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You Want a Part-Time Job Now Go Get One

Career Corner is a program produced by the Minnesota Radio Talking Book Network, part of State Services for the Blind, and it is recorded for people are blind or have reading disabilities. You can listen to the stream of the Minnesota Radio Talking Book Network at www.mnssb.org/rtb, and the password is RTB. Your host, for Career Corner is Anne Obst.

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Next we turn to the Working Strategies column in the St. Paul Pioneer Press, from June 12, entitled, “You want a part-time job, now go get one”, by Amy Lindgren.

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Last week I looked at part-time work in the abstract sense while noting that a partial work schedule seems to garner less respect than a full-time position — a fact I acknowledge but really don’t understand.

This week I’ll get down to brass tacks on how to get a part-time position and what to negotiate for.

Let’s start with definitions. When I say “part-time work,” I’m talking about the schedule, not the scope or duties. So even though you might think of retail or warehouse positions, remember that those jobs make up just a portion of the part-time landscape.

Indeed, you can do just about any job on a part-time schedule, including high-level or professional positions. I have known part-time marketing directors, accountants, attorneys, truck drivers, nonprofit leaders, nurses, school teachers, production line workers, software programmers, lobbyists, carpenters, sales representatives … have I hit your field yet?

Unless you’re just starting out in the work world, identifying your field will be critical for finding the part-time position you want. Although new workers can approach potential employers with an “I’ll take anything” message, the same strategy from an experienced worker is almost certain to backfire. Rather than seeming flexible or teachable, experienced workers with no focus may look unmotivated or possibly a little desperate — definitely not the messages you want to send.

Defining your work goals also is important because part-time positions are not as likely to be advertised. When you know what kind of work you want to do, it’s easier to identify the companies that could likely use your services. And you’ll need to do that in order to make direct outreach to employers who aren’t advertising for part-time help.

It’s worth exploring why part-time jobs are less often advertised than full-time positions. One simple reason is return on investment. It’s just as difficult to recruit for part-time workers as for full-time, but the resulting “win” may be less critical to operations. This is especially true for white-collar or professional positions where the current team can probably cover the extra duties indefinitely. It’s not ideal, but inertia is strong, leading managers to maintain status quo rather than initiate a lengthy hiring process.

Hence, if you were to judge the market by the ads alone, you’d think there were no opportunities. In truth, managers often find it easier to allocate resources for part-time workers; they may also appreciate that they can delegate defined projects or tasks to someone on a part-time schedule.

Here are decisions you’ll want to make before initiating conversations with potential employers:

  • Which skills do you want to use, or which tasks do you want to perform?
  • Do you want a permanent part-time job or something short-term? (If the latter, ask for a contract role, rather than joining the company as an employee.)
  • What work schedule are you hoping for?
  • What’s your level? That is, can you step in with little or no training, or would you need to ramp up while you gain experience?

You’ll also need to hone your story for why you want a partial work schedule. Good answers to this question include other responsibilities (such as school or caretaking), or the desire to ramp down from a full-time schedule. Less appealing will be a default to part-time after not finding better jobs. Foot-in-the-door answers may not be strategic either, as they imply you’re looking for stepping stones to something else.

Once you’ve shaped your concept of the work you’re pursuing, review your résumé and LinkedIn profiles to ensure they clearly present your related skills and training. Then start your outreach much as you would for any job search, by contacting managers directly while also telling your network what you’re looking for.

Although I’d recommend being clear from the beginning that you’re seeking a partial work schedule, it’s not necessary to specify the hours you want to work. Those are details best left to the negotiation stage, once you and the manager have determined you’re interested in each other.

Speaking of negotiation, don’t assume that you have to leave benefits behind to work part-time. Some companies do offer full benefits to part-time workers, while others pro-rate their packages according to the hours worked. If benefits are important to you, take the time to identify which ones you care about most. And if you don’t need, or can’t get, benefits from your part-time employer, try to compensate by negotiating a pay increase.

In closing, remember: Every vocation has part-timers, as do most companies. If this is the way you want to work, don’t apologize or assume it can’t happen. Just jump in and start talking to people because that’s how you’re going to find this job.

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Again, that was from the Working Strategies column and titled “You want a part-time job, now go get one”, by Amy Lindgren.

I’m Anne Obst.

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