WE often hear of university students abroad doing part-time jobs to cover their living and education-related expenses.
Due to the rising cost of living, this trend is also becoming increasingly common in Malaysia, with many university students turning to paid employment to cover study costs.
Apart from the extra income that could help pay for food, accommodation and other education-related and lifestyle bills, quite a number are working for experience. The skills gained from part-time jobs could prove to be a boost to students’ employability in a highly competitive job market once they graduate.
But how does one manage working at part-time jobs during semester while classes are going on? Can one do it without compromising on academic performance?
Muhammad Fuad Mohd Nizam, 20, said it all depends on how one’s priorities are set. The final-year Diploma in Graphic Design and Digital Media student at Universiti Teknologi Mara’s Alor Gajah campus does freelance sports photography during his free time.
“I get offers to cover sports events during the weekend that usually take up three to six hours each. The earnings can range from RM500 to RM1,500 each time depending on the type of event. I usually finish editing the photos just before I go back to campus. In balancing my work, studies and social life, I will always prioritise my studies first. Occasionally I turn away offers when I know my assignments are piling up,” he said.
With spending on printing, research and ideation for his studies in graphic design, followed by fuel for his car and food expenses, Fuad said the income from the freelance jobs come handy, especially towards the end of the semester, when there is a shortfall in funds from his parents.
Prior to sports photography, Fuad designed and created logos or brand identities for small companies.
“Then I found out that my forte is more in photography. My line of studies relates with today’s creative industry. Working as a photographer and sometimes videographer helps me hone my skills and improve my portfolio for future job prospects.
“I have found through research that most creative companies or media companies do require a certain amount of working experience from job applicants. This working experience will definitely help me with that.”
Fuad said for him sports photography has turned into a passion.
“I do not think of it as work anymore. To me, it’s a win-win situation. I get to fulfil my passion and also earn money that will also help me with my studies. Also, the money earned can be used as my savings as well,” he said.
Nur Amira Md Mashor, 21, a third-year law student at Universiti Malaya, puts in 18 hours a week at a fitness studio as the first point of contact for customers.
“My job scope is to open up the studio for the day’s business, signing in members when they turn up and sell packages to prospective new members. I am also required to keep the studio tidy, so I will sweep and wipe the mirrors after each exercise class. However, I do not do heavy cleaning as there are cleaners that come twice a week,” she said.
According to Amira, her working hours does not affect her classes at all as they are all scheduled in the morning.
“I only work around my class schedule. I make about RM600 a month, which helps to cover my monthly expenses without depending on my parents too much,” she said.
Amira believes working while studying will improve her job prospects later as it helps build connections and understanding of the real world, which is crucial to her area of study.
“My working experience started after I finished Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia exam. I started working as an administrative assistant and continued even during the start of my degree. Over the past four years, I have worked at various companies, such as a property development company, a chemical trading company and a legal firm.”
Her experience working with a property developer exposed her to issues faced by developers and buyers. Being attached to the legal firm, although just for a short period, gave her an insight of a lawyer’s work.
“Even though my current part-time job is at a fitness studio, it still helps me in a way that I am more comfortable to interact with people and help to build my communication skills.”
She admits that her father is a bit reluctant to let her work during the semester, as he is worried that it will affect her studies.
“I still insist on working part-time as I feel that it helps me manage my time better and be more focused on my studies. It also helps me manage my own finances without having to rely on my parents too much. More importantly, it provides me with real-world experiences, which I feel will be handy for my assignment, and my future work.”
Brothers Mohd Syabil Qadri Shamlin, 22, and Mohd Syahmi Rasydan Shamlin, 21, prefer to work during semester breaks.
With divorced parents, the lads who hail from Sabah and are now residing in Cyberjaya with their mother and other siblings, feel it is their responsibility to help out as much as they can, particularly financially even though they are recipients of financial aid.
Syabil, who is pursuing Syariah studies at Kolej Universiti Islam Pahang Sultan Ahmad Shah in Kuantan, Pahang, receives funds from the Sabah Zakat Centre for his tuition fees, while Syahmi, who studies journalism at UiTM Shah Alam, has taken a loan from the National Higher Education Fund Corporation to cover part of his edcation cost.
“Our mother has never failed to give us some allowance, but we know she is going through hard times. So we decided to work while studying. At first, I tried working part time during semester, but it was too taxing to balance work and studies, and I wasn’t able to pay attention class. So I decided to work during semester breaks instead, where I can put in full hours,” said Syabil.
Syahmi, too, decided to do the same. Syabil and Syahmi usually work at eateries during semester break. What they earn generally goes towards food and books, as well as savings.
“I think working while you’re still studying does improve job prospects when you graduate. Because there are things we don’t get to learn at universities. The exposure in the working environment can be applied in our future workplace. It would be especially useful in improving our work performance in future,” said Syahmi.