Student Jobs Over Christmas: From Hamley's Elf To Stripper

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Hamleys Toy Store, London
Hamleys Toy Store, London

It's an age-old story. Students return home penniless for Christmas and work part-time in a pub to fund their nights out.

But how far would you go to find a job?

The Huffington Post UK speaks to two students, with two very different jobs, and found out whether it was all really worth it.

Charlie*, a 23-year-old student studying at Nottingham University works as an elf in London's famous toy store Hamleys.

Despite saying it is probably one of the most "sought-after jobs" of the festive period, Charlie says most people do not realise just how hard it actually is.

"It's horrible, unbearable even. It's a sea of people - it's the worst job in the world. Everyone is packed in a really small room so you all get each other's coughs and colds.

"You're either a party elf or an information elf. The former has to have breakfast with Father Christmas, lunch with Father Christas, tea with Father Christmas...you get my drift. The latter is tasked with making sure people spend as much money as possible. Both have to be constantly upbeat all the time."

But the pay is good?

"No. It's minimum wage, £6 an hour if you're lucky. You are basically the world's most underpaid actress.

"There's a massive weird tension between elves of different stores. No-one's allowed to say what tricks or performances they have planned in case elves from competing stores find out and steal our ideas. Everyone's crammed into one tiny room so you all catch each other's colds too.

"It's really difficult because you can't sing any songs affiliated with religion and it turns out this leaves very few left to choose from. I think I sung jingle bells for four days straight. It's just absolutely draining and after Christmas, you're back to square one. No job."

One teenager, 18-year-old Josh Butler, went so far as to advertise himself on eBay for £16,000 in his desperate bid to find a job.

Hannah*, a 19-year-old student at Sheffield University, has turned to stripping after being left unemployed for more than a month when she moved back home for Christmas.

Figures showing university students prioritising money over experience when looking for holiday jobs show Hannah is not alone.

"I work every holiday I get but this year I was told by my employers they couldn't give me any more shifts. I applied to every restaurant, bar and shop I could think of but either no-one was employing or they had been inundated with applications.

"Someone suggested stripping and although I originally shunned the idea, I decided to look into it.

"I've stripped most nights this holiday and on a good night I can take home £400-£500 in cash. My parents think I'm a waitress.

"I would hate for anyone to find out as I am quite ashamed - and it would ruin any chance of having a respectable career in the future. But I just can't afford to turn down that much money."

In October, John Specht, UK vice president of lap-dancing chain Spearmint Rhino, touted the clubs as a "safe, legitimate place to work".

*Hannah and Charlie's names have been changed to protect their identities.