(BPT) - The unemployment rate has edged lower as the nation slowly recovers from the economic crash of 2009 but unemployment is still a concern for many Americans. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported an unemployment rate of 7.3 percent in August 2013, a small change over the past few months. That means there are still 11.3 million people without a job.
The data reveals that 7.9 million people have filled part-time positions, to make ends meet. Many people are signing up to work several part-time jobs in lieu of a full-time position. It seems as though part-time jobs have become the new normal for U.S. workers.
“Part-time and temporary positions have been the trend for a long time,” says Jason Rinsky, National Director of Career Services at the Brown Mackie College system of schools. “At the beginning of the recession, it was a way not to lay people off. Employers reduced workers to part-time hours to keep them employed. It made sense to keep the talent and resources available to them.”
“At first glance, there are obvious drawbacks to replacing one full-time job with several part-time positions,” says Grace Klinefelter, business and organizational leadership program chair at Argosy University, Washington DC. “Perhaps the most troubling shortcoming is the unavailability of health insurance through part-time work.
“It can become expensive to get sick with or without health insurance coverage. People without coverage don’t know what to do,” continues Klinefelter. This sobering reality prompts many Americans to turn to part-time and temporary employment options. In so doing, they discover unexpected opportunities including scheduling work shifts. Those who typically work from nine to five on weekdays may appreciate the flexible hours afforded by part-time work.
Younger workers tend to like the freedom of flexible hours; older employees often find more time available to care for their children – or an aging parent – with different work hours. It’s also possible to reduce daycare costs by tag-teaming childcare responsibilities between spouses.
Approaching the new normal with a positive attitude can help people adjust. “Don’t eschew a part-time job even though it may not be an ideal vehicle,” says Rinsky. “In terms of advantages, it gives you a foot in the door of a potential permanent employer. It can be a good way to sharpen skills and develop new ones.” With ever-changing technology, active engagement in the workforce is a good way to stay up to date. Taking on part-time work also eliminates employment gaps on your resume, which can be uncomfortable to explain during an interview.
“Think of it as an opportunity to expand your network,” says Klinefelter. “People with several jobs get more exposure than those who are in a full-time position with one employer. Do your best on the job; show them what you can do. When there is a full-time opening, you want them to think of you.”
There are money-making alternatives to going into the office every day. Some have turned to their hobbies to bring in extra income in the midst of the restrictive job market. “Many people have a creative side and an eye for an entrepreneurial experience,” says Klinefelter. “If you have a creative idea and a fire under you, part-time work gives you more time to put it together and set it up. This is difficult to do with a 40-hour work week.”
The new normal of reduced work hours can open doors to fresh ventures that you may not otherwise consider. It helps to be prepared for change and to be flexible about what directions your skills can take you.