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canadian university report 2014: work

University of Toronto Mississauga student Jessica Cruz earns a bit of money by designing posters and banners and by helping to set up events such as student networking nights on campus.J.P. MOCZULSKI/The Globe and Mail

Between attending classes and hanging out with friends at the University of Toronto, Jessica Cruz earns a bit of money by designing posters and banners and by helping to set up events such as student networking nights.

"It's really cool that I'm getting paid to do design work around communications," says Cruz, who is entering her fourth year of studies at U of T's Institute of Communication, Culture and Information Technology. "It's not your traditional student job in food service or at the bookstore."

The other great thing about Cruz's job? It's right on campus, making it easy for her to log in a few work hours between classes.

"The hours are very flexible and I don't have to commute to get to work," says Cruz, who works as a marketing and events assistant in the career centre of her school's west Toronto campus.

Cruz is among the thousands of postsecondary students in Canada who work while going to school. According to Statistics Canada, close to half of the country's college and university students combine full-time studies with paid employment – an increase from about 25 per cent four decades ago.

An overwhelming 96 per cent of postsecondary students who work during the school year hold jobs in the service sector, with more than one-third working in retail operations such as clothing stores, drugstores, restaurants and groceries, says StatsCan.

But as Cruz demonstrates, getting a student job doesn't always have to mean toiling in the usual places. For those who know where and how to look, there await great jobs – including some that are downright cool – that are conveniently located right on campus.

"There are plenty of these great opportunities on campus that students don't even know exist," says Lauren Friese, founder of TalentEgg, a Toronto-based online job site for postsecondary students and recent graduates.

Friese cites a few examples: bartending or waiting tables at the university pub, helping out in one of the many administrative offices across campus, or selling beer to the pubs and restaurants in and around the school. One of the most sought-after student jobs, notes Friese, is that of brand ambassador. Those who land one of these positions are expected to promote a particular product in their school. To do this, they're given "swag" – such as branded baseball caps, discount coupons or the actual product – to hand out to other students. They also organize social events sponsored by their employer.

"We pay them to have some fun," says Todd Masse, managing director at Just-Eat Canada Inc., a Toronto-based online food delivery ordering company that is hiring 50 brand ambassadors this year in 25 universities across Canada. "Our brand ambassadors have the flexibility to make the job how they want it to be, and it's not that hard – it's socializing."

Previous Just-Eat ambassadors have organized events such as football games or karaoke nights at their campus pubs, and passed out swag bags during frosh week. While the work is fun and easy, landing the job can be tough because of the stiff competition, says Masse.

The job, which pays $500 plus bonuses over a six-week period, requires applicants to demonstrate their ability to influence other students on campus. The ones who get the gig are typically those who are outgoing and active on campus and on social media.

"We like to hire folks who understand social media and already have quite a few followers on Twitter and Facebook," says Masse.


Visiting online spots such as TalentEgg and university career sites is one way, says Friese. Students also need to regularly check bulletin boards in student lounges and faculty offices, and pay close attention to bus stops and electrical poles near their school, where employers frequently post help-wanted flyers.

Friese also recommends talking to professors, who often know employers who are hiring or who may even be looking for assistants themselves.

Many schools also offer work-study programs, which are designed to work around students' schedules and are typically limited to about 20 hours a week. These programs are usually accessible through the school's career centre, says Friese.

Cruz, who got her first on-campus job – also in communication design – as a result of a meeting with a U of T career centre counsellor, says it's also a good idea to check for jobs at the student union office. And of course, it never hurts to ask fellow students with cool on-campus jobs to put in a good word for you with their employers.

That's how Chanele Jordan found work as an exam invigilator at McMaster University in Hamilton. The job, which paid $11 an hour, required her to watch over students as they took an exam.

"Basically, I was referred by someone who had been doing it for a little while and all I had to do was show up," says Jordan, who graduated this year from the communications program at McMaster and is now enrolled in a one-year public relations program at Humber College in Toronto. "It was easy money."

Not all great on-campus jobs come with a paycheque, but some are worth pursuing because of the rich work experiences they offer. Jordan, for instance, did unpaid work as a fashion writer for The Silhouette, a student-run newspaper at McMaster, and for College Fashionista, a website about what students are wearing on campus.

These gigs got her tickets to fashion shows and helped her hone her photography skills. But most importantly, they helped her win internships at Joe Fresh, Michael Kors and High Road Communications.

Friese, who worked in the campus pub when she was studying at Queen's University in Kingston, Ont., says the advantages of having an on-campus job go beyond the convenience of not having to commute to and from work.

"A big part of the value of going to university is the community that you have on campus and the people you meet in this community," she says. "Working on campus is a sure way to be really integrated with the school and to develop a unique group of friends – people who will continue to be part of your social and business network long after you've left university."

Dough for doing good

While some students work at jobs, others work to advance a cause or passion. Toronto-based CampusPerks helps the latter group raise funds for their cause by connecting them with sponsors. "You've got these engaged students who want to do so many things in their community, and these companies who want to tap into this millennial power," explains Dave Wilkin, founder of Toronto marketing firm Redwood Strategic Inc., which owns the CampusPerks platform and specializes in marketing to the millennial generation, also known as generation Y. "What we do is connect companies and their brands to these students who are not only influencers on campus but also future business leaders."

These connections can yield significant dollars for the organizations that students support, says Wilkin. For instance, 10 students or student groups who were shortlisted in a CampusPerks program sponsored last year by Samsung Canada each received $500 to help cover the costs of organizing a fundraising event for their favourite charity or organization, plus swag items and audio equipment worth about $500.

The program, which was intended to promote a new Samsung audio dock, culminated in the cheerleading team at Memorial University in St. John's winning a $2,500 grand prize. The cheerleaders also raised $875 from their event, half of which they donated to the Candlelighters Association of Newfoundland and Labrador, which supports families affected by childhood cancer.

To be connected with a sponsor, students must create an account with CampusPerks, which contacts them if a sponsorship opportunity comes up that matches their cause. Wilkin says that, since it was founded in 2009, CampusPerks has given more than $750,000 in sponsorship cash and products to students across Canada.

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