“Yeah we’ve got a grand old group. You make good friends while you’re there.” These are the words of Trinity student Alex, under pseudonym, who works through the summer as a Trinity Trails tour guide. Alex isn’t the only student employed by Trinity who praises the sense of community these jobs create. In an interview with Trinity News, Ella, a final year English Studies student and Trinity Library book-shelver said that “it definitely makes me feel a bit more part of the college community.” Charlie, whose name has been changed, worked for the Summer Accommodation Office, and agrees: “my co-workers are the best part of the job.” After the socially difficult pandemic years experienced by much of the current college community, such positive social experiences have become rare. This social aspect stands out as a major benefit of these on-campus jobs, but it has become clear that there are many more advantages that come with combining the roles of student and employee.
“They seem to not only be well-paid and sociable, but also relaxed in areas which are often strictly regulated”
Sam, also under pseudonym, carried out telephone fundraising for the Trinity Development & Alumni appeal in Hilary Term 2023, and explained that they were paid “€12.90-ish an hour. Break was paid… shifts were just three hours, so manageable as a student. And Sunday was time and a half… they paid fifty cent extra per student per year you came back to campaign.” The hourly pay of this particular job is above Ireland’s minimum wage of €11.30, making this role even more attractive to students grappling with Dublin’s ever-present cost of living crisis. Sam added that the work is “essentially just talking to people and sales… it’s over the phone so you can wear what you want.” This last detail on top of all the other benefits suggests why these jobs are so sought after by Trinity students looking for work. They seem to not only be well-paid and sociable, but also relaxed in areas which are often strictly regulated in the professional working world, and reasonable in what students are expected to do on top of their own college workload.
However, while the wage being offered is competitive, the payroll administration has been a downside. Robin, whose name has been changed, worked for the Trinity Careers Service Graduate Survey team and says that student employees rarely received their earnings in a timely manner: “I wouldn’t say it was a positive [experience]… wages would be processed for a month and then would be paid by the end of the next month.” The reliability of the payroll system seems to vary across the different job opportunities available in Trinity. Students looking for employment in College may want to investigate how the payroll is handled by speaking to previous employees of the role they intend to apply for.
“… while the jobs available to students in college are diverse, so too are the working conditions”
Robin also said that there were issues with management and training, and that the support for employees was lacking: “there was no briefing… we didn’t know if we were meant to come in on certain days or how long the role was going to be”, they said. This lack of clarity indicates that while the jobs available to students in college are diverse, so too are the working conditions.
The variety of jobs available on campus means that all kinds of students with different skills can find a role. From tour guides to book-shelvers, students can find a work opportunity that suits their temperament and schedule. However, as a result of this flexibility, and the additional benefits outlined above, these positions are often over-subscribed and highly competitive.
Alex described the job of a tour guide as “quite handy” for students as a result of its on-campus location and flexible hours. These ideal working conditions mean that the job is “hard to get because a lot of people want it”. Such demand means that candidates for Trinity Trails must undergo a rigorous hiring process and be highly determined in order to secure the role. As far as how people find out about available openings, Alex said that it was largely down to their own initiative: “I just walked through college, saw the people doing the tours … so I emailed someone working at college, then got redirected to a couple of different emails, ended up emailing the former manager at Trinity Trails and was asked to come in for an interview a few days later. Then they offered me a job at the end of that interview.”
In contrast to the aforementioned role with the Trinity Careers Service Graduate Survey team, the training with Trinity Trails is very extensive. Alex explained that past the interview stage, “you shadow plenty of tours, you go on walks with more experienced guides, and they give you more social tips for just how to give a tour. Then after all that stuff and working on the other parts of the job—working at the kiosk and scanning tickets—you do a private tour for the managers. If they think you are ready, you start doing tours properly.”
“I was extremely lucky. It’s a decent job, no rent to pay, and it’s in a safe environment”
Another role available to students outside of term is with the Summer Accommodation Office. This opportunity appears in every student’s inbox when it is advertised in a college-wide email every year, ahead of tourists arriving to stay in the on-campus rooms occupied by students in term time. Charlie, who worked in the Office this year explained to Trinity News that one of the greatest benefits of this position is that it is ‘live-in’, meaning that the employees are given accommodation: “I was extremely lucky. It’s a decent job, no rent to pay, and it’s in a safe environment.” The job consists mostly of “making bookings, dealing with guests’ issues, some manual tasks like making keys and welcome envelopes.”
However, some controversy has arisen over the wages paid to students in the Office. Charlie explained that there are two roles available to students: attendant and receptionist. “Receptionists get paid more, but the job is more or less the same” as that of the attendants. While attendants “do more of the manual labour, like helping with suitcases” and receptionists “do more customer service and computer stuff… attendants are very often sitting at the computer… and receptionists sometimes have to make trips to the luggage room.” Charlie feels that the pay disparity for the same work is unfair and “honestly think[s] that attendants and receptionists should get the same wage.” Furthermore, with shifts five days a week from “7am to midnight” at the start of the summer, later “extended to 1:30am”, it is hard work. However, these concerns haven’t stopped the experience from being a positive one. Charlie stressed the positive social impact of accessing housing through the job: “I do love living in the middle of Dublin. Everything is close, seeing people is way easier, I haven’t had to take public transport almost at all.”
For those looking to get a job within college, plenty of roles exist to suit many skill sets. However, through interviewing the lucky students who were able to secure work, it becomes clear that Trinity is no different than any other workplace in the potential problems that can confront its employees, from management to payroll. Thus, what makes Trinity’s work opportunities stand out from other jobs is that they are more likely to be, as Ella put it, “understanding of the strains of being a student”—an attitude that can be difficult to find in other workplaces and that cannot be under-estimated.