From part-time to Student Employee of the Year

When I first arrived in Durham three years ago, I had a few doubts about what my time would be like in this charming city: being in a new country, studying a brand-new subject (I still cannot sum up what Anthropology actually is!) and figuring out my ambitions for the future. But one thing was certain: I needed to find a part-time job.

Work, work, work

It’s no secret that life in Durham can be expensive, from the costs of accommodation to pricey coffee breaks in local cafes. At first, I found it difficult to find a part-time job because I had no experience. Finances were low and I needed money to pay the bills. After handing out (too) many CVs to local businesses, I eventually managed to find a job in a restaurant. I quickly got accustomed to spending my Friday evenings washing glasses. Sundays became a full day of being on my feet. At that point, I felt lonely and resentful. As many other students working part-time during their degree, I felt like I was the only one sacrificing my weekends and missing out on the fun.

Looking back on my first ever (part-time) job, many things did not go well. I was paid under the National Minimum Wage and worked long hours into the night. I wasn’t formally employed, and was given increasing responsibilities without further training. However, this job offered me one crucial lesson: to stand up for myself and look for better opportunities.

Student emplyee of the year logo Durham UniversityAnd now…

Two years later, I am working as Marketing and Administration Intern for the University’s Careers & Enterprise Centre. In this role, I had the chance to build on my skills, which helped me when applying for other roles and further study. I also got to contribute to a team dedicated to help students make the most of their time at Durham. My responsibilities here include promoting our services on social media and assisting with a range of different projects: from editing and creating web pages to attending employer events. Whilst it sounds like all I do is browse Facebook and follow Twitter wars, I have the chance to influence issues close to my heart. I am supported to build on my past experiences to ensure that other students thrive in their part-time employment. As part of this, I launched a project aiming to produce an employer vetting system for local part-time vacancies and help students learn more about their rights.

Award winning skills

Student employee of hte year Durham Univesrity 2018It is for this role that I was recently awarded a national Student Employee of the Year Award (SEOTY). Dedicated to recognising the contributions of students who combine their studies and part-time employment, SEOTY are the largest UK student awards of this kind. They offer awards in 8 categories, to students that work on and off campus alike. As befits my role with Careers, I found out about winning on our Facebook page, as it was updated on the night of the awards. Leaving aside the surprise, all I felt was gratitude. I was absolutely terrified when I stepped into Careers for my interview and felt I had little to offer. However, this job allowed me to improve key skills and gain more self-confidence. My ideas are valued and supported. A mixture of creativity and a lot of emails, my part-time job is no longer just a way to pay the bills. I have had the chance to grow due to the support of a caring and inspiring team.

Valuable advice

So, my advice is: get started and look for a part-time job! Whether working on campus, volunteering during the weekends, or starting your own business, make the most of your time at Durham.

You can find out more about part-time employment opportunities for current students and graduates through the University’s Student Employment Service  or make an appointment with the Careers & Enterprise Centre. PLUS – check out the Careers blogs from Durham students as they share their stories, hints and tips on balancing work and study.


Ana-Maria Cirstea

Salut! I’m Ana-Maria, a recent graduate about to embark on yet another four years at Durham studying the anthropology of migration. During term time, I work for Careers & Enterprise where I aim to improve part-time student employment. When I’m not buried in books, I enjoy baking and photography.

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