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Jobs hunt getting you down -- how to build a full-time life in a part-time world

Cultural shifts through industrial and technological advances have re-written maps and world histories as people responded to events, grasping for that which drives humankind: survival. 

The Industrial age shaped cities, while famine and disease shift whole populations from one continent to another. These kinds of events fill our history books, but they’re not over. 

We are confronting economic forces reshaping our economy today. Job seekers must face a paradigm shift: how can they build a full-time life in a part-time world. 

It is not your grandparent’s economy anymore.

The growing realities of finding and holding gainful employment means that new patterns must be developed to win in a game with new rules. It is not your grandparent’s economy anymore.

In light of the Labor Department’s jobs report out Friday revealing once again that fewer jobs had been created than expected, the time is now to take a hard look at what a jobless recovery means to those who want to work.

Case in point: The hardening sector of part-time employees (people unable to find full-time work) cannot be ignored any longer or written off as a temporary correction. The Wall Street Journal recently reported, “More people have left the workforce than got a new job during the recovery—by a factor of nearly three.”

Since the recession officially began in December 2007, 5.8 million fewer Americans hold a full time job, while 2.8 million more are working part time (defined as people working less than 35 hours a week.). 

The impact of this kind of math on the moving target of the unemployment rate was recently noted in the New York Times, “If you include both part-time workers who want full-time work and people who have stopped looking for jobs but still want to work, the unemployment rate is actually 14.3 percent.”

Universally reported, the impact of ObamaCare on a growing part-time employment rate looms large. Employers will be required to pay fines or fund costly insurance plans for full-time employees, pushing them to create more part-time positions in response.

Most affected by the scarcity of full-time jobs are young people, college graduates, and those in mid-career transition.  

Currently, there are about 40 percent of 20-somethings who are underemployed, according to the American Staffing Association

In fact, almost half of recent college graduates are in jobs that require no degree, leaving many to question the value of their college education.

The American dream of employer and employee bound ‘til death do us part is passing away.  Today we must become “life-style entrepreneurs” and embrace mobility as we leverage our skills in creative ways. As with every economic shift, these changes can be daunting.

It’s widely believed that the average U.S. worker will have seven careers in a lifetime. To begin that process, here are seven tips to help find those different careers and have success during this transition:

  1. Plan Deliberately. It has often been said that failing to plan is planning to fail. Too many Americans avoid the hard work of simple budgeting or developing career and financial goals. Letting life happen sounds great in theory, but goals undeclared rarely materialize. Over the past decade Crown has helped more than one million people follow a simple life plan – in writing. Having a document that you can track and refer back to is critical for strategic advancement.
  2. Avoid Anchors. This is no time to buy a home or make long-term assumptions. Pockets of the country enjoying job growth may be your new frontier. Keep costs low. A study by Bankrate.com out this month shows that 76 percent of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. Work to save 10 % every month for that rainy day.
  3. Enlarge Networks. In a tight job market, employers are looking for more guarantees about the quality of the people they hire. Now is the time to create your own social network of references to find real opportunities. According to a job’s website Careerealism.com, 80 percent of the available jobs out there are not posted on job boards, but must be found through networking and word of mouth. Join local and national networks and spend a few minutes each day networking.
  4. Brand Yourself. Remember that every contact between you and the business world is an advertisement. Give your Facebook and other social sites a scrub, start a blog, or pick up a new skill set. Prepare to market a versatile you. Surveys indicate that about half of employers say they check out the social networks of applicants, while recruiters report that 3 out of 4 will trust by verify.  LinkedIn.com is a great place to start.
  5. Multiply Income Streams. One of the realities of being a company person is that when that job ends, so do your checks. A little discussed strength of this economy is that when people develop multiple income sources, they don’t need to rely on one job to survive. There are many home-based business opportunities to explore.  Check out the Direct Selling Association for a list of options.
  6. Get Inside. Getting your foot in the door of a company you want to impress can begin with internships or short-term contract work where you can serve with distinction and interview from the inside. Hiring a known entity offers employers greater peace of mind. A survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that 60 percent of paid interns received a job offer, while 37 percent of unpaid interns earned work.
  7. Serve Others. Perhaps one of the lessons we can learn from this economy is how fragile life can be. Don’t forget about those who are less fortunate than you are. One of Crown’s goals is to help people get debt free through a financial plan, in part to equip them to play a larger role in their community. Over the last three years, people working with Crown increased their charitable giving by 71 percent. It doesn’t just look good on a resume to give to others and volunteer your time; it will also help you find perspective on the world in which you live.

Over a 50-year span, the average American spends about 100,000 hours working. No matter how many full or part time jobs make up that math, a life well lived can be achieved by embracing new opportunities … wherever they may be found.

Robert Dickie III is president of Crown, a non-profit dedicated to helping people create long term plans for personal financial, career, and business success.