Filling Many Shoes: When Combining Part-time Jobs Is Your Best Option
In this troubled economy, people are being forced to get creative about how to earn a living. I'd like to throw out the idea that combining part time incomes can be a great way to work and live. So, here is the truth of that working reality - the good and the bad, as well as some tips to make it work.
Advantages that I've found:
- Meeting interesting people and always finding new professional contacts and connections.
- Getting to try different career options, some of which may not be right for me in the long run, but were still interesting or beneficial. (For example, I worked at a retail pet shop during a time that I had a puppy - this saved me money and helped me support my animal. Another example: I will never forget the two years that I spent tutoring adults with literacy challenges. Meeting people who so longed to read and write, something I so take for granted, was humbling and life-altering.
- Personal freedom! I do know that my friend who is an accountant for a major financial firm makes a lot more money than I do and is successful in a material way that I'm not. I do get jealous of that sometimes. (Especially because she's one of the lucky ones who makes great money and also loves her job.) But I do get to walk my dog on a deserted beach on Thursday mornings... and Wednesday afternoons... and drink tea with my friend on Friday mornings... Basically, combining part-time jobs has left me with the freedom to arrange my schedule so that I have lots of time for my dog and some time for my creative writing projects.
- Staying young at heart. There is something about working in multiple professions that means I have to stay flexible and get along with people who are diverse in all kinds of ways. Variety keeps my brain agile.
- Part-time jobs can pay really well for less commitment than full time work. I'm thinking right now of people who gain $250 of income per week by delivering a daily newspaper. Yes, they have to wake up very early, but for approximately fifteen hours of work per week they are not doing too badly. Plus, I've been told by an acquaintance who delivers the paper that holiday tips from customers often total $1,000.
- An unexpected job security. I know that most of us assume in bad economic times, part-time employees would be the first to go. But consider the fact that employers don't have to pay us benefits, and often get more for less. It's in their best interest to keep us on during tough times. My jobs have not been affected by the economy thus far. Plus, if I lose one job, I'm not totally without income. I have the others to fall back on, and can often pick up more hours.
- 401K - I do actually get this from one of my part-time jobs, which is a nice benefit.
- Gym membership. Because one of my part-time jobs involves tutoring at a college, I can use the college facilities, like the gym and the library, for free.
Disadvantages that have come up over the years include the following:
- No health care benefits. I purchase these independently.
- A lack of job security. Okay, I'm contradicting myself, but sometimes part-time jobs are more easily cut, or they are temporary and end because, say, a federal education grant ends.
- Strange hours. Often, part-timers are covering shifts that full-timers don't want to cover. For example, I've worked Sunday afternoons for the past five years. This works for me, though I know for some people that's the worst shift imaginable.
- Employers who, naturally, don't know your whole schedule. My boss at one job might adjust my hours slightly, not thinking it's a big deal, but it may throw off my other job and cause me to have to do some major hustling, or shuffle the other schedule.
- Along the same lines, I sometimes feel like I'm being pulled in ten different directions.
- Lower income overall. I definitely have a sporadic income because, well, I work more at some points in the year than others. This is annoying! And it has required me to become better at saving/ planning. I also think that it results in a lower income overall than if I were working at a full time job that someone with an advanced degree would work at.
- No sick days! No snow days! No holidays! When the rest of the world is safe at home, celebrating time off, I'm often regretting lost income. For me, this might be the biggest disadvantage.
Okay, so let's recognize that right now people may be forced into this situation - working two or three part time jobs to make ends meet. How can you make it work for you?
- Find jobs that complement one another. For example, I teach writing courses that naturally have a lot of prep work. My (generous) bosses at my tutoring job allow me to grade papers if I have downtime between students. This makes these two jobs fit together perfectly, and allows me to give more hours to the tutoring center than I would otherwise be able to. Along the same line, if you have one job that requires lots of mental work, it can be good to have a second job that's more physical/ social. In this way, teaching has been complimented by waitressing for me in the past.
- Say yes to opportunity! Just try it. As long as it's a safe situation, you don't have much to lose. It's very easy to quit a part-time job if it turns out to be awful. (No, distributing free samples at the local deli was not a professional dream come true for me. It didn't kill me either.)
- Ask your employer to consider giving you benefits like health care or sick days. Many will consider it, especially if you're working more than 20 hours a week.
- Know where your funding comes from if you're working for a non-profit. Often non-profits pay part-time employees very well because they need to use grant money within a specified amount of time. However, employment after the end of the grant period can depend on the organization receiving the grant again. This is not necessarily bad, but it's nice to know ahead of time if "lack of funding" could become a reason for the position to end or change.
- Make yourself a part of the workplace culture, even if you are not there that much. This can be hard as lots of places get clique-y, but it's important to your job security. Participate in conversations, ask questions, make suggestions politely, look at and talk to your boss. Even when it's part time, you want and need to seem invested. Plus, it will be more fun.
- Commit to a schedule you can live with. I work very hard for four days, then have three days off. The long days are tough, but it works for me. Others might prefer six shorter days. Almost everyone needs at least one day off every week. Consider that when you commit.
- The old adage "do what you love" tends to work for people, even if it means taking a job that you're overqualified for in some ways... part-time work can be a great way to experiment with new career possibilities.
- Be honest with people. Let them know you're interested in full time work if you are. Also, let them know in the meantime that you're balancing more than one place of employment. I have always found my bosses to be understanding about this.
Okay, so if I've sold you on searching for part-time work, here are some suggestions (via YahooShine!) about the 7 best part-time jobs available. Happy searching! Be ready to expand your shoe rack!
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