When I was at school, “social media manager” was not a part-time job that existed… because Facebook didn’t exist either. If you wanted to make some extra pocket money, you either became a tuition teacher even you were a child yourself (I have former tuition students who are now married with kids), or you joined the ranks of fresh-faced, barely-legal F&B workers and flyer distributors.
If you’re not already some teenage programming whiz or budding YouTube star and in need of a part time job to tide you through secondary school/poly/ITE/university, here are some classic options—and some of the challenges you’ll face.
1. Private tutor
This is the default part-time job of virtually every NUS student, and has been for years, for a good reason. You won’t enjoy the camaraderie with colleagues that you would if you were working in a bar or at a roadshow, but in return you’ll get paid some of the highest rates possible as a student part-timer. Depending on what level you wish to teach, you’ll need decent O level, A level or IB grades, as well as a true mastery of your subjects so the parents don’t end up smelling a rat and firing you. JC and poly students are often hired to teach primary school kids.
Rates: Rates vary wildly, but you can expect at least $15/hour for kindergarten (yes kindergarten tuition exists) or primary school students, and $20 and upwards for secondary students. If you can teach at JC level you might be able to command up to $35/hour as an A level grad.
Challenges: Few people realise just how tiring giving tuition is. You’re talking nonstop for 1.5 to 2 hours to an often unresponsive kid. It can be even worse for the tutor than for the student, as the parents often hover around, so you need to be on your best behaviour.
Tip: Some parents might have their own assessment books, but don’t count on it. If you sat your own exams not long ago, you may be able to fall back on past year papers from your own school days. Otherwise, hit up Popular for assessment books and Bras Basah Complex for past year papers. Don’t forget to get reimbursed by the parents for your purchases.
2. F&B staff
Even if you know you’ll be earning a pathetic salary, working in F&B can be rather rewarding as a bright eyed, bushy tailed student.
So long as you don’t get a job at Old Chang Kee or something, it’s likely you’ll be working with a whole bunch of other young people between the ages of 16 and 25. Taking orders, working the coffee machine and greeting guests can also be fun if you’re young enough to have the energy.
There’s also the prospect of free food which, if you come from a household where lunch means instant noodles, can be quite a treat.
Rates: $6 to $10 an hour, with banquet waiters and those doing late-night shifts at bars and clubs garnering the highest rates. Interestingly enough, this hasn’t changed much over the years—I remember earning $5 to $6.50 an hour 10 years ago.
Challenges: Other than the fact that being on your feet and carrying heavy dishes and glasses gets tiring, if the place where you work doesn’t have a good system for identifying customers’ tables, you might find it surprisingly difficult to keep track of customers and their orders, especially at the start when you’re still getting used to how things work. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself wandering around trying to remember which customer ordered that spaghetti bolognese. If you’re working at a bar it’s even harder to identify customers in the dark when their orders are ready. Most companies require their waitstaff to put all their tips into a tip box, and then vaguely tell you it’s later shared with employees, although at my own part-time jobs I never saw any of that money.
Tip: Volunteer for off-peak shifts if you can’t handle the intensity of peak hour (lunch and dinner at cafes and restaurants). If your employer has 4 hour shifts, 2 to 6pm is a good window.
Spas, dental clinics, gyms and the like often hire part-time receptionists whose main job is to pick up the phone, help clients book appointments and greet anyone who enters. You might also be made to sell packages.
Unless your workplace is particularly busy during peak hour, this is a job that’s definitely one of the more relaxing out there. I used to work the night shift at a spa back at school, and there were times when only two or three customers would come in my entire shift. I spent the rest of that time reading novels and topping up the essential oils in their burner.
Rates: $6.50 to $10 an hour. The higher paying jobs are often more intense, and you’ll have to be computer literate which, if you’re even reading this, we’re sure you are.
Challenges: If your job has a sales component with commission, it’s going to be a lot tougher than it is for those who just have to sit back and wait for customers to call. Depending on your employer, you might be required to employ pushy sales tactics, which isn’t for everyone.
Tip: If you work at a place with few customers, bring something to do—do your homework in between tasks or do some reading. At certain places it can be an hour before you see your next customer.
4. Flyer distributor
This is one of the lowest jobs in the hierarchy of student part-time options. I once spent a few days standing outside a primary school distributing flyers for a tuition centre, but was chased away by security.
This is a job that is both mind-numbing and tiring, and in addition to being avoided by everyone on the streets, you don’t have the advantage of free meals or colleagues you can hang out with.
Rates: Few skills required, so expect to earn $5 to $6 an hour.
Challenges: Other than the fact that people are going to treat you like you’ve got leprosy, flyer distribution is not allowed in many places, and you might be told off by the police or security.
Tip: If you are serious about giving out those flyers, smiling and making eye contact with people helps. Don’t just flick the damn flyers suddenly at people like some uncles and aunties do.
5. Roadshow salesperson
This is actually a pretty worthwhile part-time job option, not only for students but also working adults who need to make some quick cash on the weekends and don’t want to earn $5 an hour waiting tables. The assignments are usually ad-hoc, so it’s a low-commitment option, yet you earn an above average hourly rate.
You’re usually made to man a booth hawking anything from computer spare parts to weight-loss machines. You may or may not be paid a commission for selling the products, but one thing’s for sure—get ready to be asked lots of questions you will have no idea how to answer.
Rates: $8 to $15 an hour
Challenges: Roadshow staff are usually given minimal training, yet are expected to educate customers about a product they had never heard of until 5 minutes before their shift started. To make life easier for yourself, spend the first hour trying to find out as much as possible about the product in between interacting with customers. Read the brochures throughly and familiarise yourself with the prices. Shifts are often full days, and it’s pretty tough to bluff your way through 10 whole hours.
Have you tried any of the above part-time jobs? Share your experiences in the comments!