Student Insights – Part-Time Work in the retail sector

Today we have a special post from a current student at the university. Oscar Bottomley is a 2nd Year Economics student from Edinburgh going into his 3rd year of study. Below are some of his insights into balancing work and part time study in the retail sector

What is your role and how many hours a week do you work?

‘Sales Assistant’ (Shelf stacker) at a Supermarket. 10 hours max during term times with the odd extra shift every so often. 15+ hours when semesters finish.

How did you source your position?

In my final year at high school I applied for the job after being told there were positions available by friends who also work at my workplace.

What are you learning from your role?

Over the past two and a half years I have learnt a variety of skills including; appropriately interacting with customers and co-workers in a polite manner, stock taking, reductions, use of machinery; eg. cardboard balers, manual pallet pumps, scanners/handsets, checkout tills.

Since the start of working I have built up a large profile of product information. I have an overall understanding of the day-to-day workings of a supermarket and the volume of stock that is ordered and sold on a daily basis. I have relative occupational mobility in the supermarket as I have been trained up on various sections, from Fresh Foods to Checkouts.

What have been the benefits, other than money, such as any insights or qualities that you have gained?

Taking your work seriously and recognising that the managers role is relatively stressful and making it easier for them leads to good relationship between worker and manager.  I’ve understood from the beginning that if you help out the managers and show them you are a genuinely hard worker they will always be willing to help you.

I’d say the most important insight I’ve learnt is that the working world is full of diverse people and equal respect and good communication is key to get by and progress.

One thing I have picked up on is that the volume of wastage in supermarkets is incredible and very worrying. It has really changed the way I think and has diverted my interests to waste and recycling/ renewable energy. I wouldn’t mind a career in the renewable energy sector.


What advice do you have for other students hoping to work part time while they study?

Always put your studies first, stand your ground no matter how hard managers push you to do extra shifts. 10-15 hours a week is manageable when studying.

How has your job made you better prepared for being a graduate one day?

I guess being able to manage work and studies is a skill in itself. It is very stressful at times, but proves you’re dedicated to getting things done, and have a head start in knowing how to be a respectful employee.

Thanks to Oscar for his insights into working in retail and balancing part-time work with studying.  If you’re looking for part time work and want some ideas on the types of jobs on offer to students and how to track down vacancies then take a look at the part time work section of our website.  You can also find out more about career opportunities in the retail sector and the renewable energy sector too.


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