Whatever your reason for working through school, you’ve likely wondered whether you’re doing the right thing. Especially if your work-school balance is suffering.
It’s okay to wonder whether it’s worth putting yourself through the challenge of managing work and school, setting your social life aside for much-needed cash, or earning industry experience at the expense of sleep.
Your circumstances may require you to work, or maybe you just want to. Maybe you can’t afford school any other way, or you want to make connections to break into the industry that you’re passionate about. Whatever the reason, we’re here for you.
Here are a few things to remember for a simpler, more successful work-school balance:
Work has many definitions.
You could work full-time, part-time, or freelance. You could start your own business. Normally, you could work on campus, in a restaurant, mall, or library. In 2021, it’s more likely to be from home. Your job could be physically exhausting, or it could be a purely mental game. It could pay in money, or it could pay in connections and experience. Your friends could do it one way, and you could do it completely differently. Pick what works best for your particular set of circumstances. Check out this list of student-friendly jobs for options.
Your goals are important.
Everyone’s reason for working through school is different. Maybe you want (or need) extra cash, or you need industry experience to kickstart your career. Knowing why you’re working will help prevent you from passing up an extra shift, or that networking event, or that project at work, if it’s good for you long-term. On the flip side, it could also remind you to focus energy on school and skip that extra shift if grades are more important.
Putting your life on hold to get assignments done and show up for shifts (or however you work) is emotionally draining. Perk yourself up by remembering why you’re on your mission in the first place, how you’re accomplishing the big goals, and actively recognizing what you can be grateful for.
Science has shown that positive emotions could improve your ability to see opportunities. Stay chipper and you might quickly recognize the career value of a networking event, that your boss is doing you a solid by scheduling extra shifts, and all the reasons your life rocks. It’s not easy to do when you’re nose-down in assignments and work, but it’s important.
Surround yourself with the right people.
When you’re crazy busy, you’ll appreciate the friends and family who support you. The casserole your mom made for you will be a blessing on busy days. You’ll appreciate the friend who chats with you at weird hours without complaining about your work schedule. And you’ll love all the friends/significant others who sometimes pick you up from work.
While you may not have the luxury of conjuring up a support network like this on a whim, you have the ability to recognize who makes you feel good (and who doesn’t). Decide who you spend time on accordingly.
Rethink life-work-school balance.
From experience, blocking time into purely work, school, and social life categories is difficult. You quickly realize you don’t have much time for yourself and it’s emotionally difficult. Instead, try to get creative with how you study and work. Fit some social time into your academic life by studying with classmates. Call friends to catch up during a commute. Do assignments during your lunch break to free up time later, and make friends with your coworkers. (Assuming any of this is possible during your current work conditions.) Doing all these will help you get the most out of your time, no matter where or how you’re spending it.
Stay organized and set expectations.
This point involves more than knowing your work and class schedules. It means staying on top of food preparation, so you bring enough to eat with you on a busy day. It means telling your manager about exam season weeks before it hits, so your workload can be adjusted accordingly. It means being honest with yourself and others about how much work you can do, which extra-curriculars you can take on, and which social outings you can afford to attend. Being an organized person will be awesome for you in the long-term because it’s a skill you’ll take with you into adulthood.
A final note.
To quote one of my favourite bloggers, “stay in your own lane.” Don’t look at those around you to decide what to do. If your nemesis is pulling off three jobs and school flawlessly, don’t pay attention. If your best friend doesn’t have a part-time job, simply be happy for them. Everybody’s circumstances are different, and you should do what’s best for your future.
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*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.