Can I got back to school and have a life at the same time?
November 30, 2005 8:37 PM   Subscribe

How can I cut my work hours in half and have my pay scale down accordingly?

I've been a full-time C# .NET programmer for a few years now. I enjoy it, but I'm pretty sure I'll be sick of it in a few years, so I'd like to go back to school and learn some other cool stuff.

I've tried going to school alongside working my 40 hours a week (which inevitably becomes 45-60 hours anyways), but that's too much for me to be doing at once -- it becomes very stressful for me, and I end up dropping the classes.

In a perfect world, I'd work half as much and get paid half as much, go to school with my extra time, and still have some time to relax.

So I'm looking for advice on what I can do to get myself in a situation like that (and whether it's even possible).

(I've thought about independently consulting, but I fear the non-programming work that would come along with that.)
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (10 answers total)
I'm not sure what you mean by that last part. I guess you mean that consultants are often called upon to solve more rounded problems like "build me a solution" than you are interested in. Too bad you're anon, but I will assume you mean that you want to spend 100% of your work time writing C# code, solving C# problems, not business problems, not system problems.

That degree of "embededness" is rarer for consultants. I would suggest you explore the idea with your current employer. They already know you well and you already know them well and if there's any potential for you to spend 100% of your time solving deep C# problems with minimal other bullshit it's probably right there.

Of course you provide no details about your work so I don't know if you are 1 of 2 programmers like yourself at your employer, or 1 of 1000. The two circumstances have completely different considerations.

Aw, hell with it. If you want to email me privately, I will post more details here about your circumstances. Confidentiality guaranteed.
posted by scarabic at 8:56 PM on November 30, 2005

You might actually make more cash as a consultant, because they get paid by the hour with no benefits. I'd be pocketing a lot more cash right now if I'd been hired as a contractor, rather then on salary, but I have health and stock options, so I can't complain too much.

Anyway, if you can get a contracting position the pay you cash, and you need to take out taxes yourself. So if you only make $30k/year or so you won't have to pay nearly as much as you would if you worked full time.

If I were in your positions, I'd be spending my time on, monster, etc, basically looking for a contracting job. Hopefully you live in a big city :P

Anyway, good luck.
posted by delmoi at 9:24 PM on November 30, 2005

scarabic: How can you guarantee that the emailer is the actual poster? They'd need to email jessamyn or matt.
posted by delmoi at 9:25 PM on November 30, 2005

I can't guarantee, except to reassure you that no one is bored enough to falsify someone else's working circumstances in such a fashion. What does anyone have to gain? If the original poster finds I've defiled their thread wth a fraudulent post, they can email matt and have it removed. The likliehood of fraud is so low that it would be better to ask for a cleanup, if necessary, than permission to proceed, right now. In other words: how about we only bother matt if there's a problem? Meantime, please give me a break as I post the following from anonymous:

"re: cutting down work hours.

First off, I'm not averse to solving non-C# problems, providing "solutions" and the like. I can (and do) do that. What I'm afraid of is marketing my services, managing my paperwork, keeping track of my income, that sort of thing.

As for more details about my situation, I'm one of about twelve programmers, and the company is growing right now. Good help is hard to find around here, and new folks haven't been sticking around long lately due to the sort of fast-paced, short-deadline environment. So, uh, I suppose I have some leverage.

Also, I meant to post that I'm rather young. Early twenties.

I appreciate the help."
posted by scarabic at 11:53 PM on November 30, 2005

Given your answer, I would say you should have a little leverage to negotiate a part-time situation. This is dependent on a couple of things:

1) Which industry you work in. If it's financial services or something very conservative then their culture just might not be open to special arrangements, period.

2) Whether they like you. If you have always done a fantastic job and have lots of cred with everyone, then you might work this out just fine.

3) How tactful/persistent you can be. If you are a pushover then most employers will probably push you over. If you have the persistence and tact to bring this up casually at first (with a superior you trust - see #2) and then build a case over time until finally it becomes a formal request, then, finally, a requirement, then you'll do fine.

You should bear in mind that getting paid as a contractor is different. You pay more taxes. Don't just cut your salary in half and ask for that. Consider health insurance, too. And giving up all perks. But then... I guess I'm veering into "work/thought involved in contracting" territory.

Basically, if they're hiring, then the ball is in your court. You can ask for what you want. Worst case: they'll say no, and you'll be stuck exactly where you are.
posted by scarabic at 11:59 PM on November 30, 2005

Oh, but yeah, contracting is the only route. I guess I skipped over that point. I certainly don't know any employers who have a "part-time employee" program for programmers.

I do, on the other hand, know plenty of contract programmers.
posted by scarabic at 12:01 AM on December 1, 2005

Your employer may be more easily convinced to let you work half-time if you propose job sharing. This usually means finding a partner in the workplace yourself, someone in the same boat as you, and it saves the employer from having to hire another part-time employee to fill in for you. Instead, they'd need to find another full-time employee, which is presumably easier. (Lots of info on this on google.)
posted by teg at 4:47 AM on December 1, 2005

I know of at least one company that has a part time employee program for programmers - IBM. One of the programmers on my team is regular part time. Big companies may be where you want to look, anon, because they'll have more well developed HR policies around these sorts of things. They're also vastly more likely to do things like, say, pay for the courses you're taking in school if they're applicable to the work they do.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:17 AM on December 1, 2005

someone i worked with negotiated this with the company (small .com in scotland). he just went to them, explained the situation and asked for what he wanted. someone else i knew (in academia, uk) also negotiated something similar (same grant spread over twice as long for half the work per annum).

so it's certainly possible.
posted by andrew cooke at 7:45 AM on December 1, 2005

I'm not in your field, but I've always worked for smallish companies who have all had "permanent part time" staff. Either students, parents, people winding down to retirement, whatever. They're all very smart, capable people who have no element of flakiness in them.

I think bosses are open to this as long as scarabic's #2 (they - particularly your immediate supervisor - like you) applies. I would have no fear about going to my boss with with a well thought out proposal - I love working here, will continue to give 100%, here's the hours/availability I would like. As long as you mean it, mind you, if you're bored with what you do maybe they can tell.
posted by jamesonandwater at 8:38 AM on December 1, 2005

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