Working while Studying

I received some requests from readers asking me about how I managed work while studies, so here it is.


Firstly, I’d like to make it clear that I believe that there’s no end to improving time management and organisation skills. So my experience is work-in-progress, and everyone has different approaches to it. 

Secondly, I’m not going to talk about how to get a job. There are better resources out there that can provide practical tips for you to get employed.

Please let me begin by talking about works I undertook:

During my study as a Bachelor of Design student at the University of Melbourne, I was fortunate to have opportunities to work for the faculty. It all started with receiving an email inviting students to apply for the Peer Assisted Study Session Leader positions for the Global Foundations of Design (architectural history) at the end of the first year. Luckily, I got the job, which involved four hours of work per week (2 hours for lectures, 1 hour for preparation, 1 hour for the PASS session).

In the middle of the second year, I got a job at the architecture firm through connection. I could work only one day a week as a casual employee due to the full-time study load. But my boss ensured the flexibility of my work arrangement so that I can handle both work and study commitments.

In the third year, I received an offer to work as a technical tutor for the digital design subject. It came through after I contacted the senior lecturer to ask recommended CNC fabricators for the project I was working at the firm. 

It meant I had three jobs (being a PASS Leader, Student of Architecture, and a technical tutor) on top of the full-time double major study, which helped me further develop time and task management skills.

Okay, that’s enough about my background. 

1. Treat work and study in the same way

Balancing work and study is quite similar to balancing hobbies or social activities and university education. But the main difference is that you have a responsibility to fulfil your role that comes with expectations on the intended outcomes and quality of performance. 

Now, doesn’t work sound more like study?

Treating all of your work and study commitments as equally important is the key to manage them effectively.

That means you need to know how much you can work (spend time for it) in the same way you assess how much time you can spend on each subject per day/week. Overworking will not only affect your study but also lead to limited time to relax, and thus, the deterioration of the quality of work and study outcomes.

2. Find the workplace that suits your schedule

Just like there are numerous options for universities, there are many options for the workplace. Finding the workplace that suits your schedule involves evaluating the expected hours per week, work location and shift time. For example, I almost got a job at a local cafe in the first year, but I couldn’t make time during the daytime to take multiple shifts a week. So I let the opportunity go. When your work matches well with the schedules of other commitments, it will be easier to manage.

3. Switch your mind

One of the benefits of handling different commitments is that you have opportunities to reset your mind more often. I personally found that stress often comes from having too many concerns or to-do in my mind, disrupting concentration and distracting attention from the task on the desk.

When you can switch your mindset from being a student to an employee, you can have a clearer idea of what to focus and complete. It is easier when you work in an office (a commute is very useful). But if you’re working from home, clear your desk and restart your computer to create a suitable condition.

4. Ask questions & make logical decisions

Better you can utilise time, the more efficient you can manage different commitments. To use time better, you should ask your boss or colleagues (or even your tutor…) questions to clarify tasks. It is okay to make mistakes, but often some mistakes could easily be avoided if you had a better understanding of the work. 

When you make a decision, think in logical terms:

  • What are you trying to achieve? 
  • What do you need to pay close attention to? 
  • Why is it important? (or is it essential in the first place? Can it be simplified?)
  • How can you achieve it? 
  • How much time can I allow for it?
  • How can you measure the success of your outcome?

Again, this is based on reflecting on my personal experience (so far), so I might have a different idea in a few years. 

You may have a completely different view, and if so, I’m more than keen to know!

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