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6 Ways Working During College Improves Your Life

Whatever job is the right fit, your future self will be thankful that you balanced work and school.

Photo by Etienne Boulanger on Unsplash

School’s important — nobody’s challenging that. But the soft skills you learn on the job as you work part-time are just as important.

Fortune 500 consultant Peggy Klaus has even said, “Soft skills specifically get very little respect, but they’re going to make or break your career.”

What are soft skills? They are the intangibles: knowing how and when to talk to people, how to share your ideas, how to listen, and how to work as part of a team.

One of the most foolproof ways to develop these game-changers is to learn by doing. Having a job while in school helps you build up your résumé — and also helps you build a solid set of skills that’ll take you further faster in the real world.

Here are six other reasons you should prioritize getting a part-time job:

1. You’ll get better grades.

When you have a job to balance with your class schedule, you’re working with a lot less free time to study. That means you’ll have to maximize your organization and productivity to make the most of your time.

Bouncing from one commitment to another creates a life of perpetual deadlines that force you to sit down and focus.

2. You’ll procrastinate less.

Empty blocks in your schedule are the worst. Those long, unscheduled hours lead to getting sucked into the black holes of social media, video games, or — worst of all — Netflix.

It’s easy to think you’ll just watch one episode of “Scandal” or “Modern Family” and realize four episodes later that your whole afternoon is gone. Having a job means you have less time to work on homework, so you have to spend it wisely.

3. Your bank account — and social life — will thank you.

Working means you’ll actually have money to do fun things on the weekend — listen, people, there’s no honor in the broke student stereotype. But there is honor in being able to do what you want when you want because you gave yourself the means.

Working part-time also helps you save for bigger trips. Spring break won’t pay for itself, and if you’re like me, your parents won’t be willing to foot the bill. I paid for all my spring break trips (with my wealthier friends), and I enjoyed them even more because of it.

4. You’ll learn how to be financially responsible.

If you have to depend on others entirely during your formative years — from 17 to 22 — you’ll likely carry that dependency with you down the road. There’s a word for that. It’s called “helplessness.” And (speaking as a parent now) even though I’d always be willing to have my children’s backs, my hope is that they’ll always be capable of watching their own.

Sure, a part-time job won’t pay your college tuition, but the fewer times you have to ask for financial help, the more successful and responsible you learn to be. Your future spouse isn’t dreaming of somebody who can’t take of him- or herself. I promise.

5. Your future employable self will thank you.

One of the biggest reasons to work while you’re in school is to prove your skills to future employers. They know not all students have to work; the experience on your résumé shows them that you’re capable of juggling multiple responsibilities — kinda like every career position on the planet.

As a hiring manager, if I look at somebody with a 3.8 GPA who had all the time in the world to study, I’m not as impressed as the gal with the 3.6 GPA who hustled through a part-time job that gave her transferable skills relevant to her career goals. You’ve heard that grades aren’t the end-all, be-all — I’m here to confirm that one more time.

6. Your market value will go up.

Having an unpaid internship or two under your belt is simply not as valuable as showing employers you’ve successfully held a paid position for a longer duration. Paid experience shows that somebody in the marketplace sees value in your contributions. Anybody can slap the internship label on something — but money validates.

It gives you the leverage to say, “Hey, some employer was willing to trade its limited resources for my skills, my time, and my talent.”

If you’re fortunate enough to be in a position of choice, try some of the traditional college job routes: retail, waiting tables, etc. But don’t be afraid to branch out into something completely different. Who knows? You might be great at it!

And even if it’s not for you, your résumé will be diverse. Whatever job is the right fit, your future self will be thankful that you balanced work and school.

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