By William Newlin
Anna Blair began her working life at a frozen yogurt shop when she was 15. Her dad dropped her off at the interview.
Now a fourth-year student at the University of Georgia studying supply chain management, Blair is back dishing out frozen yogurt in Athens, Georgia, to scoop up extra cash.
“I really know the ins and outs of it,” Blair said jokingly as she recalled how she wasn’t allowed to work late in high school. “Really, it’s just fun, and it’s easy. I mean, I get paid to chop up strawberries and say ‘hi’ to little children. “It’s really stress-free.”
A free cup of yogurt during each weekend shift is the cherry on top.
With family support and scholarships to UGA, Blair doesn’t need the job to pay off student loans or afford living expenses. She said she balances part-time work with her full-time course load and her position as president of a club within UGA’s Terry College of Business to pad her wallet and fill her downtime. She’s not alone.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 43% of full-time students had jobs in 2018, the most recent year data is available. A 17% plurality of working students worked 20-34 hours per week, while 10% worked 35 hours or more.
Ringing up customers or waiting tables while pursuing a degree isn’t easy. It requires patience, time management and a thick skin every now and then. But it can benefit students beyond their current bank account balance, said Aaron Brown, the Student Employment Manager at UGA’s Career Center.
He recommended students keep part-time jobs on their resumes while pursuing career-related employment because employers will see they could balance school with work.
When you’re able to do that, it’s really like having a full-time job, so employers are going to look really, really favorably on students that worked during college versus a student that has not worked,” Brown said.
While Blair said her long list of part-time work would take up valuable resume space, she still considered including one past job to display both the “soft skills” she picked up and her work-school balance.
A key question for working students is when is it time to move on? Part-time jobs can be helpful in the short and long term, but industry-related experience is vital to starting a career.
“Generally, if you’re a junior or a senior, you’re looking for an internship,” Brown said. “That will help in the job search once you do graduate just because you know an internship is going to look great.”
Internships are complicated by financial status, however. Students who need part-time work to afford college sometimes must choose between a career-centric, unpaid internship or a time-consuming job.
Brown knows it’s a tough situation. He suggested students look for paid internships or “bite the bullet” and try to live at home to reduce expenses while getting in-the-field experience.
Blair found a paid internship in 2020, which the virus reduced to part-time. Once it ended, she wanted to keep working.
“With the pandemic, I don’t go out. I don’t do anything and, honestly, I got bored,” Blair said. “I was like, ‘Let’s get a part-time job.’”
But COVID-19 dampened the market. Retail stores and restaurants told her they didn’t have openings, Blair said. Luckily, her past frozen yogurt experiences made her just the right fit to slice strawberries at a chain store in Athens.
William Newlin is a journalism student at the University of Georgia.