How Not to Move Back in With Your Parents

Employment & Internships Podcast Episodes

Work-Life Balance
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Pete and Alex talk about developing a manageable work-life balance while in school.



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We’ve mentioned it before: We’re all about making sure that you operate your financial life in such a way that you stay well.  As crazy as it may sound, there are times when having more money isn’t going to make things better for you.  In fact, there are times when making a less-than-ideal financial decision may be the right thing to do in order for you to keep your sanity.  

In college, your goal should be to get your degree in as little time as possible.  The less time you are in college, the more money you’ll save (every extra year of college costs you an  additional year of tuition and fees plus the opportunity cost of not working).  Even if it means taking on a little bit of student loan debt to help you concentrate on your studies, this may be the right approach for you - because if you’ve taken out loans anyway to get you most of the way finished with your degree, you lose out on even more if you don’t finish.  The more hours that you have to put into a job to help cover your expenses in college means less time for you to be able to focus on your studies, which could severely limit your ability to get a degree on time.  In fact, research has shown that working more than 20 hours/week while in school has a negative impact on GPA.  Working 10 - 15 hours, however, has a positive impact because it causes you to learn how to prioritize and organize your life.  Although working 15 hours/week less may mean that you have to borrow a bit of money for school, it may spare you some sanity.  Think about it: If you’re the student who is in the situation that Alex described in this week’s podcast, you’d be committing at least 90 hours/week to work and school:

Work: 30 hours/week
In-Class (Full-Time): 15 hours/week
Homework/studying: 45 hours/week

For your sanity purposes, this is probably not the greatest thing in the world.  And sadly, with the costs of college rising, most people choose to go to school less and work more, which delays the time to graduation and increases the cost of college for the student.  In situations such as this, you might want to ask yourself if taking on a little bit of debt would help.

This is not to say that we’re telling you work less and take on more debt, but we are suggesting that if your situation is frustrating, you should sit down and talk it out with yourself and your family to determine what is your optimal balance.  In Alex’s case, he chose to take on a bit of debt and committed himself to paying it off within three years as a way to maintain his sanity while in school.  He also cited the fact that working less allowed him to be more involved in school, which may look better on his resume. Working too much while in school may prevent you from getting these experiences.   

Here are some tips from our friends in the Career Development Center on what employers look for when it comes to balancing your school and work life:

1. Experience comes in many forms

Your resume doesn’t have to be (and shouldn’t be) just paid work experience. There are tons of ways to get involved and add experience to your resume. To name a few: volunteering a few hours each week or each month, taking classes, getting a part-time internship or job, participating in student clubs or organizations, or doing community service projects. This connects to our next point.

2. Quality over quantity or Depth over breadth

Employers would rather you commit your whole self to one or two things and master them instead of taking on 15 projects and doing a so-so job on all of them. Once you know your passion (which may or may not be your major), then find ways to “do your passion” and share it with the world around you. If you need help discovering your interests, skills, abilities, and talents, visit your career advisor, and ask for ideas. Career advisors can help you not only identify relevant opportunities that can benefit your career, but they can also help you craft your resume to make them work for you.

3. Self-Care and Having Artistic/Physical Outlets

Self-care is tremendously important, not just in college but for your whole life. Make sure that you take time to do things that you enjoy and help you recharge, not just stuff that looks good on your resume. This may be going out with friends, reading a book, or exercising – what it takes to help you manage your stress so you can continue doing your best. It’s a good idea to have one outlet that is more artistic/creative and exercises that side of your brain, and another that is a physical activity to help exercise and balance different parts of your whole self.

Additionally, if you’re thinking of adding in some work-related experience to your resume:

4. Volunteer work is experience

Be sure to include it!  Employers want to see that you have been building skills outside the classroom. Include both on- and off-campus experience.  Volunteer work is a great way for international students to build experience to highlight on their resume. Also, internships are a key to a great entry-level job.  Showing a work ethic that extends beyond the classroom makes you stand out to employers.

Work experience is valuable, but you must highlight the skills you have acquired on the job that are most likely to attract the employer.  Use the job posting to determine what skills the employer wants, and tailor your resume bullet points to fit.

Collaborations from featured contributors Chris Klein, Assistant Director of the Career Development Center and Arts & Sciences Career Services; and Jessica Nevitt, Lecturer for Arts and Sciences Career Services, Indiana University Bloomington

What’s frustrating is that these lifestyle choices aren’t limited to college. The same issue will come up after you graduate and are in the midst of building your career.  You will have to make the choice as to what optimal balance of salary and work hours makes the most sense for you.  While you may want that $80,000 job, are you willing to put in 60 hours/week to make it?  This is a question that you will ask yourself time and time again throughout your life...and it will always be an important one to ask because it will serve as a barometer for your wellness.  What’s also important to note is that you may not get the answer right with your first job.  Instead, you should make sure to assess how your current lifestyle makes you feel so you can make more informed decisions as you continue to progress in your career.

While making less money or taking out some additional student loan debt may not sound like the greatest ideas in the world, if they put you in a more positive state of wellness, then we’re all for it.  Make sure that you’re taking the time while you’re in school to enjoy college, and make sure to enjoy your life even when you’re working.  As Pete says in this week’s podcast, you only get one life.  Make sure you’re doing what you can to put yourself in a good position to enjoy it.

Season 4: 03/30/2015