Should students work while studying?

By Dania Aziz

Is it beneficial or burdensome? Hear from these three young talents with first-hand experience working while studying to understand the reality of it all.

Many people, understandably, find the idea of learning and working at the same time intimidating. Trying to combine two distinct lives may be quite difficult since it necessitates a great degree of time management and organisation!

Although working as a student helps you get relevant real-world experience and crucial soft skills before entering the actual working world while also providing you with your own source of income, there are some drawbacks such as disrupted sleep habits and a high level of stress.

To help you decide, check out what these three talents have to say about working while studying.

Syaffiqah Azuar
A 22-year-old Bachelor of Arts, Foreign Language Major in French student at Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) who works both part-time and full-time.

Norsyaidah Nafisah
A business graduate from University of Malaya now working as a Talent Acquisition Executive.

Shafiqah Shazreen
A business graduate from University of Malaya, Shafiqah is a Senior Executive in Strategy.

#1 Share your experience working while studying.

Syaffiqah: I am currently doing my internship at GRADUAN® for six months. Besides that, I do freelance jobs such as modelling, assisting small companies to grow their sales, and privately tutoring for primary and secondary school students in Additional Mathematics, History, Bahasa Melayu, French and many more. I also founded and manage The Myqa, a premium chocolate jar business and have been working on that for over a year now.

Norsyaidah: During my second year of university, I was offered to be part of a Management Apprentice Program (MAP) by UM HEPA (Student Affairs of University of Malaya) in collaboration with McDonald’s Malaysia. The programme was designed to train students to be well-prepared managers. At first, I was hesitant to join since working part-time may interfere with my studies, but I decided to go for it. I ended up being the first from this programme to obtain an internship at their headquarters in Damansara Utama.

Shafiqah: I previously worked full time while studying and it wasn’t easy. I had to drive back and forth from class to office and I had to take calls in between classes, but I was fortunate to have such amazing lecturers and an employer who understood my situation and believed in me. There was a moment when I had too many things on my plate and was on the verge of giving up, but I stayed positive, focused, and managed to work my way through it. Thankfully, I passed my exams with honours.

#2 How did you juggle your time between studying and working?

Syaffiqah: Time management is everything. As a student, we have a plethora of tasks, but I am the sort of person who will always do my assignments as soon as I can. As a result, I always have additional time to amend my work or do other things.

Norsyaidah: I prioritised my academics while maintaining my employment commitments. I always made it a point to complete my class assignments and tutorials on the day they were assigned to me. If I was unable to do so, I would schedule a time after work to complete the tasks. I was also fortunate to work with a management that understood my responsibilities as a student, so anytime I had a test or a quiz, they would assist with my work schedule.

Shafiqah: Finding the balance between study, work, and social life wasn’t easy and can be overwhelming at times but with some planning, time management and self-discipline, I was able to manage it pretty well. It was very important for me to create a schedule, work on a timeline, and stick to it. Stress management was important as well. In my spare time, I enjoy doing outdoor sports such as jogging and hiking. It helps me cope with my stress and I feel that managing my mental health is very important to stay focused in everything I do.

#3 What are the benefits you get from working while studying?

Syaffiqah: I get to earn additional money while meeting individuals from all walks of life. It also helps me improve my communication skills and critical thinking abilities.

Norsyaidah: Working as a student provided me with additional information and abilities that were not included in my degree curriculum. If I didn't know how to prepare burgers and swirl ice cream before, now I can do it with both eyes closed! I also got to utilise the approach I learned in lecture at the workplace. For example, I was able to handle challenging customers on my own by applying the knowledge I obtained from Consumer Behaviour class.

Shafiqah: Besides making some extra money, you will undoubtedly gain some valuable work experience which can help you gain some skills that a university degree won’t teach you. You’ll learn to be more assertive and comfortable to talk with others from different walks of life, and you’ll develop some great interpersonal and technical skills. It can also be helpful for you to apply for a permanent job after graduating especially knowing that many employers these days prefer someone with at least one to two years working experience. Your resume can help you stand out to potential employers.

#4 Did working affect your studies?

Syaffiqah: Working while studying does not affect my grades at all. It actually helps me think outside the box during examinations and when I do presentations in front of my lecturers. Furthermore, it helps me become a more mature decision-maker and an excellent leader for my group work.

Norsyaidah: On the contrary, it forced me to concentrate harder on my studies. They designed every component of the MAP programme really well, and it genuinely helped me a lot to put the experience I had into my studies. Before I started working, I had a CGPA of less than 3.0, but I was able to raise it to 3.50 during semester five when I started working while studying.

Shafiqah: I never had any bad experience with it. Particularly because I handled my time really well with work, assignments, deadlines, group discussions and exams. My assignment teammates were so supportive, and we had great teamwork. I recall having a panic attack a few minutes before an exam during my first year, and my friends were there to comfort me.

#5 Would you recommend fellow students to get the experience of working while studying?

Syaffiqah: Without a doubt! In fact, I encourage my friends who are still studying to start their own business by recognising their potential, or to work part-time. However, at the end of the day, it all comes down to the person.

Norsyaidah: I strongly recommend it if they wish to gain job experience while studying. Keep in mind that time management is important. Work on your time, prioritise your studies, and don't forget about your responsibilities at work. Good luck!

Shafiqah: Yes, if you have the opportunity, please do so. It doesn’t matter if it’s a full-time or a part time job. You’ll be surprised with the life-changing benefits it can bring you.

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