We caught up with Surrey students to find out about their part-time jobs experience and how it benefits their personal and professional development.
Ana-Maria Enache, 21, International Event Management student
Why did you start working in this position?
I was searching for a flexible part-time job that could allow me to take days off and fund my escapes abroad and my casual rendezvous. The job at Simply Fresh came in handy as it was just a stone’s throw away from lectures and could fit my schedule. I’ve always liked the idea of working in place that requires human interaction and working in a student environment was just perfect!
What is the hardest thing to overcome?
Hmm, it must be the times when I was all on my own at the tills and covering for long queues.
What do you enjoy most in your job?
The interaction with other students and co-workers! Before working at Simply, I used to see the people working there from the customer’s point of view, but once an employee myself, it was interesting to learn more about all those people.
And of course, I can’t forget about the cheeky donuts or discounted products that we used to get occasionally. Aaa! And the times when we could choose the playlist for the shop floor!
What have you learned from this position?
That people can have weird food choices (haha, just kidding). I guess it must be that a nice conversation at the till or good customer service can make someone’s day.
What is the most precious/valuable experience you can recall from this position?
This is hard [laughs], I can’t recall an exact time, but I think it’s the fact that customer engagement is important and can be a push or pull.
What type of people have you met while working there?
Many types…it’s not all students, it’s also older people, some with families…some with cool life stories…also most of them come from different places and it’s always nice to chat about their culture and get their recommendations regarding their country’s cuisine! Not to mention the exam period, when both student employees and student customers complain about the workload.
What can you say about students as customers?
From my experience some can be quite hard to please and others are just great!
Some are more impatient than others, some are a bit rude, some are fun to have a quick chat with over the till…it really varies.
How did you manage to balance work and student life?
I’d say work proved to be my escape from student life (laughs). It was nice to work shifts when there was quite a lot going on in my student life as it could just take my mind away from all the deadlines.
Were there times where you felt you needed more time in order to study or party with your friends? What pushed you to keep on going?
Not really, working on campus was pretty easy; I could go to The Basement or Rubix after finishing my evening shifts…and having friends live on campus was just perfect! Perhaps sometimes studying should have been a priority, but I was happy to earn enough money for my next trips, so it all worked out in the end. Yeah…this makes me consider going back after returning from placement.
Mandeep Singh, 21, Computer Science & Business student
Why did you start doing graphic design? How did you find out you had a talent for it?
Even at the age of 8 I loved drawing, being creative and making things out of objects (lego). During my high school years, at the age of 14, I was exposed to digital graphics and I was blown away by it. I decided straight away that it was something I was going to pursue in GCSE, so I picked up Art Graphics. Since then, my love for graphic design grew and grew exponentially. I realized then that I loved creating on digital platforms like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator.
Do you enjoy your work and what are the rewards (both financial and psychological)? What is the biggest reward?
Nothing gives me more joy than to see something that was drawn on paper transformed into something digital and then creating art from it. Creating content gives me this sense of relaxation, almost the feeling of meditation. Creating unique content that can speak thousands of words is the most rewarding factor of my work
How did you build your customer base? Does it consist of any students?
I started to edit for my society at university and word of mouth spread and my brand got bigger and bigger. I was working for Frisky Entertainment and at some point, I was asked to create a poster. It ended up becoming a more permanent thing and from then on I was working as their graphic designer. I have also been asked to create posters by poets/public speakers. And all of that with promotion on my social media and mainly word of mouth, as mentioned before.
Do you always create what the customer wants, or do you create based on your own needs?
I always believed in taking my customers’ input very seriously, as everyone has their own perception of creativity and art and learning from others/listening is part of my work ethos. I always try and include what my customer wants, but then I always give feedback on what I think might work better in some situations (altering some aspects). At the end of the day “the customer is always right”.
What would you say is the biggest challenge of your work?
I work in a saturated market where the competition is heavy. Getting my work noticed is definitely a challenge. But that’s the fun in it.
How do you balance work-student life?
I have to be very strict with my schedule: I prioritize, I sleep on time and I have created an organized system that will enhance my achievements. To be able to successfully undertake such responsibilities, I have to be disciplined on what I choose and what not to.
Would you do this as a profession in the future?
I know I would never leave anything that makes me happy. Graphic design makes me happy. I can’t say for sure that I will follow this professionally in the future, but I will keep on designing and creating content, whether it is for my customers or for my personal enjoyment.
How does it help you release your creativity?
Creativity is a way of living life that embraces originality and makes unique connections between seemingly disparate ideas. The fact that I am creative and have the platform to release my creativity means I will keep on doing so until there is nothing left to create, which is impossible. Therefore, I will keep on going.
Interviews by Elpida Komianou
Picture research by Donna Darafshian; featured image by Mandeep Singh.
Special thanks to Ana-Maria and Mandeep for your participation.