Part-time schedule a perfect fit for some
What’s the perfect employment solution for students or for people with young children? How about for job-seekers trying to break into a tighter labor market? Or for seniors who aren’t ready to quit the workplace?
The answer often is a part-time job. The combination of extra income and time left over for family, education and a life sounds perfect. The challenge is finding the right job. Because the business world is stuck on the 40-hour-week track, you may have to go off-road to discover these opportunities.
“There never has been a big demand for part-time workers among the information technology, creative, industrial, office and financial clients we serve,” said Emily Carlson, district manager for northeast Atlanta for Randstad US, a leading employment-services provider.
The company does see some demand for part-time workers to fill jobs in customer service, call centers or manufacturing production. “They will hire someone part time, in an effort not to have costly overtime budgets,” Carlson said.
While there are fewer part-time jobs available in industries Randstad serves, the company sees a significant number of young professional moms (and dads) or seniors looking for reduced or more flexible work schedules. For those already in the work force, the solution may be right at hand.
“When my kids were younger, I asked Randstad if I could work from 7:30 to 3 [instead of 8 to 5], so that I could be home with my children after school,” Carlson said. “My heart was pounding in my shirt when I asked, but I figured the worst thing they could do was say ‘no.’ I knew I wasn’t going to quit my job, but I figured it didn’t hurt to ask.”
Carlson didn’t want to lose the full-time paycheck, the benefits or the opportunity to move up, so she worked during the lunch hour and was available in the late afternoon by cellphone at her kitchen table. If a situation needed attention, she handled it.
“I wanted to show my boss I would do what it takes to drive results and get the job done,” she said. “I worked that schedule for four years. When I was ready for new opportunities, I let the company know I was willing to go back to regular hours.”
Many people dream of working fewer hours or doing some of their work from home but don’t know how to ask for it. Start by being honest and open about your needs, Carlson said.
“It helps to have been a good worker,” said Kimberly Guelcher, associate director of the alumni association and career services at Georgia State University.
If your work is known and valued, you stand a much better chance of having your boss accommodate your request.
“Know your supervisor and his needs, and do your research in advance to learn the company policy on part-time and flexible working arrangements,” Guelcher said. “Write a well-thought-out proposal with benchmarks so that there is a way to assess how the new situation is working. Your proposal should point out the advantages to the company — you may be saving them money, for example — as well as to yourself.”
You may ask to work part time, to work from home or to job-share with someone who also wants to lighten his or her workload.
Having more time and flexibility can be a huge plus for those who don’t need full-time jobs, but there are downsides. You’ll be making less money, and you may not receive benefits such as paid vacation, sick days, and health and life insurance. If your spouse works full time, this may not be an issue.
You also might feel disconnected from co-workers, miss out on management tracks or be passed over for choice assignments.
“If you are working part time or telecommuting, make it a point to be present and visible during important times at the company,” Guelcher said. Volunteer for projects that will keep your skills sharp and will show your value to the organization.
Prospects for part-timers
Industries with worker shortages and seasonal needs are more conducive to part-time workers. Retail stores hire more employees during the holidays, while parks and tourist attractions add workers in the summer. With the growing demand for health care, hospitals and medical facilities are willing to hire clinical staff with the right skills on an as-needed basis at good pay.
There also are part-time possibilities in accounting, legal and office-administration jobs, Guelcher said.
Starting a home-based business — such as errand-running, lawn-cutting or pet-sitting — could be a solution for some. Another option is becoming a direct sales representative, selling things such as toys and wine in customers’ homes.
“If you have a passion for something, your part-time job doesn’t have to feel like work. You could coach or referee, give music lessons or teach exercise classes,” Guelcher said.
Universities hire adjunct instructors to teach multiple subjects (including financial planning and jewelry-making) through continuing education.
“Be realistic,” Carlson said. “If you were making six figures at a corporate job and have left or retired, you may not find the same pay rate — or even the same kind of work — in a part-time position.”
The same rules apply when searching for part-time or full-time jobs. You need a résumé, a good grasp of your skills and persistence to try every avenue, including job boards, newspaper ads, professional organizations, temporary staffing agencies, and your network of friends and colleagues. Networking is key, as part-time opportunities often don’t go through traditional channels.
Tara Jones, who left the corporate world in 2003 to sell real estate and then took time off to have her daughter, decided to work part time when her daughter was 3 and at a preschool two mornings a week. She found a part-time job at The Weather Channel through a contact in her child’s play group.
“Moms in the working world help other moms,” Jones said. “I love the flexibility of this job.”
Jones usually works 15 to 20 hours a week tracking client advertising, either in the office or from tapes at home.
“I’m learning a new industry and new skills, and it’s nice to be back in the working world part time.”
Steppingstone to full-time jobs
For people seeking full-time work, taking part-time jobs can open doors. Belinda Tate told Randstad US that she would consider full- or part-time work if the situation was right. The agency called her about a part-time opening at American Suzuki Motor Corp.’s warehouse and distribution center in Marietta.
Tate had 15 years’ experience working in her father’s tire business, so it didn’t take her long to learn how to receive, check off and label the huge number of parts that auto, boat and motorcycle dealers order.
“I worked part time for about two months and loved the environment and the people, but, with the economy changing, I really wanted a full-time position,” Tate said.
When one opened up at Suzuki, she jumped at it.
“I was in the right spot at the right time and had already proved I could do it,” she said. “Some jobs I’ve had are stressful, and you wake up dreading the day, but I love it here.”
She recommends taking a part-time job if the position or company feels right.
“It’s a great way to get your foot in the door,” she said.
Viable option for seniors
Part-time consulting or project work that leverages your expertise can be a great way to keep working in your field when a full-time job has disappeared.
“The baby boomers are retiring, but companies still need the vast knowledge of these professionals to move forward,” said Bob Riedinger, consultant and director.
Experienced workers add value through expertise, work ethic and loyalty. “With a senior, you know that the commitment to work is there,” he said.
Riedinger said that companies are offering hourly rates comparable to full-time pay and now are more willing to negotiate on the benefits that matter to these workers.
“We’re finding the workplace more flexible and very open to hiring experienced professionals on a part-time or per-project basis,” he said. “I think that’s the future.”