“My manager only hires students”
Interview with Chelsea Thoren, 23 years old, student and part-time Starbucks waitress
WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO WORK PART-TIME?
There wasn’t really a choice. Working part-time while being a student is a financial necessity for me. I came to Montreal from Vancouver and I started my third year in Human Relations at university. The courses have to be paid for first but the books can cost me four to five hundred dollars per semester. I got a loan from the bank, but it wasn’t enough. I needed more money to balance my budget. I found a job at Starbucks when I arrived and I worked full time all summer. Courses have started again in the last few weeks so I have gone to part time.
WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES OF WORKING PART-TIME?
I think that for a student, an additional source of income helps tremendously to achieve a balanced life. It’s not only pocket money for school or shopping but also money to go out. I can tell you that sometimes my social life depends on this salary, and a social life can really be a luxury for a student. Financial and academic matters are always on the front burner. But working full timeis not feasible. I find that in my case I would really have no reason to work full time.
DO YOU THINK THAT BEING A STUDENT IS AN ADVANTAGE IN LOOKING FOR A JOB?
It has really been an advantage for me. When I went to my job interview, the manager told me that she only hires students. Some are part time while others decide not to take classes and work full time for a semester or a year. Besides, my current manager is also a student and has taken a sabbatical for a year.
WHAT OBSTACLES AND PRESSURES DO YOU HAVE TO FACE IN YOUR DAILY LIFE?
Working and studying at the same time is a challenge. You have to learn to deal with many unexpected events. A student who is working must learn to multitask, you really have to get organized. The pressure that comes with less free time has made me more strategic. I manage my time much better now. I have especially learned to say no, because exhaustion is the real threat. When classes started I got sick. I was going at a crazy pace, didn’t sleep much, juggled time for work and classes, and I was looking for an apartment… I was exhausted.
WHAT DOES YOUR EMPLOYER DO TO HELP YOU BALANCE YOUR WORKING LIFE AND YOUR STUDIES?
I can honestly say that the manager at the coffeehouse has done her best. I went to see her and told her that I couldn’t continue at this pace. I was working twenty five hours per week, which was too much pressure and I had to reduce my working hours. I didn‘t want more than fifteen hours and she thought it was not enough. In the end we negotiated and reached a compromise. I continued at the same pace for two weeks and then adopted a schedule of sixteen hours per week. The negotiation worked well and I am still trying to reduce my hours. But the schedule can still change depending on the week. In the exam period alone, everything gets complicated, all the employees want time off.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND PART-TIME WORK TO OTHER STUDENTS? WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE?
I recommend that students who are looking for a job take an especially close look at their school calendar. Set how much time you would like to invest in each of your chosen activities. Find a job that doesn’t take too much of your time and pays well. Calculate how much time travel will take.
Working and studying are two fundamentally opposed lifestyles, so organize your time well. Avoid distractions. Set aside some free time to relax. Personally, I have learned to work and study during the day, by avoiding going home until the evening. Once I’m back home, I am completely relaxed, I don’t care about anything. This is the advantage of working at Starbucks. It’s an organization that is regulated down to the smallest detail, you know what your responsibilities are and what is expected of you. That’s what makes it a great job for students.