Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to examine the extent to which term-time employment influences two specific aspects of the student experience in higher education: working collaboratively and preparing for entry into the graduate labour market. The paper also aims to consider the extent to which the students are able to appreciate the inter-relationships that exist between activities such as these. Design/methodology/approach – The study is based on three research projects: an ongoing piece of action research into the factors influencing student engagement in collaborative activities for examination preparation; a related study into attitudes to group work; and a study into how students make career decisions. Findings – In all of these studies term-time working was identified as a factor influencing student engagement in collaborative/group activities and career planning and preparation. However, the research found that term-time is often “blamed” by the students for their failure to engage in these activities when other factors are more influential. Practical implications – This research argues that students should try and obtain term-time jobs that benefit both their academic studies and their prospects in the graduate labour market. The students need to appreciate the inter-relationships that exist between the different activities they are engage in. They should be supported in this by both higher education institutions and employers. The government ought to monitor the situation, and if necessary, introduce legislation to protect students from the negative effects of term-time employment. Originality/value – This research suggests that the negative effects of term-time employment may be exaggerated by students looking for an excuse for not engaging in particular activities.