In this post we will go through how to find a part time job as a student. We will do it step by step, from building a good student CV & cover letter (regardless of experience); to finding job opportunities, and ultimately performing during interviews.
Finding a student job while at university is not easy. It can be very frustrating at times, particularly if you actually need some extra money to sustain yourself.
Some students lack work experience to put on their CV; others have some previous experience, but they struggle to find jobs to apply for; many who manage to apply are then rejected or never hear back.
Unsurprisingly, the competition for those jobs is also very high, which makes it even harder.
Even if you don’t have work experience to put on your CV as a student, don’t worry about it! At some point you will have start gaining some right?
Doing it while at university might be a good idea. Mind that many jobs do not ask for previous experience but for other things as we’ll see later.
Best industries to find a part time student job
In term of industries to work in as a student, the key is flexibility. In that regard, the most flexible industries are commonly hospitality, retail and customer service.
The nature of their services means they can offer unusual work patterns (shifts) covering weekends and evenings, which are perfect for university students.
However, remote working has never been more popular nowadays. This means that you could also find customer service/support roles completely online.
Moreover, if you have some IT literacy you could also apply for data entry or IT technical support type roles, which are always in demand.
What does flexibility in a student job really mean?
Flexibility and time management are key, and again that’s why those industries above (not always), are good for student jobs.
You might think that evenings/weekends shifts is what make certain roles more suitable for students. That is certainly important, but not the only aspect to consider.
A flexible student job also means that, either by contract or by having a good relationship with managers, you will be able to increase/decrease your work hours according to your university schedule.
How many hours a week should I work at university?
A very common concern among student is how many hours to work while at university. The reality is that an exact number does not exist, it all depends on your personal situation.
Most universities will suggest to not exceed a certain threshold (usually around 15hrs a week). However, some students are able to work more (even full-time in some cases), others less than that threshold.
Again, it all depends on personal factors, e.g. the number of hours your degree actually requires you to commit in a week (or days); or your financial situation.
Once you get a student job, the best thing to do is to assess it yourself. If you can work only 15hrs a week, do that; if less, do less, if more do more.
A very important suggestion here is to consider this your “study and work balance”, and not the other way around!
The important thing to do here is to set your priority number 1: university (presumably), then everything else needs to be planned around it, from work to social life.
How to get a part time student job, step by step
We will now go through how to get a student job step by step. In order to do this effectively, we will split this process in 3 parts as follows:
- How to make a good student CV and cover letter (with tips and suggestions).
- Where to look for a student job, in person and online (step by step research).
- What to say during a job interview as a student (how to establish trust).
1. Make a good student CV and cover letter (suggestions below)
The first step is to build a good CV. There are hundreds of free templates you can download and use for that.
Many are actually available in Microsoft Word (go to File-New and then type in the search bar: resume, CV, curriculum etc); there is no need to pay for a CV template!
The formatting, font, whether or not to use a picture and so on, are all down to your preferences, there is no right or wrong.
Some students like to be very creative with their CV, others prefer a more standard version.
List anything you have, work experience; education; volunteering; competitions; sports; hobbies, languages (even if just English, just put “proficient in written and spoken” etc).
What’s really important here is that brief description of those, each needs to be filled with skills! Don’t just state what you did or studied.
If you are looking for some guidance on how to write a student CV (regardless of previous experience); we have explained it in detail in our guide on how to create the perfect student profile on LinkedIn.
Obviously, if you don’t have a student profile on LinkedIn at all, the suggestion here is to create one asap!
How to write a cover letter as a student
What to write in a cover letter as a student? Whereas your student CV should be more concise and straight to the point, your cover letter as a student can take a slightly less “formal” approach.
You could divide this in three parts as follows:
- Who are you? (a brief introduction of yourself, your ambitions, your life!)
- Your skills; (give more information on those listed in your CV; e.g. multitasking, problem solving, time management, work under pressure etc, how did you obtain those?)
- Why you want to work in that industry; Now let’s expand on this point in particular.
Consider point 1 and 2 as standard, like a template. Then create multiple versions of your student cover letter but with a different point 3.
For example, one for the customer service industry; e.g. “I am very interested in a role in customer service as I believe it suits my problem solving skills and general interest for the industry…”
Or hospitality; “I am passionate about hospitality and I believe my multitasking skills would allow me to deliver an excellence experience to guests/customers.”
You get the trend, something along those lines as well for retail, events and other industries. You want to combine both, your interest for the industry and how your skills will help you fit in the role, which is something hiring managers always look for!
Few tips on CV and cover letter as a student
Set some time aside to put together a solid CV and cover letter first. You can make those compelling and find a job as a student even without any work experience.
Remember to use all those words and transferrable skills just like we explained for a LinkedIn profile! (Time-management, working under pressure, multitasking etc.)
Save both, CV and cover letter, as PDF! If you don’t know how to do it, go to file-export-pdf, that’s it.
