Ask Ainsley, Student Life

Ask Ainsley: Should I get a part-time job next semester?

Dear Ainsley, 

I’m not sure if I should get a part-time job for next semester. I do want to start building toward financial independence, but I’m worried that an added commitment to schoolwork and extracurriculars will be difficult to manage. A lot of my friends tell me they’re able to balance working part time while taking a full course load. I’m torn—what should I do? 

Sincerely, 

Worked up about Work (WUAW)

Dear WUAW, 

“Work hard, play hard” is a refrain common to the university experience, but how each student interprets it is entirely unique. For many, financial constraints necessitate a part-time job. But if you have a bit of wiggle room, it is important to reflect on your priorities before potentially undertaking more responsibilities. 

Think carefully about your schedule. If you do get a job, is there a chance you’ll be asked to pick up extra shifts? Is your transportation reliable? Do you have courses in person as well as online? How long does your coursework actually take you to complete?

Anywhere between 10 to 20 hours per week, adjusted to fit your specific timetable, should allow you to complete academic work while also getting enough rest. Working a part-time job can help you network, refine your time management skills, or even practice speaking French or English if applicable. The decision is ultimately up to you, but remember that life is made up of checks and balances. Stretching yourself too thin in effort to accomplish everything will inevitably lead you to falter, so compromise is essential. 

Don’t feel pressured to take five courses—you can drop down to four. Select your extracurriculars carefully to ensure they align with your personal or professional goals without causing further stress. Does this club boost your CV, but impede on your well-being? Whittle down extraneous commitments to allow yourself time to breathe. Look at a calendar and sketch in potential work shifts: Do you have enough availability to properly commit yourself? Most workplaces are collaborative environments; if you have to bail on a shift to study, you’re letting down your team. While academics are, for the most part, solitary in consequence, jobs affect others around you. It’s important to bear all this in mind before dedicating your time.

It is difficult to juggle academics, extracurriculars, and part-time work while still leaving time to rest, but it is still possible. If you find your social life slipping through the cracks, try allocating some time each week to seeing friends or talking with loved ones. Once the hangouts or chats are scheduled, they will gradually stop feeling like—as terrible as it is to say—time wasted. There’s no need to feel guilty for seeking out connection, especially during the transitory and tumultuous time that is university. 

University and productivity culture in general have misled our perceptions toward rest: Too often the definitions of self care—sleep, food, and time with friends—are just the bare minimum required to function. Be sure not to treat self care only as a reward. You don’t deserve rest; you need it. Nothing is more important than your health.

None of this is to say you shouldn’t try your best to reach your goals or succeed academically. Know your limit, and play within it: Be diligent, yet also realistic so that you can sustain your physical and mental health. As most of us are under 25 years of age, our brains are still developing. It’s tempting to fill your plate with responsibilities, but remember that the state of your health will shape your future in the long term just as much as your GPA or that extra resume bullet point. 

Know that if working is a financial necessity, there are resources available to you at McGill that offer support. Consider looking into government and student aid, as well as the Work-Study program, which connects students in financial need to jobs on or near campus with flexible schedules. 

I hope you can make a decision that works best for you. 

Sincerely, 

Ainsley

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