University life is like one big hustle made up of lots of little hustles bundled together. The study hustle, the social life hustle, the health and wellbeing hustle, the oversleeping hustle, Netflix hustle, etcetera.
Your working life during university is one of the most important side-hustles there is, and also one of the most difficult to navigate. Casual and part-time work are great ways to support yourself during your studies, learn new things, expand your skills and maybe (maybe) have some fun. With exams finally out of the way, I had a chat with Renée Smith, a Careers Consultant with the University of Newcastle’s (excellent) Careers and Student Development team to talk about getting the perfect side-hustle going, these holidays and beyond.
It’s obvious that everything starts with your resume; what may be less obvious is that resumes aren’t one-size-fits-all.
“Make sure it’s targeted to both the company and job you want to apply to,” says Renée. “You have to have the information relevant to the job right there on the first page.”
If it’s a hospitality position, put hospitality-relevant skills and experience at the top, and the same if it’s retail, reception work, or any other field. Likewise, make sure it goes easy on the eyes; a nice font (Times New Roman is the gold standard) and a good sense for layout can go a long way.
“Make sure that it’s nice and presentable. The aesthetics are just as important as the content, an employer may take ten seconds for their first look at a resume to decide.”
Renée says the best thing for job hunting is to know when places are looking to hire. “Looking for jobs is a bit like the seasons. In winter, when everything goes into hibernation, so do jobs. The biggest employment periods are Autumn and Spring.”
However, circumstances change all year round; there’s bound to be plenty of opportunities over the colder months, if you can find them. Renée suggests using “a range of strategies, still looking at job sites and in papers but also networking, approaching people and approaching companies directly.”
Don’t stick to just applying online; make sure to head out, resume in hand, and talk to managers and hirers in person as well. It’s also well worth keeping an eye on CareerHub, where roles casual, part-time and full-time are posted, whether degree-relevant or not.
The next stage is interviewing. Outside of the obvious pointers – head up, firm handshake, dress smart, be confident and polite – Renée says it’s the art of storytelling that runs the show at interviews. “Interviewers want to know about what you have done. Lots of examples throughout interviews are key. We recommend you use STAR – Situation, Task, Action, Result, to get the full story across.” It’s likely a good idea to think of a few relevant situations beforehand.
Not sure what STAR is? Here’s a basic rundown.
Situation: Describe the situation you were faced with.
Task: What was the task you had to complete?
Action: What actions did you undertake to complete the task?
R: What was the result of your action?
For more resources on the STAR method, make sure to check out CareerHub!
Once you’re in the process of accepting a position, there are a few red flags to look out for. “The main things are making sure that you actually have a contract, that you know what the minimum wage is, either the national minimum wage or the state’s award rate”.”
Make sure to generally steer clear of cash-in-hand jobs; with no contract there’s no obligation to provide a fair, safe and stable workplace. If you think your workplace is trying to pull something dodgy, Renee recommends going to the Fair Work Ombudsman’s website, where you can read up on everything fair work related: entitlements, pay, leave and much more.
Similarly, look out for positive signs too. “You have to feel comfortable in the environment you’re working in. Whether that’s safety or even just enjoying the company of the people you’re working with.”
It’s also important to make sure you keep your various hustles in proportion; don’t let your work life overtake your studies, social life, or sleeping-in time. “Having time management and organising skills is really important if you want to get that work-life balance,” says Renée, who recommends picking out days for different activities; a few for study, a few for work, and a few for yourself.
Above and beyond all this, the most important thing to realise is that each and everyone’s working situation is different. The best course of action is to visit Careers and Student Development yourself and have a ten-minute career consultation, where you can have your resume looked at, do mock interviews, ask about your approach to job seeking, discuss anything casual and long-term work-related, and much more. The consultants at the service will be able to look at your unique circumstances and point you in the right direction. With appointments available at all campuses, it’s worth stopping by to double-check your approach and make sure you’re getting everything you can out of your casual work.