Work-University Balance

They say that life is about balance – right amount of veggies on your plate, right amount of sleep and fun and the right amount of cash to have the fun.

For many people, starting university life can bring a whole range of events that need to be added on to an already busy life – it can be a time when you move out for the first time, or you suddenly get a whole new bunch of friends, or the assignments are suddenly more time consuming.

For those of us who move out and start uni, a growing fact of importance becomes work and money. It’s all very well to be learning great mind-blowing facts about your future career, but when your stomachs’ growling and your roommates are messaging you saying the water bill is a week overdue, learning and university seem to continually slip down the list of priorities.

There have been many times since moving into my own place, that university has unfortunately made that slip down the list of priorities. A human has certain basic needs – we need to be sheltered, clothed and full. This last one is usually the first to suffer.

For me, its’ become the difference between the long and short-term goals – long term goal, become rich and fabulously successful in dream career. Short term goal, buying another doona and finding a pack of pasta for under 35c so I can eat this week. These differences usually mean that the more fantastic dream is pushed aside.

When work won’t let no mean no

If you’re a shift worker this will continue to happen – work ring you up at 7 am and ask if you can come in at 10 am. You say you have uni. They never openly or fully threaten (that would be foolish), but they say if you do this, you can have extra time next week or you’ll get a bigger share of the tips or, on the darker side, imply that by missing this shift, might mean you won’t get any more for the week. Which is good for the study timetable, and terrible for the bank account.

So 9 times out of 10 you’re going to go in, and miss that one lecture or tute, or several lectures and tutes that you had that day.

The knock on effect

But what if you don’t have a job that changes the hours? What if those hours just happen to be 9 pm to 6 am, three nights a week? It doesn’t technically interfere at all with your uni hours – you’re not missing out on any class by following those hours. But you are missing out on precious sleep, and a chance to recharge. After weeks and months of this sort of shift work, it begins to drain. Again, university is the one that suffers.

You turn up and fall asleep at the desk, or don’t turn up at all, because sometimes the bed is just too comfortable to leave.

Should I stay or should I go?

So you’ve got a horrible job that massively interferes with university, and you’re not eligible for Centrelink benefits. The problem is particularly in the wake of the global financial crisis it’s harder to find jobs – or the only jobs you do find are selling roof tiles on the phone to someone in south East Asia.  But if you’re struggling with your work/uni balance, start looking at getting another job.
Sometimes it’s about luck, or timing, with finding a better job – and sometimes it’s about thinking outside the square. Look for opportunities to earn some money.
•    Is a friend of your parents complaining about their old-fashioned paint job on their fence? Hey, it’s not that hard to work a paintbrush! You might only get $50 for it, but every little bit helps.
•    There are job opportunities out in the market at the moment centering on viral promotions – that is, basically, spending your days on the Internet convincing people that something is awesome. Twitter updates, facebook statuses and blogs can all become ways to make money.
•    Blogs  Google now offers advertising on blogs, with more money coming in the more traffic you can attract.
•    Apply for everything – if a job looks out of your league, who cares. It just means you get a little more practice at writing cover letters, and someone has to read your CV. Go for it. Sometimes you could get a lucky break.
•    University specific job sites are also a good way to go – they have a much smaller market of applicants – so check out the one affiliated with your university and have a look there.
The most important thing is don’t trust the ease of Internet applications – especially if you’re looking to work in retail or hospitality. The majority of jobs in these industries never make it to publication. Just go in and hand your resume in, you want to be in these industries, you can’t have any problems talking to people!

Be realistic

You’re probably not going to get a good job, with a friendly supportive boss and hours that leave plenty of time for a social life and study. Be aware of it, and plan. Careful lists and calendar dates will become your friend.
Remember, the sooner you ask for something, the more likely you’ll get it. Find out you’ve got a massive assignment due in 6 weeks? Ask for the weekend before off now, as soon as you know. Get a call that you’ve got a to work for a solid week? Tell you lecturer or tutor and get the work. Or at least let them know you won’t be there. They’re human. They should understand. (If they don’t…well, you tried the right thing)
For those of you who remember things more visually get a calendar – workdays are red, important assignments are blue. Sort it out. And do it as soon as possible. When time is on your side, you’ll be amazed at how much more smoothly everything seems to run.

In the end…

Just remember that whatever job you have now is only temporary, and one day it will be an amusing story to pass on to your children to encourange them to get through their working days. Try and remember the long term situation – at the end of the day doing well at university will ensure that you’ll never have to do a menial job again, that’s why we go to university.


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