A view from SWIMS dry lab

Top 5 – Student Jobs on Campus

February 19, 2014 / by / 0 Comment

From ‘sex work’ to office slavery – student jobs on HKU campus decoded.

Top 5 – Student Jobs on Campus

Undergrads at HKU often juggle their courseload with working a part time student job on the side. Some do it out of necessity to provide for themselves and others do it for the want of spending money, while still others do it out of a zest for life. Most seek for jobs in relevance to their career ambitions. Whatever the motive,  a job perfect for you might be waiting…hidden right on campus. What better job perk could there be than to have work situated right inside school, where you already are? Save the extra commute to and from the workplace by having work right on campus.

If you’re looking for a job on campus but are stuck for ideas, here’s a list of 5 common options as categorized by my mind. Pick your style of job!

The List (click below to expand)

1. Career Builders (For the high-achieving student)

Many people across disciplines find research assistant/ internship positions relevant to the field that they love. Usually such jobs involve helping out professors and graduate students with their research. The pay for such positions start at minimum wage and top out at $50/hr.

If you want to land an internship or research assistant position with a professor, the best thing to do is to take the initiative and email the lab, the professor or the technician – whoever you’re interested in working with. You’ll be surprised to find how far that small move of initiative can take you. Even if the person you contact can’t offer you a job, they’re usually able to direct you to another professor/researcher who’s looking for exactly what you’re offering.

This type of job is a great option for learning extra relevant skills that you can’t pick up in class, while enjoying work in a subject that you know you love. It’s also a great way to build solid foundations for a career in that specialty. Just be aware that when these positions are paid, it often implies repetitive, boring work – otherwise, why would they pay you for it? But despite this, you’ll get to know & learn exclusive knowledge from your professors and graduate students that others aren’t getting in class. That’s going to grant you deeper insight into your classwork and exams…because through your work, you’ll find out about things that others won’t, and chances are that the same grad student or professor will be reviewing your classwork. They might give you credit for that special insight you wrote down in an exam because they witnessed you working hard right in front of them and know exactly where you got your extra edge from.

2. Catering Job (For the zesty ones)

Another classic campus job involves working as a server in one of the campus eats or coffee shops. Undoubtedly you have seen Subway’s ‘Now Hiring’ notices – this is but one example of the many food-related job opportunities to be found at catering companies on campus. Work as a barista, waiter or chef will generally net you between minimum wage and $50/hr but you should expect to work at minimum wage. One of the  perks of this one is the peer recognition you get on the job. People will start knowing you as the coffee boy/PCC guy. Outgoing people especially will love this job option for the people interaction and fast-paced working style. This one should be straightforward to land. Walk up and talk to the manager.

3. The Promoter (For the sociable & popular)

You can also get paid for doing promotional/sales work on campus. We’ve all seen the makeshift stalls around the university with tables covered in leaflets and products and students lounging around them like hyenas or a pride of lions looking for some prey (you). The companies that promote their products on campus in this way often employ students to run such stalls. My favorite encounter with someone working one of these jobs – being offered free condoms outside West Gate by a friendly student toting Durex leaflets and a box of the goods. I guess you could consider that sex work at HKU – scandalous?

The pay for one of these promotional jobs is probably going to come in the form of a one-off payment for a multiple-hour shift. From what I know, rates are usually at $100-200 per shift or thereabouts. These jobs are generally a little harder to land – you’ll need to have some peer connections as new recruits are mostly found through word of mouth by students already working the job.

Be prepared to stand around for long hours. But that’s not to say you won’t learn anything from being a promoter. Hone your predatory instincts by learning to read your passerby prey like a book. Develop a knack for gauging their likeliness to accept one of your flyers. Here’s my tip: avoid the stressed looking kid who looks like he’s on his way to an exam. If you’re reading that sort of vibe, don’t hand them a flyer. That demeanor signifies a meal that will fight back – the healthy and angry buffalo. Avoid that one, it’ll gore you on its horn (or hormones). Be a clever lion. Go for the weak, old and sickly. The couple holding hands, or the nice lady visiting her grandson’s school will be more inclined to take your flyer. Don’t forget the guy from two hours earlier who denied you – he doesn’t look stressed anymore because hes’ finished his exam and is now coming back from the opposite direction. Single out these weak buffalo. Make kills. Hand those flyers out.

4. Office Job (For the quiet who prefer to focus)

Office related jobs are also commonplace. Support & administrative student jobs are the most typical. You might be able to find work as an assistant in your faculty office or in various non-teaching departments such as the OISE, FEO & CEDARS, to name a few. A lot of these involve filing and doing repetitive work and being an under-appreciated angel when helping someone get their application in on time, but employment by one of the university offices isn’t limited to just office clerkdom. The hKUDOS team are an example of a less typical office-related job. We’re affiliated with the OISE and receive their support and resources but we’re having fun going all over the campus and beyond. Usually, job openings for this one will be advertised by email. Expect to be paid a decent hourly rate or per semester (generally minimum wage or just above). Make sure you’re receiving HKU bulk emails if you’re looking for this type of campus work.

