off-campus jobs
Don't feel afraid to network and explore the surroundings outside of campus during college. (Illustration by Amelia Fins, Montclair State University)
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off-campus jobs

Sometimes distancing yourself from school can be a good thing.

Fall semester is in full swing. You’re probably getting into the rhythm of your new classes, adjusting to your new living situation and generally settling in to the new school year. For some students, this also means settling in to a new job or trying to find one for the school year. As tempting as it can be to get a job on campus for convenience’s sake, here’s why you should consider looking into off-campus jobs instead.

Connections With People Different From You

We tend to gravitate toward people from similar backgrounds whether it’s age, major or interests. On a college campus, it’s likely that you already have groups of friends that fit these characteristics in a way that’s fairly similar to you. It’s super important to have those friends too, but getting an off-campus job will really push your boundaries in terms of meeting new people.

If there are other colleges in your area, think of the amount of opportunities to meet new people. Or the people close to your age that chose a different path rather than going to school. You can learn a lot from those different than you, and working a job that isn’t necessarily affiliated with your university can widely expand your connections with other people. Plus, you might get a few close friendships out of it that you never would have gotten otherwise.

Networking Outside of Academics

Sometimes undergrad students will get lucky and find a part-time job that aligns with their major or future career goals. If that’s you: Congrats! Take this time to learn from your experience, but also pay close attention to how you interact with your coworkers. If they’re also looking to go into that field, keeping a good relationship with them can help build strong connections later on.

On top of maintaining good relationships with your coworkers, the most important relationship can be with your boss — especially if they’re prominent in your field and could be a great reference later on. Some on-campus jobs won’t have the same types of opportunities unless you’re specifically interested in academia, so absorb the time you spend being able to learn from someone who knows the ins and outs of your career so you can apply them later on.

Keeping School and Work Separate

Perhaps the most mentally-taxing thing about an on-campus job is that school and work sort of always feel intertwined. Going to class and then straight to work on campus is convenient, but can bog you down after awhile. Burnout can come much quicker if you feel constantly surrounded by the same things and people in and out of the classroom.

Some off-campus jobs will be fun enough that they won’t seem like work sometimes. At an on-campus job, you probably have a higher chance of running into classmates or professors that could remind you of all the school work you have to do. While you obviously shouldn’t blow off your homework completely, use the time at your job to disconnect and not think about class-related things for a bit. Then, when you work on homework later, disconnect from stressors related to your job. Keeping the two separate will do wonders for your mental health in the long run.

Less Restrictions

At some schools, part-time student workers are only allowed to work a certain number of hours per week. And unfortunately, a lot of these schools can also get away with paying their student workers low wages. The combination of these two things is not ideal if you’re trying to do some serious saving.

Fortunately, depending on what’s in your area, off-campus jobs don’t have these same types of restrictions and have more wiggle room for part-time workers. I’ve seen some of my peers work off-campus jobs that pay them between $10-$15 an hour for as many hours a week as they want (while still being part-time). While at an on-campus job, some schools will strictly enforce not letting students work over 20 hours while only paying $7.50 an hour.

It’s typical for on-campus hirers to be in offices with the standard Monday through Friday 9-5 schedule. For working adults, this usually works just fine. But for students who often have most, if not all, of their classes between those hours, it can be difficult to find time to fit in work in a clerical position. Off-campus jobs like clothing stores or restaurants might be a better fit for those who don’t have the wiggle room outside of their class schedule, as they usually open earlier and close later.

Of course, not every student is looking to work as many hours as possible for the big bucks. And sometimes off-campus jobs that pay less might be better suited for your interests or career goals. This is just a warning to those students striving to save as much money as possible for whatever reason: Be careful and aware of restrictions for student-workers at your school.

More Options

In addition to restrictions on hours and pay rate, there are generally less types of jobs available for students living on campus. An on-campus job that works for one person might sound like a nightmare to another. Or, one student’s schedule might not allow for things like the previously-mentioned clerical jobs.

In most college towns, there’s a wide array of different places to work. Popular student gigs include things like waitressing, bartending, assisting with local events like farmers markets and more. There are even possibilities for more niche interests, like working with kids or animals at local daycares or shelters. A lot of these things aren’t possible on some college campuses, so consider looking off-campus to find something that piques your interests.

Everyone’s needs are different, but if you found yourself nodding along to any of these benefits of off-campus employment, finding a job outside the realm of your school might be for you.

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