From Part-time to Full-time: Escaping Underemployment


Since the recession began, the percentage of part-time workers in the American workforce has grown to nearly 20%. Nearly a third of those working part-time jobs are doing so for economic reasons (commonly referred to as involuntarily part-time or underemployed) and would prefer a full-time position. Working part-time is defined as putting in less than 35 hours per week and generally means no health benefits or paid sick leave.

In the past, companies have ramped-up temporary hiring during post-recession recoveries as a way of easing back toward their pre-recession staffing levels.  A part-time job can be an opportunity for both the employer and employee to feel each other out for a potential full-time opportunity down the road. Even though many part-time positions right now are seasonal, workers still need to take a long-term focus. As the economy recovers, employers will need more staff to keep up with increased demand, which may be your opportunity to upgrade to full-time status. Consider the following tips when it comes to parlaying a part-time opportunity into a full-time gig:

Express Your Interest.  It is critical that you let your employer know your interest in working full time. Managers and small business owners are busy and often may not even realize your interest. Make sure to be genuine in how you express your interest, and let them know the level of commitment you are willing to make. Remember, you are your own best advocate, so be sure to let them know and remind them often.

Learn the Business. Every manager I have ever spoken to has told me they want learners. The ability to learn is so critical in today’s rapidly-changing and tech-driven environment. Knowledge of the business (and new technologies in the industry) demonstrates interest and shows your willingness to learn. Be a learner and don’t be afraid to ask where to focus your learning and how to find the resources necessary to aid in your learning.

Provide Insight. Managers and small business owners are always being pulled in multiple directions, which means that they are often too busy to get into the weeds of the daily work functions that make the business run. One way to really show your value and engagement is to pay attention to operational efficiencies and understand what works well and what doesn’t with how the business is running. Be willing to bring up any work inefficiencies that you notice along with solutions for improving them. Saving time and money for the business is a sure fire way to get on your boss’s good side.

Michael “Dr. Woody” Woodward, PhD is a CEC certified executive coach trained in organizational psychology. Dr. Woody is author of The YOU Plan: A 5-step Guide to Taking Charge of Your Career in the New Economy and is the founder of Human Capital Integrated (HCI), a firm focused on management and leadership development. Dr. Woody also sits on the advisory board of the Florida International University Center for Leadership.Follow Dr. Woody on Twitter and Facebook