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Ontario Tech acknowledges the lands and people of the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation.

We are thankful to be welcome on these lands in friendship. The lands we are situated on are covered by the Williams Treaties and are the traditional territory of the Mississaugas, a branch of the greater Anishinaabeg Nation, including Algonquin, Ojibway, Odawa and Pottawatomi. These lands remain home to many Indigenous nations and peoples.

We acknowledge this land out of respect for the Indigenous nations who have cared for Turtle Island, also called North America, from before the arrival of settler peoples until this day. Most importantly, we acknowledge that the history of these lands has been tainted by poor treatment and a lack of friendship with the First Nations who call them home.

This history is something we are all affected by because we are all treaty people in Canada. We all have a shared history to reflect on, and each of us is affected by this history in different ways. Our past defines our present, but if we move forward as friends and allies, then it does not have to define our future.

Learn more about Indigenous Education and Cultural Services

Working while studying: A declassified guide

November 24, 2020

If attending university wasn’t stressful enough, now it may be time to think about getting a job. Or maybe you already have one. No matter what your job looks like, part-time retail, serving, or a side hustle, it’s still going to be a challenge to manage it alongside school. Thankfully, there have been many students who have come before you and learned through trial and error some of the crucial ways to succeed both at work and in your studies. 

Research your options

As I mentioned, one of the lovely things about being university students is that we are positioned uniquely in that we have access to a variety of job markets. Since our school schedules are relatively unpredictable we are limited to taking jobs that can accommodate our assignment deadlines, midterm tests and final project due dates. Some of the more common means of employment for students usually include:

  • Retail
  • Serving
  • University Works
  • Side Hustle and Self Employed
  • Temporary and Seasonal

Allow me to expand on these types of work. 


Working at retail stores that sell products to customers. This is a very common type of job held by students because of the high level of flexibility in terms of scheduling and deadline accommodations. Some people enjoy working retail since you get the chance to interact with the public at large, for the same reason other people hate working in retail. If you’re a people person who likes working in team environments and enjoys delivering stellar customer service, retail may be a good fit for you. 


Another very popular option for folks who are studying but need an income boost. Serving offers lots of opportunities to make money in tips (depending on your employer). Again, these types of positions are very physically demanding given that you’re on your feet and carrying orders. As expected, these types of positions are also heavily reliant on customer service and satisfaction, so if you’re hoping to make bank while serving be prepared to be ensuring that your tables are happy! 

University Works

At Ontario Tech we have a work-study program called University Works. If you meet the basic requirements then you can get a job on-campus that offers you 10 hours of work per week, normally paying just above minimum wage. It’s an easy and convenient way to have a job and balance your studies because all of these positions ensure that you can prioritize school. The fun part is that positions are available with departments throughout the university, from faculty-specific positions to athletics or infrastructure and sustainability. If you’re looking for any kind of work, you can easily branch out and get basic work experience that will be applicable to any jobs in the future. If you’re looking for related experience you can be more targeted with your applications and earn experience that will be specifically applicable to your future career. You can learn more by checking out the Student Awards and Financial Aid website.

Side Hustle/ Self-Employed

 If you’re more independent or if you’ve got your own ideas that you’d like to turn into some spare change, starting a side-hustle or becoming self-employed may be a good fit for you. Some students like the option of controlling how much work they do – or don’t- take on. Your side-hustles or business could be anything that you enjoy doing and are relatively good at. Just make sure that you’re taking advantage of all the resources that are available to you. At Ontario Tech, we have the Brilliant Catalyst Program, an incubator that aims to build a community of experts, influencers, entrepreneurs, and advisors to fuel innovative change and put more Canadian ventures on the map.

Temporary and Seasonal

Sometimes all you’re looking for are very short-term jobs that kick back some extra spending money. If that’s the case, temporary or seasonal work is your best bet to earn quick cash. Often, during large events, like the PAN AM Games or even the Olympics, there will be opportunities for short contracts to help with the event. The same type of contracts often come up for work seasonally, like working at an apple orchard in the Fall or ski resort in the Winter.

This is by no means an extensive list, but it’s a collection of some of the more popular options for students. Asking your friends and classmates about their work experience and what kind of jobs they’ve had is one of the easiest ways to research your options. In fact, that’s normally how you find out about really cool opportunities. 

Decide on a good fit for you

Different people have different priorities. Some just need the money and are willing to take work in a field not aligned with what they’re studying. Others are looking to build professional experience before entering their field. The point is that all jobs have varying degrees of flexibility and skill-building and opportunities for growth. Depending on your situation, you need to make the best decision for you. 

Here’s how I’ve narrowed my options in the past. 

Once I have a good idea of what my job options look like, I ask myself these 3 questions to determine what will likely work best for me.

  1. Will this job be flexible and willing to accommodate my schedule?
  2. Based on the job description, will the work be genuinely exciting and interesting? 
  3. What can I learn or get better at by working in this position?

If you sit yourself down and examine why you need or want a job, hopefully, you’ll be able to answer these questions or a version of these questions. If you’re not in a position of having many choices at your disposal, then go for what works best and try to make the job work for you. Having a conversation with your supervisor or the hiring manager and sharing any gaps in the position that leaves your needs not being met, goes a long way.

Make a schedule and stick to it

I feel like it goes without saying that studying and working at the same time requires *peak* organization and time management skills, but I’ll say it louder for the people in the back. If you are not confident in your ability to manage multiple schedules it is very important that you take the extra time to keep yourself organized.

Use a calendar! If you make it a habit to enter everything you have going on into your calendar, it makes it significantly easier to stay organized and knock people’s socks off daily. Of course, last-minute changes happen and it’s important that you don’t overdo it with the calendar. It can be tempting to schedule every minute into those boxes but trust me, that won’t work. You need to find a balance between knowing what you have going on and still maintaining a healthy amount of flexibility. That being said if you have a last-minute shift switch, group meeting or surprise assignment due, you’ll be better prepared to make a new plan if you know the other things going on, thanks to your calendar. 

Since your email address gives you full access to the G-Suite, I would suggest making use of Google Calendar. I find that since I’m using my .net account for school anyway, it’s just as easy to include my work schedules in the same calendar. Finding everything in one place is super helpful!  If you’re more of a pen and paper person, consider investing in a handy-dandy planner. Just make sure it’s a convenient size so that you can bring it with you and make schedule changes, while on-the-go. 

Once you have an established schedule, I know that it can be tempting to procrastinate. If you’re in need of a break, take one and make a note. That way you can adjust future schedules to include a break at that time so that you don’t fall behind. Do your best to be reasonable when scheduling things like study-time and travel-time so that you don’t risk overwhelming yourself. 

While scheduling isn’t a science -per se- you’ll find what works best for you after trying it out for a few weeks or sometimes months. Remember, if it’s not working then don’t be afraid to change it up. 

Make time for yourself

This is critical to remember! You need to include your time and socializing time into your schedule. As students we often get caught up in the semester life-cycle, meaning that it is very easy to suddenly find yourself so busy that it’s been months since you’ve actually hung out with friends or spent quality time with loved ones. Understandably, sometimes you have to prioritize getting things done rather than spending time with others, but do your best to avoid developing that habit. You need to spend time with the awesome people in your life and they need to spend time with you too! You’re busting your butt to be the best version of you, but that can’t happen if you don’t let yourself enjoy some quality time on the regular. 

Long story short, working while studying is not easy to balance but it is doable if you have the right mindset. As a student you have lots of ways to make your skills work for you and get the biggest payout for your work, just don’t forget to take care of yourself.