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 by Chantelle Francis
, posted on 19 Apr '17

Looking Beyond the Bar – Finding Better Part-time Jobs as a Postgraduate

Contrary to popular belief, your position as a postgraduate puts you in good stead when searching for part-time work.

For one thing, you’ve most likely completed a 3-year undergraduate degree – and being a ‘graduate’ is definitely an advantage when looking for a job.

Whether you want to work 8 hours per week or 24 hours per week during your postgraduate studies, it’s always important to bear this in mind.

You can set the working bar much higher now that you have a degree - and most likely some professional experience - under your belt.

This could include getting a job related to your field of study, or the opportunity to undertake a paid placement to enhance your research.

So what are your options?

Where to look?

If you’ve worked during your studies before, you’ll likely already know about some of the options we’ll be suggesting here.

However, there are also probably several possibilities which may not have occurred to you. These could include jobs (and employers) that weren’t as relevant to you as an undergraduate.

Your university

Your university (or department) is always a good place to enquire about vacancies. Positions for PhD students could range from tutoring and teaching, to conference organisation and lab assistance. You might even be lucky enough to be offered a research assistant’s position.

Don’t be embarrassed to ask lecturers and course convenors whether they know of any available vacancies. You may not always get permanent work this way, but even just picking up the odd job here and there can help you earn some extra cash.

Masters students probably won’t be given teaching work at their university, but that doesn’t mean more professional roles aren’t available to you.

You can also look into focus groups with cash incentives – or even those that are offering vouchers. ‘It all spends’, as the saying goes. These opportunities are quite regularly advertised through department emails. So, don’t be tempted to delete what you may consider to be spam before you’ve read it.

Finally, it’s worth looking out for opportunities to work in some of your university’s office or admin departments. Professional departments such as computing or library services also employ large numbers of staff. This work may have been invisible to you as an undergraduate, but there’s a lot of it to be done!

These sorts of roles are usually advertised earlier on in the calendar year ready for new intakes of students in September. Some roles will be permanent, running throughout the year. Others will be short-term contracts to help with ‘spikes’ in workload. It all helps.

Your Students’ Union

Though it varies by institution, Students’ Union departments are often responsible for organising large university events, such as open days.

Management positions aren’t easy to come by in this line of work, but starting at the bottom and working your way up is quite common.

And, pay per hour tends to be a lot more generous than employment elsewhere. So even if you only manage to acquire a few hours a week, you could still live comfortably with a good budget.

Your SU will also provide many specialised services which your degree might be particularly suited to. These include counselling services, study assistance and even proof reading.

Your university’s careers service will best know how to approach these particular vacancies if any become available, so make sure you get in touch.

Recruitment Agencies

Recruitment agencies work in two ways. They act as head-hunters on behalf of other employers to find ideal candidates (i.e. you), but they also employ people to work for them as head-hunters (i.e. you).

So, they are a means for finding jobs in various industries but also a particular source of employment in and of themselves.

If you are employed by a recruitment agency, expect a fast-paced working environment and potentially long hours. Make sure you can fit this around your postgraduate commitments.

Speculative applications

A speculative application means applying for a role when there’s actually no vacancy.

Though this might seem an odd approach, it can be an excellent means of securing part-time work, or a work placement.

You should produce a tailored CV and covering letter – never send out the same CV or letter to multiple companies.

Provide detail about what you can offer to the company, an idea of the kind of work you are looking for, and how many hours per week you would be available to them.

And don’t forget to show that you have an understanding of the company, too.

Social media

There’s a growing trend in all industries to advertise vacancies on social media.

Outlets such as Twitter and LinkedIn are particularly popular, as employers can set up job profiles and bios to show any positions that are available.

As a prospective employee, you can also utilise these sites to not only search for vacancies, but present yourself as a potential candidate for employers.

Simply add your experiences, employer history and qualifications, and away you go!

Email alerts

Email alerts are almost the easiest way to job hunt, as you aren’t really doing any hunting.

Many organisations offer email alerts for vacancies, so it’s worth signing up to them.

These include council organisations, public groups, charities and particularly online newspapers which have a vacancy search facility. The Guardian, THE and the Independent are places to start.

It’s worth noting that some organisations simply ask you for an email address, while other will ask you to set up a profile and upload a CV.

Alerts are handy as they can be set to daily, weekly or monthly depending on the service and how often you want to be notified.

And not only are they easy to access, they also provide you with job options year-round.

When to apply?

There’s no right or wrong time to search for and apply to jobs.

However, certain vacancies will follow particular trends throughout the year. Read below to find out what some of the trends are.

Graduate jobs

Seasonal peaks in graduate jobs tend to be around May-July and September-November.

They tend to follow the trend of academic year, when students have typically completed their courses.

General vacancies

These will be advertised year-round, but often follow trends the same way graduate jobs do, with peaks in the summer.

However, for jobs in most industries, January is also a good time to job-hunt. The new year brings with it new opportunities as companies begin to focus on the year ahead.

Short-term employment

Internships and grad schemes are usually advertised the September before they are due to start, with some openings also available around March/April.

Other employment

Speculative applications can be done any time of year. If you can sell yourself efficiently, there’s never a bad time to try one.

Work experience can often be picked up year-round, but tends to be in higher demand towards the summer, around May/June.

Other opportunities

If you’d like to undertake a position which combines study with work, you could look into studentships and traineeships.

Erasmus+ offers opportunities to study abroad while undertaking training in your field. And what’s more, you could be offered a stipend to do it.

MSCA networks are another great way to receive paid training or work experience during your studies. Read our guide to find out more.

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