In our experience of speaking to students, those who are struggling to make ends meet often resort to cutting spending and trying to find as many areas to save as possible.
While thinking about saving can be beneficial, it can, of course, only get you so far. And with the cost of necessities going up and up with no signs of stopping anytime soon – inflation hit a new 30-year high last month of 5.5% for January 2022 – this is more true now than ever. So another way to help students during the ‘cost of living crisis’ is to encourage them to think about ways in which they can earn more money.
Finding a job is the surest, tried-and-tested way of doing this. We’ve put together some suggestions and resources to allow you to help students when searching and applying for jobs, whether this is a part-time job while they’re at university or something full-time after they graduate.
Encourage quality over quantity with applications
There’s nothing worse than spending hours and hours applying for jobs, only to hear nothing back. Students often cast the net wide and apply to lots of different jobs, setting themselves high targets for the number of jobs to apply for each day or week, to avoid this.
Doing this could jeopardise their chances of getting a job. By focusing on the number of applications, students lessen the quality of each application they make. They’re likely to be copying and pasting the same information for each cover letter they send for similar roles. Even if what they’re copying and pasting is of high quality, it’s unlikely to make them truly stand out if their application isn’t tailored to the particular role within the particular company.
Instead, encourage students to focus on a smaller number of high-quality applications. It will really come through for an employer if they can see that somebody has put a lot of time and effort into their application.
An important aspect of a high-quality application will be a cover letter demonstrating that they’ve taken time to research the company and the specifics of the role. Rather than a cover letter that simply lists what they’ve done, if a student can refer to elements of the company and how they’ll be able to provide value based specifically on what the company is looking for, matching their skills and experience up with the job requirements, they’ll put themselves a long way ahead of the competition.
This student blog includes lots more information for students on how to improve the quality of job applications, looking particularly at CV and interview tips.
Signpost students to high-quality, relevant job sites
A Google search brings up lots of options for places to look for jobs, but knowing which site to pick can be overwhelming.
Staff can play a part in making this choice a lot easier and clarifying good places for students to look. Signposting around campus about different job sites and providing lots of advice from your careers department can really help.
Certain job sites will be better for certain students, depending on what type of job they’re looking for. A student looking for a part-time job alongside their studies will want something different to somebody looking for a graduate job in an investment bank, who will, in turn, want something different to someone who is looking for work in a startup.
On top of this, specialised vocations (think medicine, midwifery and veterinary services, among others) will likely have their own systems and in-roads for applying for both paid jobs and work experience. It’s worth recommending that students talk to their teaching staff as well as the peers on their course, or consult any known contacts already working within the industry to find out what they use.
Some great sites students can use as a starting point to look for jobs and work experience during and after university are:
Encourage students to consider extracurricular activities while studying
Encouraging students to get involved with extracurricular activities can also give them a boost when applying for jobs as these activities often demonstrate to a potential employer lots of the skills that they want to see in an employee.
If an employer is comparing two candidates who have identical academic achievements and the same amount of work experience, but one of them has been an integral part of two different clubs while at university, they’re always going to be more likely to choose the student who’s done more.
Although high grades and relevant work experience are highly important, skills such as teamwork, leadership, creative thinking and fundraising might be equally desirable for an employer.
Freshers’ Fairs are the best opportunity to showcase all the extracurriculars on offer at your institution. But also having visibility of different clubs and societies all year round can encourage students to continue considering the options beyond this. A whole institution approach will definitely help to address this.
Work backwards from how much a student wants/needs to earn
More important now than ever with sharp inflation increases, it’s important to encourage students to think about how much they want or need to earn in relation to their real cost of living when thinking about jobs.
For instance, in 2021, students told us there was an average gap of £329 a month between what they have and need to feel confident they will be able to complete their degree. With the latest figures due to be published in the coming weeks, we expect to see an increase to this.
A student might calculate how much they want/need to earn a month. This will determine the type of job they take and how many hours they have to sacrifice for work. Highlighting how much students can earn doing different jobs will help them to make the best decision for their circumstances.
This calculation is important because of the other commitments that they have. By working too much, a student will end up negatively affecting their academic outcomes – going against the reason they’re studying in the first place.
If, once they’ve worked out how many hours they’ll need to work, they’re happy with the number and still think they could work more hours, they’re free to do so. But it’s important for them to check that they’ll still be able to prioritise their studies and other important aspects of their life before taking on a new job, getting the right balance between university and work life.
University can already be a stressful time for many students, and a job can add a lot to the pressure too. Rather than simply getting a job and working all the hours they can to earn as much as possible (as tempting as it can be!), it would be sensible for a student to first consider realistically what they actually want and need to get out of a job and how much they can practically fit around their studies.
It could be a good idea for students to think about why they want to get a job. Is it because they need to earn more money to pay their bills? Do they have debts that they want to pay off? Are they saving up for a summer holiday? Or maybe they want to earn more so that they can start investing?
The reason for wanting to work will be a big factor in deciding whether and how much they decide to work. For someone who currently can’t make ends meet, a job is likely to be much more urgent and they’ll probably need to earn more. On the other hand, a student wanting to save up for a holiday might be able to do this without working e.g. by cutting back spending on something each month and putting that money towards a savings pot – potentially saving them a lot of time and stress and hopefully giving them more time to focus on their studies.
Being able to get a job during university and beyond will play a huge part in student financial wellbeing. Our goal is to help encourage students to enjoy their time at university while also having one eye towards their futures.
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