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The Working Student: How to Pick the Right Part-Time Job

Getting a part-time job when you're still an undergraduate is a reality for a lot of students, but it doesn't have to cause you extra stress. Sure, you have to give up valuable time that you could have spent studying, taking an extra class or joining another club, or catching up on much-needed sleep, but part-time jobs allow you to earn some spending money. They also add professional working experience to your resume, something that not a lot of college graduates can include. Networking opportunities also present themselves through part-time jobs, even if you're working on campus, in retail or are simply babysitting.

Some summer jobs can be a waste of time, or too much trouble than they're worth. Picking the right job means finding a balance between getting enough hours to earn enough money and not getting too overwhelmed that you can't keep up with your school work. On-campus jobs are best for minimizing commute times and working in academic or administrative offices that operate on a similar schedule as yours. Your employer in an on-campus gig will also be more sensitive to your particular needs if you need to rearrange your hours so that you can attend a study group or have a big exam coming up. Even if you don't qualify for a federal work-study program, you should still be able to find paying opportunities on campus.

Paid internships in off-campus offices are like gold to college students, but they're hard to secure. If you need money, look for part-time jobs at the kinds of offices that are also asking for interns. If you're pre-law and get a job as a part-time receptionist instead of the legal internship they're also hiring for, you're still getting valuable experience and may get your foot in the door for a future paid position with more responsibility.

Look for part-time jobs that are close enough to campus or your apartment so that you don't have to waste time (and gas) commuting back and forth. Your boss should also be aware that you're a serious college student and don't have lots of time to devote to overtime, although you should express interest in occasionally helping out with projects and events should they arise. If you're having trouble finding off-campus jobs, tap your career center or even your professors for advice. They might be in need of a babysitter or have a friend whose office is looking for someone to fill in part-time. Working for people who understand your university's schedule and academic demands will make it easier for you to balance your course work and your part-time job.

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