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Why doing more than one job while you’re a student can expand your horizons

It’s pretty standard to have a part-time or casual job during high school or university.

But the growth of the gig economy –through sites such as Uber or Airtasker, or even short-term contract work – means it’s becoming more common for enterprising students to be getting more than one pay cheque at a time.

Working across multiple jobs likely means there’ll be more cash in the bank, which you might need to support yourself through uni, buy that car or save for a stint overseas.

But the new skills you learn, plus the exposure to different industries and contacts, could also give you a surprising career edge down the track.

Gavin Walker, manager of graduate recruitment services at Deakin, gives us the heads-up on a few things to consider if you’re keen to do the job juggle

How to find more than one job

So what’s the best way to search for extra work – whether it’s a second or third part-time job, a short contract during the holidays, or ad hoc work?

You could land two different jobs that are traditionally popular among students – such as working a couple of nights at a bar, plus a day or two in a café, supermarket or retail store, Walker says.

You might find an office-based role on a Saturday or Sunday that’s more aligned with the degree you’re studying. Or if you’re a construction student, for example, you might do some labouring work on a building site.

Sites such as Airtasker provide all kinds of opportunities (some better paid than others) to turn your hand from anything from painting a fence, to designing a logo or moving someone’s fridge.

Sidekicker lists everything from seasonal retail work, to office administration and event set-up.

The benefits of more than one job

Let’s not deny the lure of cold hard cash. But Walker says balancing multiple jobs could also impress future employers, who will admire your skills, and your time management while juggling various responsibilities.

If you’re working in the gig economy, for instance, you’re developing a range of skills you may not be aware of. ‘You’re talking to multiple people, you’re having to manage your own time,’ says Walker.

While selling yourself during a future job interview, you could draw on this experience to prove you can build relationships quickly and do quality work under time constraints, he says.

Setting up your own photography or music gigs can also demonstrate your skills in doing your own sales pitches, and managing your capabilities.

Walker says holding multiple jobs will also mean you’re accustomed to working – and concentrating – for long periods of time once you eventually step into full-time work.

The potential downsides

The question is, if you’re already flat-chat studying, could adding to your workload be detrimental to your stress levels and uni marks?

‘I guess most of it’s about balance, but that comes down to each individual,’ Walker says.

‘At the end of the day my personal take on it is, you’re at university, you’re paying a large sum of money to get that degree, so that’s where your focus needs to be.’

'I guess most of it’s about balance, but that comes down to each individual.'

Gavin Walker,
Graduate Employment, Deakin University

However Walker says he’s also an avid believer that uni is the best time to try new things, because if you fail, you’ll likely bounce back pretty quickly. And in most cases you won’t yet have children or a mortgage to worry about.

To be on the safe side, Walker recommends having a confidant you can chat to if you find yourself getting too stressed or overloaded – a situation that is best avoided.

‘If this happens, you’re going to end up letting down an employer who’s not going to give you a great reference, you’re going to end up suffering in your course work, or your personal life as well,’ he says.

Should you find a job in line with your course?

Ideally, yes, Walker says. If there is the opportunity to find work in your industry, you’ll hopefully build networks and open the ‘hidden job market’. 

Of course a solid reference from a law firm, accounting firm or construction company, for instance, will go in your favour when going for a graduate job.

But Walker says any job, if presented correctly, can help your future career. Worked in a kitchen? Then don’t focus on the pots and pans, but more on the fact you may have trained others, or filled in as manager, Walker says.

‘You could work in an aligned industry for four months and not be able to articulate what skills you’ve actually learned, and someone will usurp you who’s worked in a fast food restaurant because they’ve got a narrative and an ability to talk about what they can bring to the table,’ he says.

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Gavin Walker
Gavin Walker

Manager, Graduate Employment, Deakin University

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