Career Advice

Should You Work While You Study?

Posted by Samantha
min read
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As recruiters, we look at resumes all day. Occasionally we come across a resume from a recent University graduate, indicating that they have no work experience and have never held a job.

Now, I understand people’s situations are different. I went to high school and University with a couple of people whose parents actually paid them a monthly ‘work’ allowance, so that they did not have to work while they studied.

Coming from a distinctly different home situation, I have been in the workforce since I was 14. My parents encouraged me to make money for myself, so that I could buy myself the things I wanted. I worked casually whilst in high school, full time over the summer holidays and multiple part time jobs whilst studying at University. Not to toot my own horn (there’s a point to this blog), but I still found time to study and achieve above average grades during this time.

Let’s say you’ve just graduated University with a legal degree and now you want to find work as a legal secretary to gain some experience before being admitted. You have never had a job before and are now competing against people who have 5-25 years of experience as a legal secretary. If a hiring manager asked me to source a legal secretary, they would want someone who has experience in a similar position and wouldn’t really be that flexible to trade away this requirement. So in this instance, the person with the experience, but without the degree, would have a higher chance of securing this particular hiring manager’s vacancy.

Now, let’s say that while you were studying, you worked part time at a law firm. Perhaps you only worked a few hours each week. Although you didn’t work many hours, you have some experience working in a professional environment and you have also made contacts and connections with people who may even be able to assist you in the future. I have met many people who have worked part time with a legal firm during their studies and secured a graduate position for themselves within the same organisation…and I know how hard it is to find legal graduate roles!

I understand that education is important and people feel it is better to put all of their time and effort into studying rather than working part time. However, in my opinion, (and remember this is merely an opinion based blog), I believe this could set you back in your future career when you begin looking for your first ‘real’ job in your desired field.  

When someone is asked why they have not had a job before, I often hear, “I was studying for my Bachelor’s Degree.” This is of course understandable, but what did you do over your summer breaks? Could you have worked in a law firm during this time? What did you do on your weekends? Could you have managed to work a 6 hour shift in retail during this time?

Many professional service companies, like to see that people have continued their education and learning experiences whilst working in some form of employment. This demonstrates that you may have the following attributes such as; time management, organisation and ambition. Work experience as well as ‘who you know’ can be very important factors for your career, but so is being able to demonstrate to potential employers, the abovementioned skills.