Survival Jobs: Tips to Balance Your Work and Study Life as a Student

The life of a student is one of the most experience-filled years that they can have. But, with great fun, comes great responsibilities. By responsibilities we mean supporting yourself, making strides in independence and making it to the other side of adulthood. That said, students don’t have it easy when they are trying to balance academia with survival jobs. This is especially true if that student is just starting on their journey. 

According to Statistics Canada, young people who were not in school full-time saw an employment rate of around 79 per cent. If we look at an older demographic of ages 25 to 30, the employment rate was around 84 per cent in 2019 as per their reports. Some examples of jobs that students in Canada might take up include warehouse workers, servers, sales reps, Uber drivers and so on.

Now, if we consider students who are just starting at university full-time, who have classes, extra-curricular activities and personal lives, well, you don’t have to try hard to see what a full plate they have to deal with. No matter how much they have on their hands, taking up a survival job might be crucial to them being able to support themselves throughout their years of education. This leaves a very important question to be answered: What can students do to balance their work and study lives.

Tip #1 - Time Management

Time management is probably the most important aspect of maintaining that balance between survival jobs and studies. Keeping on top of school assignments, homework, readings, exams and classes can be a lot to handle. Not to mention that if you live off-campus, you have to consider the whole commute.

To work around this issue, create a plan of attack. Get familiar with how many hours you need to work your shifts and how many hours you need to put into your studies. You might not be able to get everything done in a single day. But remember this is all about optimizing your time spent. It’s fair to say that you might not find a lot of free time on your hands, but hey, it’s a small price.

Tip #2 - Take Advantage of Job/University Flexibility

Even temp jobs come with benefits, holidays and flexibility. Talk to your boss and get as much flexibility into your daily routine as possible. Even before you take up the job, make sure you know exactly how many hours it would demand. Only take up a job that can provide you with this flexibility like working on weekends or after classes.

Keep in mind that in recent years, even universities have started moving towards classroom models that cater to students that have to work survival jobs.

Survival jobs are flexible most often

Schools are tailoring services and classes for nights and weekends as well as extended library hours so that young adults can lead sufficiently balanced work/study lives.

Tip #3 - Get a Schedule Going

Creating a well-thought-out schedule for yourself with all the important deadlines is an invaluable asset. It may seem like a small thing, but the reality is, that you have two lives to juggle. Between trying to keep a track of your flexible shifts and all the exams, classes and assignments, your head is bound to explode. Take that excess pressure off yourself and create a manageable schedule.

You can make a schedule on your phone, or laptop or go old-school with a written timetable. It not only helps you keep track of everything, but the visual satisfaction of crossing something off that list is unparalleled. There is a reason that professionals use schedules you know.

Make sure that you also plan for unexpected events and work crises. Maybe the boss will want you to work an extra shift to cover someone else. You may not be able to plan this out down to every detail, but just block off enough time for these events and keep that schedule flexible as well. Plan work and studies around each other. At the end of the day, it’s all about being prepared for the worst which will allow you to experience the best possible outcome of these situations.

“Excellence is not a skill. It is an attitude.” – Ralph Marston, American football player

With survival jobs, work smarter not harder

Tip #4 - Work Smarter Not Harder

If you’re looking to do one or the other, you might find yourself burning the candles at both ends. Yes, you shouldn’t bite off more than you can chew with survival jobs or education, but if you have proper time management, scheduling and make use of your flexible benefits, then you can tackle both work and school at the same time.

For example, study a few chapters on your work break. When you have downtime between classes you can plan your next steps, coordinate with work and so on.

It can be more effective to tackle smaller sections of your academics than sitting for 11 hours straight and cramming.

Tip #5 - Manage Stress and Watch for Burn-Out

Finally, we would recommend that you pay close attention to your stress levels. No matter how much you plan and no matter how proactive you are, things can become too heavy to cope with. Stress is an inevitable part of a student’s life, working or not. Make sure that in between trying to balance survival jobs and academics, you take breaks.

Find time for a solid night’s sleep, exercise, social outings and hobbies. The most important part of maintaining that balance is to ensure that you don’t burn out. You will know that you are burning out if you find yourself falling asleep in class, becoming irritable, lacking concentration or your diet is 80 per cent coffee and 20 per cent insomnia.

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