August 12, 2009
Finding a Part-Time Job
So...summer's wrapping up, you're packing up and getting ready to move to Ann Arbor. Congrats, and yay! Something I hear a lot of chatter about is part-time work: how to find it, how much to do, what to expect, and when to start looking. As a professional job-juggler, I'm happy to oblige all you information seekers with my handy-dandy blog of information dissemination power!
How much is too much?
A good rule for estimating your time is to assume that 4 classes will equal about a 40-hour work week. Some classes are heavier, some are lighter, and the workload will definitely vary a bit throughout the semester, but assume that 4 classes is about 40 hours, with each class at about 10 hours of time. That means that if you wish to work half time, you will be signing up for a 60-hour week. Some students start slow, getting their job in the first semester and only working 5-10 hours to start, and then either increasing their hours in winter or spring, or getting another 5-10 hour job later. I highly recommend starting slow, and adding hours as you become comfortable, everyone (and every job) is different.
I got my first PT job in October, and worked 10-15 hours there. In late December I saw a posting for another job that I really wanted, but since I didn't want to add many more hours to my week in my second semester, I started at 5 hours and waited until summer to increase my obligation there. I worked full-time throughout undergrad, so I was ready to juggle 25-30 hours a week my second year, but this may be more than some people want to do if they have heavy classes that semester.
When to start looking
My experience has been that most job postings on campus, and even around town (at least, those seeking graduate students), come out in late August to early-mid September. Two reasons for this are 1)budgets and 2)employers getting settled with returning students before determining their hiring needs. So don't worry if you don't have a job before you arrive-many of you won't. And don't worry if you don't have one before school starts, allow some time for everything to post. As I said, I found my first job in October-and that gave me some time to just focus on starting school.
Now, if there's somewhere you would really like to work (a specific department, school or library/collection) you don't necessarily have to wait for a posting to make yourself known to them. Don't hesitate to contact someone you would like to work for, just to introduce yourself and express interest in working with them. It can help them recognize your name when a posting comes up and you apply, it may even encourage them to look into opportunities to take on an intern or hire a temporary assistant for a project. I know of one student who volunteered for a semester, while her supervisor crunched some numbers and eventually found room in the budget to hire her. So, to sum up: you can start contacting, looking early, but be prepared to wait until the first month of school to actually get started.
What's out there?
The general trend has been that any SI student that wants part-time job will find one, usually on campus. SI students have a great reputation around the University as great problem-solvers and innovators. Of course, the library system employs a large number of SI students (especially LIS and ARM specialists) but this is a very LARGE system, feel free to branch out and look into other opportunities.
My personal impressions (Kelly and Joanna, of course, have better data on this) is that most graduate-level part-time jobs pay between $10-15 per hour, with higher wages for project-based jobs such as website design that may only last a month or two. There are also GSI/GSRA/GSSA positions that offer more than just a bit of extra cash (see my blog post about these positions here). Once again, the more resourceful you are in your search, the better options you'll end up with. Don't be afraid to "think outside the box" a little when considering your options.
Also remember that part-time work is part of the practical-experience leg of your MSI experience, so when considering scheduling flexibility, wages and other thing also consider how the job may be expanded to teach you valuable skills for your future career-and don't be afraid to get creative with this. For example, if you want reference experience don't limit yourself to jobs on a reference desk-there are a lot of different ways to find out what someone is looking for and help them find it.
Where to look
There are a lot of places to look. There doesn't seem to be one single place that really catches all of the opportunities. A good way to search is to just take some time every few days and peek through all of these resources.
CTools - If you are part of a new-student CTools site (*here's looking at you, fall admits*) then you'll notice that Kelly, Joanna and the gang have posted quite a bit of information on upcoming opportunities and job-search strategies.
SI listservs - I found both of my jobs through the si.all.open email listserv. All SI students are originally signed up for it, and you can unsubscribe if you wish-some people choose to due to the large amount of conversation, non-relevant postings, etc. I, however, love using my "delete" option and don't mind sifting through some stuff to find the goods. It reaches a lot of people, so employers (specifically alumni) sometimes send postings to this list. Also, faculty and stuff often forward postings from professional listservs or other UofM contacts.
iTrack - SI students can register for a "monster.com"-type service through SI. iTrack lists openings for part-time and full-time positions, internships, etc. You can also upload a resume, cover letters and other job-search documents to send to employers. It's a good service for finding campus jobs. You'll learn more about this service during orientation.
department and institution human resources/websites - if you have a place in mind, you can contact their human resources or keep an eye on their website for postings. The Graduate Library has a human resources office on the 4th floor of the North building. You can go there during orientation and "register" with them, taking your resume and schedule.
Student Employment Office - the UofM Student Employment Office posts student jobs, mostly for University employers but also for off-campus businesses.
Craigslist, mLive, etc. - to find other local jobs, these websites can be quite helpful for off-campus employment.
Support around SI-
In seeking PT work, internships and professional positions I've always been incredibly impressed with the career services at SI. In addition to hosting/running some great professional development opportunities (including Kelly's award-winning management of the Alternative Spring Break program), Kelly and Joanna have always been around to answer any questions I've had about the job hunt/career dance, help me work on a cover letter, or pass on an email about an opportunity. (Kelly specifically works with first-year students, though both will be available to you.) Not only do they fill the year with employer visits and workshops, and keep a strong network of alumni and employers for you to tap into, they're incredibly accessible and generally ready to help whenever you need it (or within 24 hours, in my experience). They've proofread my application materials, answered my drop-in questions about interview/application etiquette, referred me to alumni at various organizations, even taught me to write a CV (because really, the concept of a new librarian CV mystified me).
You will also find that faculty are generally on the lookout for opportunities and like to forward emails about scholarships and job postings. Once you've built relationships with relevant faculty, you'll have an even larger network of people to turn to when trying to connect with opportunities.
Lastly, don't forget student organizations. In addition to passing on job postings from forums and listservs, some student groups will host resume or career panels, peer advising and other useful services. If your group of choice doesn't, try suggesting it to a board member.
Posted by messelti at August 12, 2009 12:59 PM