I wanna work part-time! Wah!
July 24, 2013 8:08 AM   Subscribe

I've come to realize that maybe the key to my mental health is finding a situation where I only have to work 20-30 hours a week (supplementing income with an at-home gig). Are there fields where jobs like that are more common? In applying to such jobs, should I specify in my cover letter that I would like to work part-time, or does that just highlight what a lazy bum I am?

Are there jobs where it's common to work less than 40 hours a week? Even just one extra day off a week would be grand. I don't have training in anything science-y or math-y, unfortunately, which is where I'm guessing a lot of these jobs would be (for instance, things like dentistry or tax accounting). I have seen this thread, but unfortunately most of those answers would require a significant reinvestment in schooling, which I do not have the time or money for.

It would be great if I could go part-time and stay in my field, but that just isn't done in my workplace unless you're a new parent (which I am not). My field is also kind of a dead-end one, so not really a whole lot of other jobs available in my area.

Also, when I do see part-time jobs advertised that I'm qualified for, I always mention in my cover letter that I am specifically interested in the job because it is part-time, but I'm wondering if that is the wisest thing to do. I always mention that I would like to have more time to devote to volunteering and/or my freelance business--best to leave that part out? I would like some way to convey why I would voluntarily want to move from a full-time income to a part-time one, while not appearing to be off my rocker.
posted by whistle pig to Work & Money (21 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
What do you do now? I ask because I know people in TONS of fields who work part time, and if you don't have the ability to get more schooling then we'll need to know what we're working with here.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:20 AM on July 24, 2013

I wouldn't say that you're applying to that job mostly because it's part-time. You should apply for jobs that you want to do, and that can benefit the employer, and then explain why you're transitioning to part-time later on.
posted by xingcat at 8:23 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

When you're applying for part time jobs, avoid saying how much you'd hate the chance to work full time for X Corporation. You don't mean to say that, of course, but it can sound like that to HR.

Saying that you would prefer part time doesn't give you any advantage over people who keep schtum, and it can make you look less flexible / committed.

If you think it's more fair to the corporation to warn them that you only want part time, stop thinking like that. They will almost certainly not go out of the way to be fair to you.

If you do get a part time placement, and the option ever comes up for full time, you can gracefully decline the option at that time by saying that you have other commitments. That's it.
posted by maudlin at 8:23 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

I worked part time as a bank teller for a while. People are usually surprised to learn that you only need a high school degree for most bank teller jobs, even though it's a pretty darn pleasant work environment, you learn a lot, and you have a ton of responsibility (usually several tens of thousands of dollars worth, and that's just the cash).

There wasn't a huge amount of upward opportunity for part time; the branch's head teller was a part timer, but others who were "promoted" from working the counter to the bank's corporate training program had to go full time. That said, the head teller made good money and had a lot of responsibility. If you're good with numbers and enjoy process oriented roles where you interact with people, it's a pretty sweet gig.

All that said, my big concern with switching from full time to part time work is that you will probably not get benefits anymore, specifically health insurance.
posted by telegraph at 8:24 AM on July 24, 2013 [4 favorites]

Almost anything retail will have part time positions. And everyone I've talked to assumes that part time people have other responsibilities. Work, school, family. Nobody's assuming you're a lazy bum for going after part time work.

Don't worry about being fair.

Don't say you're interested in the job because it's part time.
posted by theichibun at 8:37 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

I work as a test proctor. And not only is it okay to be part-time, there wasn't any other option. The fact that I could only do part-time work was seen as a relief, because they couldn't do any better than that. My manager is a reasonable, kind human being though. That counts for a lot. And the job duties are fine (although I do end up comforting many sad people who think their lives are over).

On the other hand, the job pays for crap, there are no benefits, some weeks are much more busy than others, and the schedules are erratic. But if you're trying to do part-time, that is to be expected, usually and unfortunately.
posted by Coatlicue at 8:51 AM on July 24, 2013

Many community/small nonprofits hire people part-time because they can't afford full-time staff. Of course, the pay will be pretty low in these types of jobs, but the work can be very interesting and you can learn a lot.
posted by lunasol at 8:51 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

I worked part-time as a home health aide. The hours were really flexible.

