficial. If part time work is instrumental in landing a job post-graduation, then it is worth its weight in gold.
Specifically, this ‘new’ field should be one that doesn’t already have a long history of recruiting on campus and accepting career switchers. Investment banks and consultancies regularly hire people with no prior finance/consulting experience. For a summer internship role in these sectors, your time is better spent networking than doing a part-time gig.
However even when part-time work is appropriate, just remember the end goal. It’s important to do a good job and make a strong impression – but it’s perfectly reasonable to moderate any instinct you have to put in extra days, overtime, etc. Again, there are other school-related demands on your time.
In general, I’ve been surprised at the number of opportunities available for part-time projects. Opportunities in finance, marketing etc. appear on the careers board on a regular basis. And some deliberate networking might throw up other options at companies that hadn’t previously considered hiring.
The issue of trade-offs is particularly stark as term-time roles may not offer much cash. Many firms will cover expenses only. (Formal summer internships are a different matter). For better or for worse, firms are aware that students want/need experience, so aren’t under pressure to bid up wages. Indeed smaller entrepreneurial firms may not have the budget to offer a large salary even if they wanted to.
None of this is to say part-time roles should be avoided. You just need to be clear about what you’ll get out of it career-wise and what you may need to sacrifice.