Flexibility has become essential in our lives, especially for working college students. Because of factors like the gig economy, remote work, and the increasing influence of technology, adult students no longer have to choose between attending class and earning a paycheck. This has put increasing pressure on employers to make flexibility a selling point for part-time, and even full-time work.
What Does it Mean to Have a Flexible Job?
A flexible job eschews the traditional model of a workplace in which employees clock in and clock out daily. Flexible jobs are often classified as part-time, work-from-home, freelance, contract, “side hustles,” or the aforementioned “gig” jobs – eCommerce, rideshare, and tutoring often fall under the “gig” label.
An extensive 2019 study by ManpowerGroup Solutions defines eight types of flexible work arrangements:
- Flexible arrival and departure times
- Full-time work from home/location independence
- Choice and control in work shifts
- Part-time work from home
- Compressed shifts/work week
- Opportunity for sabbaticals or career breaks (extended time off)
- Unlimited paid time off
- Caregiving lease
The Need for Flexible Jobs for College Students
Flexible work has long been a go-to option for college students for a number of reasons, including the most obvious: paying for tuition. However, the expanding availability of remote work and tech-focused “gigs” means that college students can get much more from a part-time job than just a paycheck.
“You can be successful in college and graduate on-time with and without working your way through school, but the advantage of work is the experience that you gain and can apply to your future career,” explains Rebecca Davis, Career Services Manager for the University of Arizona Global Campus (UAGC). “Even if you’re taking a flex job in an industry that’s not related to your degree, you can find that one that strengthens the soft and hard skills that will make you a more marketable candidate to employers.”
Another advantage of flex work is that you’re able to work when it’s most convenient for you, Davis adds. College students — especially adult learners — have a longer list of priorities, including classwork and family responsibilities. If you’re able to secure flex work while in school, it makes it much easier to find balance.
Flexible Jobs Are Good for Online Students and Employers
The onset of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic led to a fast surge in flex and remote work. The latter has emerged as a trend that’s likely to stick around because it’s beneficial for all sides.
According to FlexJobs.com, remote work:
- Helps companies attract and retain top talent
- Reduces distractions, interruptions, and unproductivity among employees
- Increases job satisfaction
- Creates a quieter work environment and more comfortable workspace
- Leads to better mental health
- Is earth-conscious
All of these factors are beneficial to online college students. Attending an online university such as UAGC already saves time by eliminating expensive commutes, and remote work makes it even easier to avoid wasting time in traffic.
Further, the soft skills that you’ve developed as an online student will help you be successful in whatever flex job you choose to pursue, Davis says.
“You already bring the strengths of time management and balancing priorities to the job, and you can highlight those strengths when you’re interviewing with a potential employer,” she explains.
Finding the Best Part-time Jobs for College Students
The National Center for Education Statistics notes that the percentage of full-time undergraduate students who were also employed was 43% in 2018; and 81% for part-time undergrads. The Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University found that number to be 70% for full-time students in a 2019 report.
Since then, the expanding gig economy and the pandemic’s impact on the global workforce have transformed the way we view flex work.
“One thing to keep in mind is there are more flexible jobs available besides making online deliveries or offering your vehicle up for rideshare,” Davis explains. “From virtual assistants to online tutors, there are great opportunities out there, so you want to think outside the box and find jobs closer to your field.
“For example, if you’re a communications student or an English major, we recommend searching for freelance writing opportunities.”
Davis adds healthcare, especially telehealth, is among the other industries that have been greatly impacted by the flexible work trend. A student who is already adept at navigating the online classroom should find it easier to adjust to a virtual healthcare role, for example.
As it turns out, healthcare positions occupy several spots on FlexJobs’ list of the 12 fastest-growing flexible jobs for 2021:
- Nurse Practitioner
- Home Health Aide
- Information Security Analyst
- Data Scientist
- Speech-Language Pathologist
- Operations Research Analyst
- Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselor
- Marriage and Family Therapist
- Film and Video Editor
- Software Developer and Quality Assurance Analyst
- Genetic Counselor
Nurse practitioner, which occupies the top spot, is also listed as one of America’s fastest-growing occupations – projected to surge 45% through 2029, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the agency that analyzes employment trends. That growth is attributed to “increased emphasis on preventative care and demand for health care services from an aging population,” the BLS reports.
The “fastest-growing flexible jobs” list strengthens Davis’ argument that flexible work while in school doesn’t have to be unrelated to your major.
“As long as you can show an employer that you have a degree paired with experience, you’re a stronger job candidate,” she says.
How Career Services Helps Students Land Flexible Jobs
Davis explains that she has had a number of conversations with students about the importance of taking on flex work in school so that you can show employers your value immediately.
“It’s hard for a graduate to explain a gap of employment,” she says. “It’s easier to explain that you took a job that might not be as obvious but has transferable skills, and Career Services can help you identify those skills.”
Career Services helps UAGC students prepare for their professional lives by offering:
Flexible Job Search
Career Services provides access to a University-sponsored job board and maintains relationships with top companies searching for qualified college students and graduates. You can also upload your resume to a number of opt-in resume books, which employers are able to search when they have an immediate opening.
Resume and Cover Letter Preparation
Speaking of resumes, Career Services will assist you with writing your resume, and cover letter. Additionally, you will learn how to translate your soft and hard skills onto your resume using keywords that will help you advance through Applicant Tracking Systems, gatekeeping programs that scan resumes and determine which candidates will get a second look.
LinkedIn Profile Optimization
Like your resume, your LinkedIn profile must be optimized with the right keywords, and Career Services can help you format your profile in a way that is easy for employers to read.
Interview preparation is key, especially in the era of video networking. Davis and her team help students get accustomed to being interviewed on-camera, and mock interviews can help you identify your strengths and weaknesses so that you are prepared for any interview opportunity.
“Flexible work is not only essential to maintaining balance while you finish your degree, but it can be an experience that sets you up for the future,” Davis says.