The New Part-Time Worker

By Paula Santonocito

Woman working at flower shop smilingIn order to save money, some companies have cut employees’ hours, essentially moving full-time workers to part-time status. In other instances, people who had difficulty finding full-time employment have taken one or more part-time jobs.

But who exactly is the new part-time worker? Pay attention, because—if she isn’t you already—this might be your future status.

Then and Now

The new part-time worker is very different from the part-time worker of years ago.

In decades past, people—often women—worked part time to supplement household income.

Then, part-time jobs generally paid wages at the lower end of the scale. What’s more, usually these jobs didn’t include benefits of any kind.

For years, retail and the hospitality industry have been among business sectors that employed a lot of part-timer workers, and a lot of women. Part-time clerical and secretarial jobs in a variety of industries have also long been common.

And of course sales has always been popular. Whether selling cosmetics (Mary Kay, for example), real estate (until recently a lucrative field) or other products, women have found viable part-time employment, not to mention flexibility, in sales.

So, what has changed between then and now?

Many of the people working part-time today aren’t doing so by choice.

Companies in manufacturing and other typical 40-hour workweek fields have cut back employee hours to the point that a full week’s pay has been dramatically reduced.

The good news, if there is any, is that these earnings generally amount to a lot more than what a person would make at a traditional part-time job working those same hours. In many instances, employers have also continued to pay today’s new part-time workers full-time benefits.

Still, if you’re accustomed to making X per week and suddenly you’re making Y, it can be extremely difficult to make ends meet. In some cases, it’s impossible.

But the new part-time worker isn’t only the employee who has had her or his hours cut at a job that previously offered full-time hours.

The category of employees the U.S. government classifies as “working part time involuntarily” also includes people who have taken part-time jobs because they can’t find full-time employment. And often these American workers don’t receive benefits.

Finding Alternatives

Regardless of the reasons for or circumstances of part-time employment, the situation often leaves single-minded women and others to do what is becoming yet another trend: work more than one part-time job.

But, even then, two part-time jobs rarely add up to a full-time salary.

So how can you address the situation?

If you find yourself working part-time involuntarily and seeking a second part-time job, make sure the additional work you take on has the potential to lead to more.

What does this mean?

It might mean more money in the near-term, as in a sales job that has real promise from commission-based pay. But it might also mean long-term payoff in that it will allow you to develop new skills and/or explore a field about which you were always curious.

You might also look into turning an interest or a hobby into a money-making proposition. A love of flowers, for example, might lead you to take a part-time job at a florist or garden center.

The current economic environment had led many people down paths they wouldn’t have otherwise chosen. However, out of adversity can come new opportunity.

If your work hours have been cut and you can get by for a while on a reduced salary, the time off can be used to your advantage in other ways. You might go back to school, whether to pursue a degree or take a course in an area that will make you more marketable.

This could also be the time to seriously consider starting your own business, if only a part-time basis.

Remember, the economy will turn around, even if it takes a while. Meanwhile, you should do your best to navigate the current employment environment, while keeping an eye on the future—your future.

More SMW Career Advice

The Obama Presidency and Your Career

Dealing with a Job You Hate

The Skills Employers Really Evaluate