High school and college students don't get enough credit. They get up early, go to school, whip through an endless list of extracurriculars, work part-time jobs and attempt to squeeze in a social life, a.k.a., sending texts and checking Facebook.
Well, many students leave out that whole part-time job thing. They're easily identifiable as the ones who are also bumming money off their parents, staying in on the weekends and showing up to proms and formals in a tuxedo T-shirt (the guys, anyway).
Combining school and work, whether we're talking about high school jobs or college jobs, is a tough balancing act. But when you add up all the benefits - from learning time management skills, to career development, to cold hard cash - it's easy to see why a part-time job is an elective you shouldn't pass up on.
Here are some tips for successfully managing the challenge:
1. Pick a job with flexible hours
There are plenty of cool part-time gigs out there that can accommodate a schedule stuffed with classes, club meetings, sports practice and even a little downtime catching up on "Jersey Shore" or playing Modern Warfare 2 (a personal favorite). In particular, restaurant jobs are prime territory for students looking to make a few extra bucks. And both quick service and casual dining restaurants offer after-school and weekend hours.
Retail jobs can also fit an already tight schedule. If you choose to work on school nights, just be sure to save plenty of time to catch some zzzz's before that first morning bell chimes. The amount of sleep you need to lead a productive day varies depending on the individual, but most experts recommend getting at least seven hours a night. Odds are you won't be getting any nap breaks at your job.
Also, be make sure you don't over-commit to working more than you're comfortable with, or your life could become a slippery slope of missed classes, broken promises and Starbucks dependency. It's better to target a lower number of hours to work in the beginning. If you get in a groove and are comfortable taking on more, ask your employer if there are more shifts available.
2. Make a schedule and stick to it
You're not going to successfully juggle work with your other priorities unless you exercise a little discipline. This doesn't have to be as painful (and no fun) as it sounds. Before you take on a new job, sit down and write down all of your priorities, followed by about how much time they take up each week. Estimate on the high end. Then figure out how much time you need to chill out with your BFF, tweet your heart out, etc. Now crunch the numbers and see how much time you'll have to work. Even if it's only enough for a shift or two a week of work, that's fine. That is of course, unless you need to work a certain amount each month to pay for rent and other cost-of-living expenses, in which case you might have to skimp on socializing time.
Once you have your schedule sorted out, it's important to stick to the rules. If you decided the only way to make it all work is to devote one weekend night each week to doing school work, use this time efficiently and don't get distracted by a "16 and Pregnant" marathon. By developing these time management skills now, you'll be ready down the road when life throws even more responsibilities your way.
3. Remember the money (and other stuff)
Keeping a student job is tough. Every morning you reach for the snooze alarm, but can't afford to push it. Every night you get to see your friends - but it's on the wrong side of the drive-through window. But every time you mistakenly show up to class with your trainee nametag on or drop your assignment pad in the deep fryer, remember one thing: money. Cash. Dinero. Moolah.
While your friends are rolling quarters, begging for allowance advances and ding-dong-ditching the neighbors, you're earning money that can be used for vacation time, tuition costs and non-dining hall food. And while it doesn't sound as fun, you're also absorbing skills and experience that will come in handy down the road, such as customer service, real world math and conflict resolution.
Balancing school and work is never the ideal situation, and requires patience and accountability. But trust us, it all gets easier once that first paycheck is in the bank.