This is important as sometimes, when you send them as word.doc the formatting goes all over the place. You won’t notice, that but the recipient will see a mess!
When applying by email, remember to include the company’s name and job position you are applying for in your email, make it clear!
You could also set something into your cover letter templates so that you include them (and remember to change!!) every time you apply for another job.
Basically, the more you can tailor your application to the position you are applying for the better, quality over quantity!
2. Split your student job research!
Ok now that you have your student CV and cover letter, we can move to step 2. This involves a bit of planning, just like you would plan your study week.
Basically, you need to split your student job search in two: in person and online. We will have a look at both as they offer different opportunities, and require different approaches:
Looking for a student job in person
Let’s start with this “on field job research” as it is often overlooked in the digital era. However, this is still a great way to find a part time student job!
It’s a simple concept, most students do their job research online mainly, while fewer actually go around applying with their CV directly.
This is a huge mistake, you should do both! Applying for a job in person is still very effective. Mind that many businesses, particularly small and family-run, do not advertise vacancies online.
They still rely on word of mouth and sticking a vacancy sign on their shop window. Therefore, if you don’t go around looking for them you will never have a chance.
How to find a student job hunt in person, a step-by-step guide
Now let’s see a step-by-step guide on how to find a student job in person:
- Set a day or two per week, print a good bunch of CVs (you won’t need a cover letter for this).
- Select few areas of the city; if you’re not familiar with it use google maps to check where most coffee shops, restaurants, retail stores etc are placed. Start with the closest to your accommodation (the closer you find a job the better) and then move further away.
- Start in the morning, get a shower, dress a bit more formally (smart casual), spray some perfume and you are ready to go.
- Prioritize those who have a vacancy sign on their shop window; don’t just go in and leave your CV, ask to speak with the manager/owner. Simply leaving a CV is not that different from sending it by email! Add value to it, explain your situation, your availability, why you want/need a job, willingness to learn etc. Be honest, establishing trust is the key here.
- Avoid busy hours, e.g., if applying for a vacancy in a restaurant do it in the morning so that the manager can probably talk to you. As opposed to that, avoid coffee shops when they’re busy in the morning and so on.
- Ultimately, be confident! Even if you don’t have work experience, a manager/owner always appreciate proactive people. The fact that you are there in person, smartly dressed and presenting yourself is already a huge plus!
As you are coming back from your student job hunt, drop off some CVs to other places too. Obviously prioritize those with an open vacancy sign, but it might be worth asking where there is no sign too.
You never know, sometimes a bit of luck is also needed!
Looking for a student job online
There are quite a few websites where you can find job offers, Indeed, Reed, LinkedIn and so on as you probably know.
Those also allow you to upload your CV and create a profile for recruiters to find you (remember to enable the option that makes your profile visible).
A suggestion here is to avoid putting your phone number on those websites (or on the CV you make publicly visible) to avoid scammers calls.
Another suggestion is to create an email address just for your job applications, it would be easier to keep track of those (and avoid overloading your main one with spam emails too).
When you search jobs on those sites, use the filters properly (from newest to oldest, part-time etc). This will lead to a better search result, and you will waste less time scrolling down jobs you don’t need to see!
Also mind that most likely the same jobs could be advertised on all those platforms. Again, keeping track of your applications would avoid making them twice.
How to find an online job as a student
When you find a job you want to apply for, three outcomes are possible:
- You apply straight with your profile (LinkedIn is great for that);
- You are taken to the company’s website to make an online application (frustrating as you will basically manually insert your CV);
- Or, you are asked to send your CV and cover letter by email.
Always send your CV and cover letter as PDF, even if submitting through an online portal if allowed (it should be).
Some applications, especially for large companies, will require to get through some tests. These are often called “situational judgement tests”.
Situational judgement test tips
If you are not familiar with those, you are basically presented with some work scenarios, e.g., dealing with upset customers, difficult colleagues etc.
Then, you will have to choose one answer (multiple choice style) or rank what you would do from most to least likely.
The mistake here is to answer the way you think they want you to! Do not overthink it, answer exactly how you would if in that situation, and not what you think it’s more “appropriate”.
Mind that these tests are also designed to spot those who don’t answer subjectively.
They will ask similar questions but worded very differently every now and then to see if you are coherent in your answers.
There is no person assessing it, it’s all automated! This means that, if you are not coherent, you’ll most likely appear as an “outlier” in the result and therefore fail to pass.
3. How to perform during a student job Interview
Ok so we are now in the final step on how to find a job as a student. We started by creating a solid CV and cover letter; and then we split the job research between in person and online.
After all applications done and CVs left around, it would not be a surprise if you got some interviews lined up. Even if not, do not give up!
Keep doing online applications and sending your CV around, go in new areas in person and so on. Finding a job as a student is not easy, but if you give up it is basically impossible.
Also mind that some applications might take weeks before getting back to you!
Why finding a job as a student is so hard?