5. Desk Clerk (For the lazy/swamped with work)

Last place: Don’t forget the steady supply of desk clerk jobs offered by the university itself – check your emails for this one too. These usually have one recruitment round at the beginning of the school year, so keep your eyes peeled and don’t miss an opportunity when it pops up or you’ll be waiting until next year. These positions are highly coveted and contested over since you’re looking to get paid to be sit behind the counter at Chi Wah Learning Commons/a computer lab/the library – it’s probably going to be the nicest desk space in the facility. The job description for this one is good. Sit and play Flappy Bird, do homework and observe attractive people. Oh, and you may occasionally have to get up to assist someone with something or give directions to the lost, but that’s not the main point of the job. Whenever someone approaches and breaks your preoccupation with Flappy Bird, don’t forget to act reluctant like you’re doing the patron a huge favor by assisting them. If you and the guy rostered for the next shift both agree to use this tactic, you’ll probably be able to condition those poor stressed out students not to bother you. Then you’ll be paid $32-50 an hour to do homework and ponder how to define beauty. Great!

Just kidding. I’ve actually been helped by some of the most amazing desk clerks at Chi Wah – they’re students too and they fully understand that look on your face when you’re printing off an assignment at the last minute and something goes wrong with the printer. Their willingness to go out of their way to help in these moments has probably saved my degree a couple of times. Here’s a shout out to those kind souls.


Have you considered going unpaid?

I wrote this post with the intention of discussing paid jobs only, to cater for those concerned with earning some side money. If you’re on the hunt for a campus job and your eyes are set on a higher purpose than simply earning an extra buck, you might feel like the options I offered are rather limiting. Remember that there are always equivalent (or better) unpaid options jobs for the taking. One shouldn’t neglect to consider these unpaid opportunities equally, as they are unpaid for a reason and usually offer even more learning opportunity, CV-boosting power and fun than paid jobs. Take this into account and don’t set your game in stone. Use your imagination and initiative when looking for a job, because the possibilities really are endless and you never know what you might find. If you have a passion for something in particular, you will have to evaluate what you are looking for in seeking that job. Do you want the experience, fun and learning? Or do you just want the money so you can spend it on fun somewhere else?

EDIT: Do you think unpaid internships are only for those with some ‘daddy money’? A day after writing this, I stumble upon a well-made infographic arguing the opposite of what I think. Check out “Unpaid internships must be destroyed for some very valid and humorous counter-arguments and decide for yourself.

My Experience

SWIMS Dive Boat.Sometimes I work as an unpaid research assistant for my senior ecologists at HKU. One of the things I do is SCUBA diving at SWIMS (short for The Swire Institute of Marine Science – you could consider it a remote part of HKU campus. It’s a restricted-access marine lab that belongs to HKU).

My compromise here was that I really wanted a paid job for some extra debauchery money but I opted instead to keep myself open for these unpaid work options. The benefits I got from working for free far outweighed any paycheck I could have possibly earned at this age with a paid job – I soon realized that our dive outings came with hefty operation costs which were covered by the seniors I was working for, so actually I was the one benefiting most.  The monetary aspects which were covered for me included boat fuel, operator hire, diving equipment provided by my boss – I’d value these perks at at least HK$1,000 per day spent working, if not more (if you don’t believe me, look up how much it costs to go diving recreationally in Hong Kong!) The SCUBA diving skills I learnt from volunteering were beyond value. And we went to far out places where junk boats cannot anchor, and the view from the dive boat was always priceless.

Want to see this kind view from work? Go unpaid.

Want this view at work? Go unpaid.


At the end of the day, who’s to say those working unpaid jobs being earn less? Never let a dime infiltrate your mind.

My philosophy

To quote a great poet & rapper,

 ”It go Halle Berry or Hallelujah,

Pick your poison tell me what you doing.”

- Kendrick Lamar (Money Trees)          - Click here for Kendrick’s personal explanation.

Kendrick’s line relates to the decision process that we have to go through when looking for our campus jobs. Halle Berry in this case represents our worldly desires for money, materialistic things and our career, while Hallelujah (in this case) represents our spiritual devotion to our subject of passion and the real perks that we like about these jobs. It’s always going to be a battle between the two.

Just keep in mind that you’re probably not going to find a ideal job with pay this early in your career. You’ll have to reach some sort of compromise between money and learning. You get paid to work, not learn. Decide what you want out of this job hunt.

No matter what route you pick, the pathways to your future are all laid out and waiting for you…you just have take some time and effort to find them. Remember to choose your route wisely. Some routes are lonely; some lead to totally different destinations. Others are interconnected and lead to the same destination. Just figure out where you want to go and try to avoid dead-end jobs.

“You are not defined by the material you possess or the amount of money in your bank account, what defines you is how you attain them.”

It’s time for you to decide for yourself to tell us what you think! Pick your poison tell me what you choose. Share your own questions, job stories, opinions and advice on student jobs on HKU campus with us in the comments section below.

Bring your work grind to campus.

- Michael

Are you looking for a student job or looking to hire a student employee? Make a listing in the hKUDOS classifieds section.