I’m a stay-at-home dad. I’m part of the new breed of male whose “better half” works a full-time job while I raise the kid (note that “kid” isn’t plural – yet). This division of duties didn’t come about because we’re some enlightened, “new age” couple – far from it. It came about because – like most couples in the same situation – economics reared their ugly, um…heads. My fiancee has a good paying job, and, at the time of our daughter’s birth – I didn’t. Until about two weeks ago, that is. That’s when I started a new part-time gig. When our daughter turned six months old, back in March of this year, I figured it was time to find something that would supplement my fiancee’s income. It has taken some seven months to find worthwhile part-time work (this includes the two gigs that I quit because they absolutely sucked). Here are a few things that I learned: It takes time. Sorry – like most worthwhile things in life, finding decent part-time work that pays more than eight crummy bucks an hour takes awhile. I also had to find work that would be compatible with my fiancee’s work schedule, since we are trying to avoid shelling out precious dollars for day care if we can help it. This meant that I had to spend some time finding a part-time gig that offers decent pay. I almost went down the pizza delivery road (again). I didn’t; but I still think delivering pizza or other meals can bring in decent part-time income – better than what most retail gigs pay.
Scan the web daily – and act fast. I have found that the four best websites for part-time job hunting to be SnagAJob.com, Backpage.com, Indeed.com, and good ‘ol Craigslist. I haven’t used the mega job search sites like Monster or HotJobs in years; when I did use them, I wasted time and resources on mind-numbing interviews that went nowhere. Especially where part-time work is concerned: avoid the megasites (my experience). As for the other four sites mentioned: once you see an interesting gig, jump on it immediately. Which leads to…
Have your “cover letter” and resume ready to go. Now. I put the term cover letter in parentheses here because your cover letter is about three or four sentences long and will be sent via e-mail. Forget the in-depth job hunting books that spend whole chapters on how to produce the perfect cover letter. You’re looking for part-time work, not a career at Goldman Sachs. The good news: companies seeking your part-time services usually need you pretty quickly. They’re less interested in whether or not you’ll “see yourself as a critical component of our team in five years” (to use yet another tired, bullshit job interview cliche) and more interested in “will you show up on Saturday at 8:00 a.m. when our store opens”. Which brings us to…
Be flexible. Probably the most critical piece of information that the employer looking to fill some part-time slots wants to know is: “can you work when we need you, at a moment’s notice?” This doesn’t mean you have to agree to your twenty-hour-a-week-gig becoming a full-time gig, but it does mean that the more flexible you are, the better. For some companies and positions, this is the only attribute that matters. Seriously.
Look for seasonal work. The obvious idea: retailers in the months before the Christmas season (that would be now). But don’t forget Christmas tree lots, UPS or FedEx (they need warehouse workers), or even restaurants that do more business around the holidays. After New Year’s, look for work as an associate for a tax preparation firm (just don’t pay to be a tax preparer), or work at a ski resort (after the first “wave” of ski resort workers have quit to go back to school – it happens). Some people make a full-time avocation of being seasonal workers. Look up the term “snowbird”.
Accept the gig now, quit later. It’s easier to take a part-time gig, any part-time gig – and then bail on it after you decide it won’t work for you. Now, let’s say you quit after two weeks, or even two months. Don’t be a dummy and list the gig on your next job application. It’s easier to explain a gap in your employment history than to explain why you quit your last job after only a couple of weeks. To those who criticize this approach: companies have been putting those who work for them “on probation” for decades. There is absolutely nothing wrong with an employee doing the same thing. In fact, “test driving” employers should be encouraged. The worst employers would be forced to change how they treat their associates.
Quit sweating the “background check”. Don’t let the fact that “everyone does background checks these days” keep you from finding worthwhile part-time work. It’s not a fact, for one thing. Yes, more companies do checks than ten years ago – but not all of them. Even the ones that do so may only check your criminal record, and nothing else. If you do have a criminal record, be upfront about it (they’ll find it). Or look for work where having a felony in your past isn’t a deal breaker. I’m not an expert on what kind of work this might be, but perhaps someone who’s been there can leave some tips in the comments section below. For you employers out there: give someone who’s messed up a chance. If they were found guilty of a non-violent crime, and paid their debt to society, they might surprise you with a stellar work ethic.
Watch for scams. The proliferation of scams in the job hunting world is at an all-time high as the sluggish economy drags on. When submitting a resume, do not include your social security number. Even when submitting a job application online via a trusted company website – you may do well to punch in “999-99-9999” if an SS number is “required”. It isn’t required, unless you get hired. Never pay an upfront fee to anyone before getting “hired”. ANY company that “requires” an upfront fee is running a scam, PERIOD. No exceptions. Run away. Avoid submitting applications either via websites or via e-mails to “companies” that don’t list actual addresses that you can verify. If you only see a P.O. box number, be very suspicious.
*Your “cover letter” should be short and sweet – someone looking to fill a part-time position is not interested in your life story, what you do in your off-hours, how desperate you are (I’ve seen examples of this), or your cat. Keep it simple, like this example: Greetings – I wish to respond to your posting on Backpage.com (or whichever site) seeking widget makers who have reliable transportation. I am seeking part-time work as a widget maker, have a very reliable car, a flexible schedule, am willing to take any necessary drug tests, and possess the ability to communicate intelligently and clearly. Please see my attached resume. Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you. A few things to note here: most companies do some sort of drug testing any more – so being upfront about this will probably score some points.
Reliable transportation is something employers occasionally look for – it won’t hurt to mention this, either. And, in a world where too many people can’t spell their way out of a Sesame Street episode – finding an employee that can write without misspellings or “text-speak” and whose level of speech is slightly more refined than the average rapper is a treat. Not having tattoos (I’m not judging, just making an observation – calm down) isn’t the worst attribute in the business world, either. Now get to work.
For other articles about personal finance, job hunting tips, and starting a business by Matt T. Hamilton, please visit The SimpleChecking Blog. You can also use the SimpleChecking income and expense tracking tool for free.