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Studying in Australia - how a part time work can enhance your career


You might be a local student or a foreign student in Australia. Either way this article contains some helpful information for you. When I use the word ‘student’, I mean a student in a tertiary institution.

Source: Business Insider

If you are a local student, it is highly likely that you already have some work experience, be it working in your local McDonalds, or a milk bar, or the local supermarket, or any other business we refer to as small business in Australia.

If you are a foreign student to Australia, there is a different dimension for you to think about this. Some of you may prefer not to work at all while you are studying while most of you probably would prefer to work alongside studying. In addition, there are certain rules set by the Department of Home Affairs as to how many hours you can work and in what industries.

Most students in Australia are concerned with these questions.

  • Should you work part time?

  • Why do you want to work?

  • Will part time work hinder your studies or academic performance?

Many students work part time because it helps them earn money. Plus another thing they realise here is that life is very busy. You start to notice that your flat mates are away from home most of the time, for studies / classes and also a large part of the day, for work. It might be too boring for you to stay at home when you are not in your classes or in the library. Many students indeed look at part time work as means to avoid boredom and to do socialising, plus the best thing is they get paid for their work.

In terms of work, most hospitality students work in certain sectors, e.g. hospitality (restaurants, bars, pubs), retail (shops, supermarkets), cleaning, labouring (e.g. as a removalist). In most cases, these jobs are not relevant to what they are studying. Is it really worth working then? Let me share some pieces of information for you so you can make an informed decision. Ultimately, it is you who knows your situation the best. My intention is not making a decision on your behalf but giving some facts that might facilitate your decision making as to whether you want to work part time or not to work at all.

How can a part time work enhance your career even though it is not related to what you are studying?

Let me explain the benefits of working part time that you probably are not aware of just yet.

Lessons you get but probably don't realise!

You will learn all the skills that I’ve discussed below but the fun part is you’ll probably never realise – or realise very late – that you’ve learned so many important lessons of your life.

Developing communication skills

Working part time while studying immensely helps you improve your communication skills, especially if English is not your first language. You get used to the local accent, you learn how to listen, how to show empathy. The best part is you start to get the confidence to speak to others in English. My experience – and for that matter, the experience of anyone I know – is that Australians are very welcoming. They appreciate that you are working hard here and attempting to learn or improve on a foreign language. You also learn how to address a relatively big group in a team environment.

Time management

Whatever work you do you have to accomplish certain tasks within a certain time, i.e. you have to fill your target. The only way to achieve this is through time management. You learn time management through working, albeit with some initial mistakes and through learning from those. You learn how to prioritise, re and de-prioritise, when to seek help, when to offer help, when to delegate, when to stop. You can now utilise the time management skills you’ve learnt here to other areas of your life, e.g. in a big assignment at university, in your future professional life, in planning a big family event.

Understanding consumer behaviour

In whatever industry you work or will work later, one crucial factor to determine your success is understanding consumer behaviour. It is here that while working part time you get your first informal lessons in consumer behaviour, you start to understand what will motivate a consumer to buy your product / service, what will drive them away, what will make them excited and make them refer your business to their friends and families.

Knowledge of personal money management

As you work, you get paid. This is the money that you have earned. So celebrate it, appreciate it. Now you will start to learn what banking arrangements you will need to have, how to keep your money save, how much you want to spend and how much to save, what your superannuation is, where your superannuation is going, how you can save on transaction fees, how to secure your bank account from fraudsters. Down the track in life these skills will put you in potentially far better position financially, compared to that of someone who has never done any work at all while studying.

Enhancing leadership skills

Imagine a situation: you work in a supermarket and someone has inadvertently spilled water on the floor. What do you do? Obviously you ask a colleague to be in standby until you get the sign stating ‘Caution! Wet floor’ and then you organise to have necessary equipment to mop the floor to prevent any accidents. This is an example of leadership. Leadership is not just becoming the boss or becoming a team captain. An American scholar Martin M Chemers defines leadership as "a process of social influence in which a person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common and ethical task”. In this imaginary situation, you have done exactly that, i.e. you have showed your leadership skills. Your work gives you the opportunity to develop your leadership skills that you will never forget, rather sharpen in the future course of your life.

Improved decision making and problem solving skills

On the shop floor a customer has sought your help, you are in the middle of filling a shelf, and your boss has made an announcement on the store microphone system asking you to see her. What do you do first? You come across many such situations and learn how to manage them well. Every lesson makes you a better professional.

Developing networking skills

At work you meet people from all walks of life, from many different countries, most of them as customers, some of them as colleagues. You get many opportunities to learn how to impress others and network with people who might in future come up with many opportunities.

Understanding of industrial relations issues

So what are your rights as an employee? How long can you be asked to work for? What are your entitlements if you are asked to work on a weekend? What happens if you are injured at work? What should be your minimum wages? What will you do if you feel someone has bullied you at work? You will learn such topics in your first part time work. These are issues that will be relevant throughout your life as long as you plan to work.

Better interview skills

These days in most interviews, hiring managers ask you behavioural questions using the S-T-A-R technique. Work while studying puts you in so many situations that in a real life interviews you can refer to many situations quite comfortably to explain how you have performed well in those situations. If you are studying in hospitality management and are working part time in hospitality, then you are probably already ahead in your career path. Work part time in Retail experience can help you into financial services, e.g. banks, insurance and superannuation companies.

Local experience

The best part of working part time while studying is you get what arguably is the most desired aspect for an employer: local experience. In most industries, it is very difficult for a fresh graduate to get an entry without any local experience (irrespective of what industry that experience comes from.

What should you do?

As I have mentioned before, it is up to you to make the decision for yourself. I can tell you about myself: I have worked part time while studying, as a kitchen hand, retail shop assistant, labourer. These jobs were physically very demanding and I have learnt and / or enhanced all the skills that I have mentioned above. When my own children will be 15 years old, I will definitely push them to look for a part time job. I will want them to have some very important life lessons.


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