The Ups and Downs of Summer Jobs

As a result of spending most months of the year studying, many university students can feel an immense pressure during the summer break to take all the paid work that they can. But how can students balance summer jobs with the need to maintain studies, while also finding time to relax? This blog explores the ups and downs of summer jobs, and the real impact of balancing student life with financial stability.

Although it can differ from person to person, the expectation in my family was always that you should get a job as soon as you possibly can. This began for me at 15, where I would ‘stick up’ pins at the local bowling club. Once I could legally work at 16, I got my first job as a waitress in a cafe, and since then I have had a wide range of jobs, such as serving drinks, cleaning toilets, leading a youth theatre, and writing blogs! I’ve always found working from a young age a generally positive thing to do – although I certainly did not always enjoy mopping floors or stroppy customers, developing a work ethic is a valuable skill to cultivate for use later in life. 

As I’ve grown older and begun my life as a university student, it has become increasingly difficult to manage this habit of wanting – or needing – to be in paid work alongside studying. This is only heightened by the summer break. A sudden lack of constant studying after assessment season can create a strange sense of guilt. My gut reaction is to re-fill my time as quickly as I can once term has ended, leading me to take on as much paid work as possible. However, my brain then instructs me to balance my time, to use summer to socialise and maybe even have a rest. My wariness of hustle and burnout culture battles against my work ethic that has begun to shift into overdrive.

Summer work is a double-edged sword. It can provide invaluable work experience, if you’re lucky enough to find a job in an industry you’d like to progress in. It can also keep you busy over summer, giving you somewhere to channel the energy you’d normally be using on university work. But, like many others, I need to work this summer in order to financially sustain myself over the coming academic year. This removes the element of choice surrounding summer work, and can lead many students to feel like they need to take as many hours as they possibly can. After all, if you need a wage more than you currently need to rest or socialise, why would you not work tirelessly?

As with university work, finding the key to balancing a summer job with time to relax is a process, rather than a definitive solution. Understanding your own limits is crucial, but is often something you can only discover with experience. The tool I find most useful in exploring my own work/life boundaries is the power of a fearless ‘no’. If your boss calls you in to work an extra shift when you have plans, or gives you additional work when you were looking forward to relaxing over the weekend, don’t underestimate your right to say ‘no’. Often, students or young people newer to the workforce can be exploited by managers, as they don’t quite understand the etiquette of the workplace yet. We can often be coerced into taking on more work because we feel like we can’t say no. But you have just as much of a right to say no as everyone else in the workplace! Find your own boundaries by using your ‘no’, and if your employer cannot respect that, then perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate your engagement with that particular employment.

How do you balance summer jobs with your academic and social life? Tweet us at @warwicklibrary, email us at libraryblogs@warwick.ac.uk, or leave a comment below.

by Hannah Filer

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