Finding a part time job as a student is not an easy thing to do. It can also be very frustrating at times, even more if you actually really need some extra money.
Some students lack work experience to put on their CV; others have some 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. In this article I will share my ultimate guide on how to find a part time job as a student.
My work experience as a full-time student
I have always had a part time job while at university. During those years I have worked in hospitality (mainly), customer service, events and retail jobs.
Those are the most common industries to get part time student jobs, mostly due to their flexibility.
It is important to say that I did have quite a lot of work experience in hospitality. This allowed me to change quite a few jobs as a student, so hopefully I can give you some good tips.
In fact, I started university at 26 because I actually wanted to “escape” from those industries and minimum wage jobs. (here you can find my story if you want to know more)
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.
Work and study balance
In terms of study and work balance, I have always asked myself “How many hours a week should I work as a full-time university student?”
Well, my university guidelines said not to exceed 15hrs a week, but I did. I would say I worked on average 25hrs per week.
Few points to make here. Firstly, I needed to actually work to pay my bills (I only took the tuition fees loan, but not the maintenance loan).
Secondly, I increased/decreased my work hours according to my university schedule. For example, up to 30hrs during quiet periods, and down to 10hrs (sometimes 0) near exams.
I would assume you do not need to work all those hours a week while at university, but it obviously depends on your situation.
In any case it’s doable if for any reason you need to (some are able to study and work full time simultaneously, just saying).
Flexibility and time management are key, and again that’s why those industries above (not always), are good for student jobs.
Once you get a student job, the best thing to do is to assess it yourself. If you can work only 10hrs a week, do that; if less, do less, if more do more.
The important thing to do here is to set your priority number 1: university (I assume), then everything else needs to be planned around it, from work to social life.
How to get a part time student job, step 1: student CV
The first step is to build a good CV. There are hundreds of free templates you can download and use for that.
I always used one of the many available in Microsoft Word (go to File-New and then typo in the search bar: resume, CV, curriculum etc); there is no need to pay for a CV template!
The formatting, whether or not to use a picture (I never did) are all down to your preferences, there is no right or wrong.
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! I refer to this as “spicy it all up”, don’t just state what you did or studied.
It’s the same concept I explained in my guide on how to create a strong profile on LinkedIn as a student.
If you are looking for some ideas on what to put on your CV as a student (with or without work experience), I would definitely give that a read!
Obviously, if you don’t have a student profile on LinkedIn I would also strongly suggest you create one.
Cover letter as a student
What to put in your cover letter as a student? Whereas your student CV should be concise and straight to the point, your cover letter as a student can take a slightly less “formal” approach.
I would 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 me 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 what I mean, something along those lines as well for retail, events and other industries.
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! (again, my LinkedIn article could give you some ideas on that)
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. 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 (and remember to change!!) those every time you apply for a job.
I personally did not, I just stated that in the email rather than the cover letter; but again there is not right or wrong here.
Basically, the more you can tailor your application to the position you are applying for the better, quality over quantity!
How to find a student job, step 2: split your job research!
Ok now that you have your student CV and cover letter, we can move to step 2. This involve a bit of planning, just like you would plan your study week.
Basically, you should split your student job research in two: in person and online. We will have a look at both:
Finding a job as student, in person hunt
I want to start with this “on field job research” as it is often overlooked. In my opinion, this is still the best 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.
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. I would 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 signs 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!
Finding a student job, online hunt
There are quite a few websites where you can find job offers, Indeed, Reed, LinkedIn and so on as I’m sure you 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).
I would also suggest to avoid putting your phone number on those websites (or on the CV you make publicly visible) to avoid scammers calls.
Another thing I would do 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.
Online job application
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 work scenarios; e.g. dealing with angry 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 you’ll most likely appear as an “outlier” in the result and therefore fail to pass.
How to find a job as a student, step 3: 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 split the job research between in person and online.
After doing that, I would be really surprised if you did not receive an invitation for an interview out of the many applications done and CV left around. 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!
The problem with finding a job as a student
Why finding a job as a student is so hard? As I mentioned earlier, establishing trust is key to get a student job. Why?
Unfortunately, as you probably know, students don’t have a fantastic reputation. Do I agree with that? Yes and no…
Yes because I have seen it with my eyes; students not showing up at work without any reasons or calling first; others calling in sick and the posting on social media while partying; I could continue with many other examples.
No because these things do not only happen with students, although I could see a trend there. Put it this away, all students pay the price of the for the dumb actions of few.
It’s a repeating life pattern, students are not exempt.
Face to face job interview as a student, tips
My honest advice is to focus on the problem above. Obviously, skills 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. This is why not having job experience as a student is not the end of the world.
You will “only” need willingness to learn (I would stress that you have it if you don’t have any previous experience). So what are they really looking for? Solve the problem above!
Talk about reliability, that if you commit to a job you take it seriously. Discuss your potential availability with clarity, you could also show a draft of your academic calendar.
Show when you might need some time off due to university work (this will also show your ability to plan ahead by the way).
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 stupid 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, I would do that if you really can with no disruptions to your studies, university comes first!
Online job interview as a student, tips
If you are having an online interview, I would expect 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 things I would suggest. They will most likely ask you what you know about the company and why you want to work there.
As per questions, I would split this in two: firstly, research about the company 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, trust me. 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). I would suggest you get ready for that with some examples!
It doesn’t matter how relevant you think your example is to the job, just makes 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 (internal)
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 you can find there 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 and invite them at their career fair.
Although those will mainly focus on graduate/internship opportunities, you could also find other student job opportunities.
External resources for student jobs often overlooked
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), in my opinion they are a much better opportunity 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 and wants.. 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 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. 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”.
Many students also limit their job research to online applications only, which in my opinion 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.
To conclude, I wanted to write this guide in the hope to help those students struggling to get a job alongside their studies.
In this other post I talked about how I got an internship, although my main concern was my age (26), you might find it useful regardless.
Please also mind that the are many other factors that might impact your job hunt as a student; things like city demographics, main industries (tourism or industrial?), culture and so on play a massive role in that too.
As usual, also consider that everything you read on this blog is based on my personal experience and opinion.
In any case, I hope you found my ultimate guide on how to find a part time job as a student helpful. Best of luck!
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