You’ve just checked your bank balance. The numbers are okay, but not great. You groan and pull at your hair in frustration.
I need a job.
You spend the next several hours on Indeed, scrolling through jobs and bookmarking the listings you’re interested in—most likely the ones you barely qualify for. Then, you dust off your resume and create cover letters, sending them to anyone you think might hire you.
For the next week or so, you wait anxiously, despairing whenever you see the inevitable “Sorry, but this didn’t work out,” in your inbox.
You’re ready to cry for joy when a few people call to set up interviews. You work on your interview answers, creating a script and doing mock interviews with your family and friends, trying to present yourself in the best way possible.
Finally, you go for the interview. Everything seems to be going well, but then the interviewer asks about your schedule. They shake their head at your response, and you know you’ve lost the position.
This is a problem for many students, no matter what program or year they’re in.
They need money for living expenses, but most employers want someone who is flexible and can commit to several shifts per week. Not an option if you have a full course load.
Introducing: on-campus jobs.
All students have access to postings through CareerVIU, an online portal under the Centre for Experiential Learning (CEL). Jobs include internships and co-ops specific to certain programs, work-ops, research assistant positions, and external listings from off-campus employers. VIU encourages on-campus employment as convenient options for busy students.
Are these jobs a good deal? What do students working on campus think?
Austin Heidt is a third-year Digital Media Studies major and Marketing minor. He is a videographer for The Navigator and he also does play-by-play commentary as a Student Media Assistant for the VIU Mariners’ basketball teams.
Last year, he did IT work for the 2022 Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) Women’s Basketball National Championship and tech work at the Children’s Lit Conference, along with classmate and fellow Nav videographer Mike Duddy.
Heidt has had a great experience working on campus. He finds VIU as an employer both accommodating and professional compared to previous work off campus.
His favorite part of the job is networking, especially as an introvert who is trying to push himself to connect with other people.
Heidt’s relationships with teachers and classmates led him to his current jobs. Digital Media Studies professor Robin Davies helped him get the Student Media Assistant position and Duddy encouraged him to join The Nav.
“As we get older, it’s not as much about what you know—it’s about who you know,” Heidt says. “It’s all about meeting the right people.”
Heidt emphasizes trying different jobs in different areas to build up a skillset and collect references. When it comes to interviewing for jobs, he approaches the process less like a test with right and wrong answers, and more like a fit between employer and employee.
“Do I want to learn from this person?” he asks. “Do I want to work closely with them?”
Abbie Vomacka is another student working on campus. She is in her fourth year of a Bachelor of Business Administration degree. She already has a certificate in Events Management, and now she is working on a double major in Marketing and Management.
Vomacka works as a Student Ambassador Lead with the Office of Future Students, a position tweaked to count as a work-op for her Management 499 credits.
As the name suggests, Vomacka trains Student Ambassadors and organizes events and meetings for them. However, her main tasks include leading campus tours and appearing at welcome events such as RockVIU. This January, she is also taking over VIU’s TikTok.
Vomacka finds VIU as an employer to be flexible and supportive, especially with mental health and weekly check-ins. She also likes being able to put her program’s theories into practice while getting paid for it.
“I love working where I learn,” she says. “It’s really nice to go from class and just walk over to my office and put in some hours, and it’s great to have a little extra cash to support living expenses.”
Aside from her paid work-op, Vomacka also runs the Girls on Fire club and is an executive for the VIU Business Students’ Association.
For Althea Rasendriya, working on campus was one of her favorite experiences as a student. Rasendriya is a fourth-year Digital Media Studies student minoring in Languages and Culture. She was a Student Activity Leader (a work-op under International Education’s Cultural Connections program) from May to December last year.
Rasendriya loved the friendly working environment and getting the chance to interact with students in a professional way.
“It’s different—you socialize in a class versus in your workspace—but at the same time, it’s not all formal ‘us/them’ with boundaries all the time. You get to know how to make friends but in a more respectful manner,” she says.
Working alongside full-time staff makes for a very in-between position. “You’re a student. You’re also kind of like a working adult, but … you’re not strictly categorizing yourself as one thing or the other,” she says.
Since Rasendriya joined post-COVID, there were some activities she was unable to take part in. She wishes there was more one-on-one staff time (besides training) to get to know each other.
Perhaps the biggest issue is VIU’s requirement that students be registered for new classes to be eligible for employment. Rasendriya is finishing incomplete classwork this semester, so she’s not allowed to work. She thinks that having a VIU student status should be enough to qualify.
Vomacka wishes she had better prepared herself for her role. There were many Management responsibilities that she didn’t think she’d handle or experience so soon.
However, it’s a challenge she’s embraced.
“It’s a little overwhelming sometimes getting a glimpse into what I’m actually going to be doing in the future,” she says. “But it’s a scary kind of ‘I love it.’”
So, should students apply for on-campus jobs? These students say yes.
Vomacka highly recommends that students apply, whether for jobs or for volunteer work that could lead to a paid position. For example, there is an opening for Student Ambassador Lead in the summer and current and upcoming volunteer Student Ambassador positions.
However, she warns students that it isn’t easy maintaining a school-work balance. She advises them to plan out their week and be transparent with their employer.
“It’s really important that you let them know, ‘Hey, I’m going to have a test this day,’ or, ‘I’m not going to be available for a couple days before this. Would that be okay?’”
She also reminds students that their work ethic will affect their future employment: “Be prepared to put your all in, because any job that you get is going to reflect who you are as an employee.”
Heidt suggests that students get to know their classmates and professors so they have connections for future employment.
“You don’t necessarily have to be best friends, but definitely take an interest in the things that they do, because they’ll most likely reciprocate,” he says. “As opportunities come along, if you’ve left a good enough impression and the job makes them think of you, I have no doubt that they’ll reach out.”
Jonah Ferguson is the Student & Employer Engagement Specialist at the Career Studio (under the CEL). The Studio helps students with their resumes and cover letters and organizes career fairs where they can connect with future employers.
Ferguson agrees with Heidt. He recommends that students connect with faculties they’re interested in working with, especially since some jobs aren’t posted directly to CareerVIU. More importantly, he advises students to be active on campus and participate in Co-Curricular Record (CCR) activities if they’d like to stand out to potential employers.
“As a previous VIU student, I found that volunteering with multiple conferences and different student groups benefited me in developing connections with [people] that eventually became my employers. [It] provided me with a lot of the information that I needed in my professional journey,” he says.
Heidt also tells students to consider how a job posting would contribute to their experiences and career aspirations, especially while they’re still in university.
“It’s the time of your life to try things and make mistakes,” he says. “It’s all about getting a deeper understanding of the world and figuring out who you are at the same time, right? If it’s a ‘paycheque versus experience’ thing, I would always say go for the experience. Because the money will come. We’re going to spend the rest of our lives making money and working.”
For more information on the types of on-campus jobs and eligibility requirements, students can check the Campus Student Employment page and go to CareerVIU. International students can visit the Working in Canada page and talk to International Student Advisors virtually or in person.