I did my fair share of wacky shit at university. I took 2k worth of  borrowed camera equipment out for an assignment one night then casually abandoned it in O’neills, Leicester Square when a guy I was seeing at the time charmed me out after I’d been filming. I somehow got everything back in tact – equipment AND footage. I used lectures as hangover recovery time, worked on essays overnight because I forgot the deadline and once stayed up until 5am playing strip poker with a band. Who I was interviewing on student TV the next day.

Apple store photo
Guess where I worked while I got a degree…

All the above is very naughty, and certainly might go a little way to explaining why I ended up being 6 marks off a first. I never did quibble that 2:1. Hilariously though, one thing you could never call me at uni was lazy. I worked hard while I studied, and because I ensured I had money I had more freedom to do pretty much anything I wanted instead of being a slave to the bank statement. Here’s a few things that will seriously be of benefit if you’re working throughout university.

Independence

Neither of my parents went to university themselves, and though they supported my decision to go it was on the condition that I financially supported myself. This wasn’t always a thing I enjoyed, but when you’re in the mindset that you have to watch that bank account for yourself. You also have the power to make your own small-scale financial decisions; it won’t always be the right one, but if you’re going to fuck up a bit, now is the best time to do it and learn from it.

Splashing out

My part time job brought in about £500 per month (I worked 16 hours per week, equal to 2 full day shifts) which covered my rent, leaving my student loan to pay for food, going out and generally being an arse. It was awesome, and certainly made up for the fact that I didn’t really have weekends. Having earned that money to cover the bulk of my expenses, I managed to afford my first ever ticket to a festival (Glastonbury 09 baby!) and my beloved MacBook*, which I still treat with more care than I would my own child.

Glastonbury 09
One very smug festival virgin. Thanks paycheck.

If you’re looking for your first uni job, it might be a good idea to try and work one weekend day and fill out your other hours with evening shifts if possible. Though losing your weekend to industry isn’t the end of the world – it’ll make you appreciate that lovely holiday allowance all the more when it rolls around… and it’s not as if you can’t go out with your mates when you’re done for the day.

*Note:  It’s not necessarily a good plan to do as I did with your cash, but there’s nothing anyone can do about that now.

CV assets

I’m going to go ahead and assume the majority of people are studying in order to gain career prospects. With that in mind, do you KNOW how great it looks that you were intelligent, organised and motivated enough to work and study at the same time? Believe me, such a show of dedication will put you streaks ahead of the rest when you go out into that saturated job market to prove to someone you’re worth a shot at employment.

A place to fall back

You know what, university doesn’t work out for everyone. Sometimes it isn’t what you thought or where you’re studying might not end up being the right fit for you, but finding this out without a job to fall back on can be pretty tough. If the higher education malarky goes to pot, you will need to be able to support yourself and maybe even, for the time being, be able to look at future prospects in your current workplace. This way, you are in a prime position to make your next key decision (i.e. you can afford to eat and relocate).

Connections

I actually made more friends at my student job than in uni, many of which I will know for years to come and who really support The High Tea Cast and me in equal measure with love and devotion (lucky me!). Another key thing I did whilst working there was to use my holiday allowance to work internships.

Now then. Internships, for the most part, will not be paid. No it’s not fair, but you’ll have to man up and deal with it at some point. Having counted them up on my CV, it turns out I worked a total of internships during and just after university. When I came to be interviewed for what was first graduate job after uni, this experience was actually what swung my job there. My 2:1 in journalism actually hasn’t counted for much.

Additionally, I made really key contacts there who are still valuable to me today. It’s so important to work hard and never burn bridges when you’re given an opportunity, because so much of your working life is going to rely on who you know. And check out the cool things I get to say I’ve done now!

Lea and Mel B
Interviewing Mel B whilst interning at Closer magazine
First published article
First article published in a national newspaper while interning at Daily Express. Framed by an adorable friend at my Saturday job. See what I mean?

This education/unemployment thing is a vicious circle – no one ever said it would be easy. But the pain isn’t half eased with a bit of Saturday cash on the hip.

Looking for a great way to earn money whilst studying? Check out Task Squad, an youth focussed temp agency run just for 18-25 year olds to help them get a foot on the ladder. Best of all, all the tasks are paid! 

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