Published December 13, 2012
Economic uncertainty has some employers holding out on adding to their payroll, making it harder for job hunters to find full-time employment.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, before the recession, job seekers could expect to look for about four months on average but in the current climate, a job search can last about 10 months on average.
Often candidates focus their job search on full-time employment that tends to offer benefits, retirement savings plans and more stability, but experts warn not to overlook part-time openings to help fill in resume gaps and provide income.
“Job seekers suffer from a paralysis,” says Jolynn Cunningham, director of talent at Indeed.com. “Not working can be stressful as the weeks and months tick by—their star starts to diminish and they become less attractive to employers.”
Taking a part-time job while actively looking for employment can help keep your skills current, avoid sinking into debt, show your desire to work to hiring managers and create networking opportunities to advance into a full-time position, says Scott Halliwell, certified financial planner at USAA.
According to a recent CareerBuilder study, 33% of companies are planning to hire temporary workers in the fourth quarter of this year, and 23% of employers plan to transition temporary staff into permanent employees during the fourth quarter.
Retail is the biggest employer of part-time or seasonal help but there are many employers that don’t have the workload for a full-time employee so they hire part-time staff, says Cunningham. “Employers consider whether someone can get the work done with less hours.”
How to Choose the Right Part-Time Job
“Look for part-time work that’s in alignment with your job goals,” says Amanda Augustine, job search expert at TheLadders. If you’ve a career in sales, for example, consider bartending or retail. Look for jobs where you can grow your skillset and move ahead in your career instead of putting you on hold. “If there are options, go to the options that will support your long-term goals,” says Augustine.
If you don’t have the necessary skills for your desired full-time job, look for part-time openings that will provide the experience to put you on par with other job seekers., suggests Scott Dobroski, community expert at Glassdoor.
Instead of taking a full-time job that’s not what you want to do, a part-time job could give you time to pursue what you want to do, says J.T. O'Donnell, workplace consultant and founder of Careerealism.com. “Take the part-time job that will give you benefits, recognize it for what it is and use the other time to develop yourself.”
How are your Finances?
Experts recommend taking stock of your finances when deciding whether to hold out for full-time work over part-time jobs. “Look at your situation and who’s involved in your life—are you a single parent or do you live by yourself and have a pile of cash?” says Dobroski.
There’s a trade-off between how badly you need cash and the hours spent working instead of looking for a job so consider how a part-time job will affect your job search and ability to schedule interviews.
“Even if the dollar amounts between unemployment [benefits] and working are the same, working would be your better choice,” says Halliwell.
Some part-time jobs offer benefits, which could save you money in the long run, says Dobroski, so be sure to thoroughly research a company before making any decisions.
“If you don’t have an emergency fund to allow you to get through and you can’t cover your expenses, you have to make drastic changes in your lifestyle and cut out anything that’s not a necessity,” says Halliwell who adds that a fund should cover six months of living expenses.
For recent college graduates, a part-time job could help you gain your independence and get accustomed to the working world before diving into a full-time job, says Dobroski.
Use Part-Time Work to Your Advantage
Since employers are inundated with qualified applicants for one job, candidates need to have a strong cover letter and resume to prove their experience.
Skills acquired during part-time work can give you that added edge, says Dobroski. “It could turn you into an expert in customer service or working under pressure. It’s all how you look at it in your job search.”
If the part-time work doesn’t align with your career, reference it under “Additional Experience” instead of making it your focus, suggests O'Donnell, to show you’ve been staying current in the labor force.
If you are still on the fence about accepting part-time work, Dobroski, suggests researching the company and really thinking about whether it’s a place you want to work, since even if you don’t like the current position, others might open up in the future and you would already have in-house references. “Referrals are the number one source of great candidates which could set you up nicely.”