You could also work as a paraprofessional at a school...in my district they're cutting everyone's hours to part-time.
posted by christinetheslp at 8:56 AM on July 24, 2013

You can do a lot of medical jobs part time, however, the better paying ones (nursing) require several years of training, and are quite stressful jobs. Also, hospital nurses mostly work every other weekend.
posted by latkes at 9:15 AM on July 24, 2013

I don't know if this is common at all colleges/universities, but where I work there are a number of part-time (50-75% time) positions frequently available. Plus, you get full benefits at 50% time. You might also look into non-teaching jobs at K-12 schools.
posted by wsquared at 9:17 AM on July 24, 2013 [4 favorites]

My sister has a 30 hour a week job. She got it because they could only pay her X, and she was worth Y, so she negotiated for reduced hours.

You could freelance. You could find a place that needs your skill, but can't pay a lot for it, and negotiate fewer hours.

That's all I've got.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:30 AM on July 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

Does it need to be a single consistent job? If not, temping might suit you and be a foot in the door for something more permanent. Where I work (university research administration) we need extra help but not a full-time employee's worth, so we tend to have one or two temps around, usually for a few months at a time. There's no specialized training beyond general office skills, good judgement, and multitasking reasonably well. Typically they're temping because they're also taking classes, or have daycare to work around, or whatever, so they work 20-30 hours a week. We're happy, they're happy, the arrangement seems to work for everyone.
posted by Stacey at 9:34 AM on July 24, 2013

I work in the charity sector (fundraising) and there seem to be a lot of part-time positions in order to cut down on costs. I work 28 hours a week (not including lunch breaks) -- that is, I get Mondays off -- and it's flippin' brilliant.

It's also a really nice sector to work in, and most positions don't require extensive schooling.

(This is in the UK, not sure how true this all holds for the US).

Echoing the advice to keep quiet about your motivations for moving to part time unless there's a pressing reaosn to talk about it. Just focus on how much you like/suit the position and company.
posted by Drexen at 9:50 AM on July 24, 2013

Response by poster: Egads, am I glad I asked about whether to mention the part-time thing in my cover letter. I will henceforth leave it off!

showbiz_liz, without revealing too much of my super-secret identity I will say that I'm competent at things like general office work, writing, one-on-one interactions, and if I made a mighty effort I could probably be okay at things like troubleshooting computer issues. Things I don't like are giving presentations or speaking to groups of people, or being responsible for something that could financially ruin or physically maim people if I get it wrong.
posted by whistle pig at 10:06 AM on July 24, 2013

I am a registered massage therapist. I only know one person in my profession who works full time, and she has to hold 4 different jobs to do so; part-time is the norm.

Of course, the reason that part time is the norm is that this is an incredibly physically demanding job, much more so than most people realise. You're not standing around rubbing people gently, you're excercising and often supporting your entire body weight on a single point. Most RMTs either burn out, or retire due to work-related injuries, within 4-10 years.
posted by windykites at 10:42 AM on July 24, 2013

Also it's pretty unlikely that massage will actually maim anyone, they might be sore for a day or two but that's usually all.
posted by windykites at 10:45 AM on July 24, 2013

I know lots of organizations that hire people part-time to deal with their web content and web design. I'm not in this field myself, so not sure what kind of qualifications you would need.
posted by forkisbetter at 11:07 AM on July 24, 2013

Small businesses are often looking for part time admins because they don't need someone full time.
posted by radioamy at 11:10 AM on July 24, 2013

Check with non-profits as well; they seem to really like hiring people with experience in overall general office skills that only want to work 25-30 hours per week. Being computer savvy or a filing genius to a layman is very valuable. It looks great at fund-raising time to see that they are using their funds wisely.

These organizations are often health-related, so even a part-time bookkeeper or personnel wrangler gets health coverage at no/minimal charge, although that may require state-mandated 32 hours per week.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 6:44 PM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Are there jobs where it's common to work less than 40 hours a week? Even just one extra day off a week would be grand.

These are two different things. If your mental health requires you to work no more than 3 or 4 days a week, a job that has you working 28 hours a week for four hours a day isn't going to work.

Conversely, there are plenty of jobs where people work 3 or 4, or even as few as 2 days a week for more than 40 hours a week. If you just need more days free to yourself, something with long hours for fewer days might be wonderful for you.
posted by yohko at 12:38 PM on July 25, 2013

OMG this is one I've been meaning to ask. I would be fine with 4 days a week or even 5 days at reduced hours--I just know being here every day for 8+ hours is too too much for me to be around people who are not my family or friends. Or hell, anyone!

Currently I work in freight forwarding. What I do could EASILY be done at home or part time, but so far only one person here has successfully transitioned, and I think it's a sore subject. I brought it up in my review and was told we could talk about it in the future, so next time I'm up for a raise I'm going to offer reduced office hours in lieu of money. Good luck!
posted by masquesoporfavor at 1:06 PM on July 25, 2013

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