While picking up a job early in the semester may seem like a good idea for additional income, caution must be taken to ensure the added stress does not build up later in the semester as class workloads increase.
Feruzan Irani Williams, professor of management at the Texas Tech Rawls College of Business, said she commonly sees this issue arise among students she mentors. During the early parts of the semester, students will add a job to fill their free time, but can find themselves overworked later in the year as classes get more difficult.
“Toward the end, and unless you’re a first year student, you had enough experience to know at what point in the semester stuff starts ramping up and so I asked them, ‘Well if this was the end of the semester, what would you have to give in all of these classes?’ and ‘Can you handle that along with the job?,’” she said. “More often than not they’ll say, ‘Yes, oh yeah, I could do that, it’s not a big deal,’ and then toward the end of the semester is when I start to hear ‘Oh I wish I hadn’t done this.’”
Williams said she also makes sure students factor in the added time commitment from student organizations, as over-committing to several things outside of class can have negative repercussions as classes intensify.
“But you have to be strategic. You can’t just say, ‘Well this is interesting and this is interesting.’,” Williams said. “I’ll put that you have to be strategic, otherwise you’re going to be spread so thin you’re going to be able to do nothing, and then your classes are going to suffer.”
When looking for a job, Williams said she tells students to make sure and consider what impact a potential job could have outside of financial stability. Adding a job that can be put on a résumé can also be a factor to consider.
“I would say be more strategic, that’s the word I would use,” Williams said. “Because yes, you want a job that will help financially, but if you can couple that with a job that will help your resume in the sense of if I’m doing this for my degree.”
One benefit to having a job that can provide relevant work experience is it could potentially give extra incentive to stick with the job even as the semester continues, Williams said.
“You know sometimes you need to talk to yourself and be able to ask, ‘Look, if I’m putting it on my résumé, is it going to help me with my future job or future career, and if it’s me helping me make money right now,’ and that might mitigate the need to have an internship as well,” Williams said.
If at any point early in the semester one determines a job may be already stressing them out, Williams said it is easier to make a decision to part ways with that job early rather than months down the line when the struggles have already crossed into academics.
“Well if it’s stressful right at the beginning of the semester, it’s going to be 100 times worse on you as the semester goes on,” Williams said. “And then you have to quit and by the time you realize you have to quit a job, your grades have already suffered.”
Jerry Stevens, professor of management at the Rawls College of Business, said there are several factors to consider when taking a job, such as if the employer would be willing to lessen the workload as the semester drags on.
“Well, obviously, it’s going to be very difficult to do a 40-hour work week,” Stevens said, “And so you need, you need to find a job that the company will allow you to fit your schedule, and that you can work and arrange your schedule.”
Stevens said he suggests a part-time job for students looking for added income, as a full-time job could complicate things.
“But if you get beyond more than part time at 20 hours a week, that really begins to put a stress on your ability to compete academically, so you have to be very, very careful about the number of hours you work,” Stevens said.
Another factor to consider is while paying off college by working may seem beneficial, if this process adds another few semesters onto one’s expected graduation date, it might be easier to just focus on college, Stevens said.
“The next one is all of those are considerations when it comes to finding a job. If you’re in, or enrolled in college, your first obligation is to get out of college,” Stevens said. “And so you don’t want to do anything that’s going to hinder and make that more difficult. However, the other side of that is if you can pay your way and not have to go into debt to go to school, you’re going to be well ahead of a lot of other people once you’re out.”
If a student can find the proper balance of work, scholarships and aid to not incur debt while in college, Stevens said he suggests that route.
“I used to think that someone working could probably get by in four and a half years,” Stevens said. “Now, if you can work and still get out at five or five and a half without incurring debt, then you’re going to be well off. The debt is going to be the huge issue, that’s the really big issue for most students.”