Seven things you’ll only know if you balance uni work with a job in retail

For seven and a half hours a week, I work in a supermarket.

I do enjoy working there, the staff are friendly and the store is a contented size. I have worked in retail since I was 16 and can honestly say my current company is the best one I have worked for.

Most of my time, though, is spent at Cardiff University with my laptop, pen and paper and multiple books. Studying English Literature and working in retail can arguably be said to be unlike. Nonetheless, I take pleasure in both and encourage other students to work part time while studying,

1. People expect you to be rolling in money

No! A big no. I work so I have a bit more money than I did before, I am not a millionaire because I do a few hours of work in a retail store. A lot of people say to me, ‘stop complaining about money, you work’. I am just as entitled to complain as someone who doesn’t work. My money for work usually goes on my train pass, food and books. My student loan goes on whatever else I like, and I am thrilled to have that choice and freedom.

2. Your degree comes first, but you take your job very seriously

Every time I go to work I switch off from the outside work and focus on my task for that shift. 99 per cent of the time I am a cashier, but on the rare occasion I will be dealing with a delivery, putting out stock or assisting a change over. The worst thing my manager could say to me (over than ‘you’re fired!’), is ‘you have done a bad job’. If you’re not going to put your heart and soul into working, then you won’t enjoy it. What you put in, you’ll get out.

3. You wonder who is worse: customers, or acquaintances at university

In all seriousness, I have been in work while a customer was having a go at me for being ‘too slow’ and I wondered if my argument that morning will a fellow university student was more pleasing. Customers are very challenging in whichever field you work in, but nothing can beat a retail environment on Saturday afternoon. The local kings and queens come in the store and expect the store to be quiet for them and for you to only care about their needs. One customer asked a colleague of mine to do her personal shopping. She was on the till with a queue half way down the aisle, and additionally we don’t offer a personal shopper opinion. As for university acquaintances, you have to be nice to everyone even if you’re having a bad day. Yet some do get under your skin more than others and you see them more than work customers. In conclusion, they’re equally as bad.

4. Your boss is either very understanding or isn’t interested

Luckily for me, my current manager will listen to what I have to say and act on it. Other retail companies I have worked for while doing my A levels hadn’t been as understanding. A manager once told me to stop talking about going to university because she didn’t go. My other staff members ganged up on me and said I was showing off. It made me feel uncomfortable and unwanted by my staff members — I quit within two weeks.

5. Colleagues think you’re hungover when you go to work in the morning

I have gone to work hungover once, yes, I am guilty, but that was because it was my uncle’s 60th the night before. Totally not university-related. I get asked if I went out last night a lot, and if I am tonight, too. Once a colleague told me I look awful and I should stop going out so much. When actually in matter of fact I had the worst cold ever and had been in bed all week.

6. Students think you’re doing too much

Honestly, I can cope with working a few hours at my local retail store. I would personally say I spend more hours working on my university work than others who don’t have a job. I realise I have limited time to read that book for my next seminar, or write that poem to send my group, or that essay which is worth 50 per cent of my grade. But I make time. You have to. I study, work, learn a language, write articles daily, manage a car, my social life and further responsibilities on a weekly bases and I am more than happy. Happier than if I have less to do.

7. You won’t have it any other way

I would miss not working if I quit my job. I know when I leave university, I will miss going greatly. I love having a routine and going from university to work, the lifestyle makes me feel very professional and in control of my life decisions. I take pride in being pro-active and relishing my time as a young adult. If there is one obligation you should get around to before you finish your degree, it is managing a part-time job with studying the subject you love. You will appreciate your lectures more and you will appreciate your time off lectures more when you are in work. Trust me.

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