In an ideal world, you would be able to live completely off your student loan and focus on your degree, with no need to work. However, with the world we live in now – with maintenance loans barely covering housing costs – we all know that that’s about as realistic as people respecting my humanities degree. Whilst jobs are important, what is more important is your wellbeing and degree, so having to go through a bit of trial and error to get where you need to be shouldn’t be frowned upon.
When I started off at uni, I was commuting because, in all honesty, I wasn’t ready to leave home behind. It’s all well and good if you live near university, but I was effectively spending roughly £20-£30 every weekend to just work a few hours at a minimum wage job and see my cat. I was extremely attached not to the job itself, but the people I worked with, to the point where the idea of leaving to work somewhere closer to uni led to me sobbing in the library at 1 am. Being home at the weekends meant I also missed out on opportunities to bond with my course mates, extra time to study, and getting involved in extracurriculars. It was financially and academically inconvenient, and it was healthier for me to let go and realise that things can’t be the same forever if I am truly to embrace my new life. That was my first lesson.
Conveniently, as this job was part of a bigger franchise, I was able to transfer to one near my University town. However, I had to work in two separate shops owned by the same company (albeit in the same shopping center), a decent way away from my flat and all for just a handful of hours at, once again, a minimum wage rate. I remember mocking my boyfriend for taking his time to find part-time work, as I really thought that rushing in was the best option out of fear for my finances and the possibility of a transfer to my old workplace come Christmas, so again still not quite letting go.
However, I soon found myself to be desperately unhappy in my new job. Not only was I struggling to make ends meet, but I also felt in the pit of my stomach that something wasn’t right. I woke up every weekend finding myself struggling with anxiety which manifested in physical symptoms with the idea of going back there. The worst part was that I felt I had no reason to be anxious; the staff were nice enough, the jobs were simple, it’s just something wasn’t clicking for me, and I knew that the extent of anxiety I felt over a few hours in a shop went beyond boredom and distaste for my job. Thus, I went looking elsewhere.
Looking back, I think that for me the problem with that job was that it was so small, constricted and quiet. There wasn’t much staff and certainly not many I related to. A lot of responsibility I wasn’t used to was unspokenly placed on me, and I think I found that to be too suffocating. As someone with anxiety, unfamiliar environments are scary enough for me, so the fact it was so small and focused on me individually caused an abundance of pressure which, with a degree to think about also, simply wasn’t worth it.
When I went for an interview at my now current place of work, I felt instantly at ease even at the interview stage. It was everything I was looking for in a job: fast-paced, busy, lots of tasks, spacious and with people to relate to. The problem was that my old place of work was very stringent on their expected notice period, expecting a months notice when I had only been working there for six weeks. I was so desperate to get out of there I ended up leaving without giving notice when I got the job offer.
I was unhappy with this turn of events and offered solutions where I still worked my notice in a way that made everyone happy, but their reaction and hostility following my choice showed me that perhaps I made the right decision after all. I regret leaving them in that position, and by sharing this I’m hoping that others will not do what I did. I should have spoken up sooner and made my feelings known, as keeping my feelings bottled up had an adverse impact on multiple parties.
Fundamentally, the lesson I want students to take from my story is one of self-care. You owe it to yourself to find a job that makes you feel happy, safe and comfortable, and if that takes a little while then that’s okay too. If you start a new job and you don’t like it as much as you thought you did, don’t let anyone tell you that you are an ungrateful or terrible person. Your well-being should always take priority over quick money when considering your job options, as it has such an enormous, knock-on effect on your whole university experience. You owe it to yourself to make your experience the best it can be, so if you’re unhappy with something: change it.