Image: Unsplash
Image: Unsplash

Summer jobs: the guilt of relaxation

As the year draws to a close and the world cautiously reopens, many students are looking forward to a summer free of university work. However, all that free time and potentially expensive plans mean a lot of people are wondering whether they should get a summer job. There are many benefits to part-time work, which is often the first real experience in the working world. But after a long year of online learning, many of us are burnt out and longing for some time to relax and enjoy our new freedoms.

While there can be a lot of pressure to make the most of your free time by working, that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying your time off when you need to. Recently, I handed my notice in at my part-time job at a supermarket after working throughout this academic year. When my colleagues heard I was leaving because I was graduating from Warwick, a few were surprised that I wasn’t going to continue working at the store at home through the summer.

It made me worry that I was being lazy by actively choosing to do nothing and enjoy my summer before entering the big wide world. However, when I look back, I’ve realised that I’ve always avoided working or picking up extra shifts over the summer, instead of using the extra time to unwind and enjoy the freedom to pursue interests I didn’t have time for during the year.

Workers such as students were ‘left high and dry’ during the pandemic

With this summer bringing us (hopefully) closer to normal than ever, there seems to be a million new plans in place to make the most of it all. Unfortunately, going out so much can be very expensive, and the savings lots of us accumulated during lockdown can suddenly seem a lot smaller. As many things reopen, a lot of places are hiring, making it easier for students to get part-time work after months of lockdown. This huge demand has even led to reports of severe staff shortages in hospitality as businesses rush to hire new employees.

However, this also reflects the lack of security students face in their summer jobs, with many relying on unreliable zero-hour contracts and ‘endemic low pay’. In fact, temporary and seasonal workers such as students were ‘left high and dry’ during the pandemic. It is understandable that many of us would rather enjoy ourselves than face the stress of a summer job with no security and low pay anyway.

Working over the summer might be worth it

Part-time work is often vital to work experience, whether it’s learning how to deal with sniffy customers or stand up to demanding managers. It can also look good on your CV, demonstrating the work ethic and your reliability to potential employers. However, this doesn’t mean that we should force ourselves to be productive and working all the time. While getting a good degree and career are certainly important goals, it is just as important to take time for ourselves. For most of us, the university will be the last time that allows us to enjoy such long, uninterrupted holidays.

After such a strange and stressful academic year, we should all remind ourselves not to feel guilty about dedicating ourselves to having fun. Lots of students don’t have a choice but to work over the summer and rely on these jobs to save up money for the year ahead and it is certainly a privilege to be able to afford to take the summer off work. For those without savings or a previous job, working over the summer might be worth it to be able to afford all those reopened venues and nights out.

Nevertheless, if you are feeling pressure to be looking productive and appease family members by working over the summer, don’t be so hard on yourself. The summer holidays are there to let students relax between busy academic years, and after surely the most stressful year yet, I think we all deserve a rest more than ever.

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