As mentioned earlier, the problem with finding a student job, other than the competition, is establishing trust. Why?
Unfortunately, as you probably know, students don’t have a fantastic reputation with employers. Is that true? Yes and no…
Yes because there are many stories of students not showing up at work without any specific reason or calling first.
Or others calling in sick and then posting on social media while partying. There are many stories of this kind coming from employers.
No because these things do not only happen with students, although there definitely is a trend there.
Put it this away, all students pay the price of the for the unprofessional actions of few. It’s a repeating life pattern, students are not exempt.
How to prepare for face to face job interview as a student
Focus on the problem above! Obviously, skills and motivation are important too, and you will discuss those when going through your CV with the interviewer.
However, let’s be honest here, we are talking about jobs that will train you from the very basics most of the time.
This is why not having any work experience as a student is not the end of the world. You will mainly need to show willingness to learn.
So what to say during an interview for a student job? Solve the problem above! Talk about reliability, that if you commit to a job you take it seriously.
Discuss your potential availability with clarity, outline when you might need some time off due to university work (planning ahead).
Be honest, explain that sometimes there might be certain events you would like to attend (whatever e.g. societies, parties); and that you will try to work around those with them in advance (without having to invent excuses or not show up at work).
Vice versa, mention that you can be flexible too; that you can come in for extra hours if they are very busy and struggling; or maybe someone is sick and you can cover a shift (again, reliability and commitment).
Obviously, only do that if you really can with no disruptions to your studies, university comes first!
How to prepare for an online job interview as a student
If you are having an online interview, presumably we are talking about a larger company.
Again, as well as your CV, skills, motivation and so on, establishing trust is very important, so definitely consider what said above.
However, there are other tips we can go through. They will most likely ask you what you know about the company and why you want to work there.
As per questions, split this in two: firstly, research about the company beforehand and the sector/industry in which they operate (remember those lines in the cover letter?).
Secondly, research about the company’s values! They always like to hear that. Find values they strive to achieve on their website and think about how they align with yours.
It will be easier to then talk about that and justify why you want to work there!
Lastly, many companies still use the STAR interview technique (Situation-Task-Action-Result). Get ready for that with some examples!
It doesn’t matter how relevant you think your example is to the job, just make sure it follows the STAR structure. (here an overview of the STAR method from the National Career Service in case you don’t know what it is).
Useful resources for student jobs often overlooked
If you are not sure about your CV and cover letter, book an appointment with your university student career service.
They deal with hundreds, thousands of student CVs at any levels, I’m sure they can help (and it’s free).
Moreover, most universities have their career portal (you should have access through your student portal, check that!).
Usually, on there you can find unique job opportunities (including placements/internships) accessible only by students.
What about university jobs as well? From student accommodations to catering; from conferences to cafes; visitor stores and campus ambassadors/guides; university can be an actual employer too!
Attend the university career fair, whether virtually or in person. All universities rely on numerous partnerships with large global companies as well as small local ones.
Although those will mainly focus on graduate/internship opportunities, you could also find other student job opportunities.
Other uncommon places to look for student jobs
Starting from the last one, career fairs. Universities are not the sole organisers of those; just google your city + career fair and see what comes up in the results!
Attend those (bring your CV), these could be much better opportunities to find a part time job as a student. Why? Basically, all students attend university career fairs, therefore sharing similar availability and needs.
On the other hand, less students attend external career fairs, meaning that your “competition” there has very different needs.
That might give you an advantage to find a job as a student!
Don’t forget local recruitment agencies! Whereas websites such as LinkedIn, Indeed, Reed etc. are great to find student jobs in popular companies/chains, local recruitment agencies deal with smaller (and local) companies.
They might have job opportunities that are not advertised elsewhere, it is definitely worth sending them your CV and cover letter explaining your situation and what you are looking for.
Events and catering agencies are also another great option for student jobs. They can involve both, hospitality and customer service shifts, including large sports events, concerts, conference centres and other large hospitality venues.
Usually they offer a “0 hours contract”, which, among many drawbacks, is great for flexibility.
How to find a job as a student, conclusions
Finding a job as a student can be very difficult (and frustrating) at times. In this post we wanted to tackle that difficulty by providing a thorough step by step guide.
Students face a unique set of challenges which vary from competition between themselves (everyone offering similar skills, availability e.g. weekends) to the reputation of being “unreliable”.
Most students also limit their job research to online applications only, which is not ideal. Many smaller and family-run businesses still rely on word of mouth and vacancy signs on their shop windows, missing on those is a huge mistake.
Hopefully will help help those students struggling to get a job alongside their studies. If you are in a more advanced stage of your studies, an internship might be a better option in line with your future career.
Again, if you are looking for some guidance and tips on that, in this other post we explained how to get an internship.
Thank you for reading and supporting this independent blog!
As usual, let us disclaim the obvious. Please mind that everything you read on this blog is based on the authors’ opinions, experience and research. Therefore, consider it as an opinion only.
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