How do I ask for a part-time job from my full-time employer?
December 15, 2007 4:51 AM   Subscribe

What is the best way to ask my current employer to offer me a part-time position? I'm a single young male with no other responsibilities or commitments.

I'm a 25 year old male. I work for a small company (100-200 employees). I'm a part of a small team that operates pretty independently of the rest of the company. I work directly on the product, as a computer programmer, with two peers and my manager. There's also a handful of people on our team that don't work directly on the product but on the sales/marketing/support/etc. Even though we're a small team our product has earned something like 15-20% of the company's revenues this year, making us something like the current "shining star" of the company. I believe I've done a good job, but I haven't really made a name for myself. My peers and I work in cubicles. We're not exactly high status.

I've worked full-time there for about 11 months. I want to work part time for an unspecified amount of time - maybe trying it for 6 months or so before making another decision. I don't have any socially acceptable reason to do this: I'm not going back to school or caring for a child. I'm just a guy who thinks he would be happier with less money and more free time. (Note: I'd spend some of this time on self employment and entrepreneurship. Previous to this job, I attempted to make it self-employed. I survived for a few years, but eventually failed. The bug is biting me and I want to try again, at least as a side thing.)

I want to maximize my chance of success but I fear it's a hard sell. My manager is my age and has a house, a wife, and a child. I have none of these. I think that he would not understand why I would want to work even less in my current situation. I don't think it's very acceptable for someone like me to want to work part-time for "no reason". I could lie and say that I'm going back to school for more education, but that's easily verifiable.

Also, one of the things my manager has mentioned over lunch is that he likes that we're a small team that's dedicated to the project as opposed to a large team that's only spending part of their time on it. Basically, it feels like the cards are stacked against me here. I like my job, but I want to work on it less and have more time for other things.

What's the best way to approach this? Followup questions/requests for clarification can be directed to:
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I always found the best way to do this kind of thing was to make them want to give you a part time job. Go out and see what's available elsewhere part time. Apply for it. Get offered said part time job then go back to your boss and say "Hey, I'd really like to continue working here, you're great, your kids are really attractive, but I've got this offer that really fits in with what I want to do in x, y and z way although obviously i'll miss you like crazy great boss...", then your boss says "Let me see if we can work something out"
posted by merocet at 6:03 AM on December 15, 2007

You know what's funny? I bet if you start talking about part-time to your manager, it's essentially like telling a spouse "I'd like some space and to see other people." In other words, I think they will take it badly, because it's the first major sign you want to do something besides work for that company.

Like working with jilted lovers, I find most companies want you go either devote your life to them, or leave. Unless you joined as a part-timer, there's rarely going to be a company cool enough to allow that to happen.

Personally, I'd say keep the job full-time, buckle down and work on your own stuff nights and weekends. It sucks and it's exhausting, but try taking one side project on every few months so you work on it for a few weeks and get a week or two relief before taking the next one. It means no going out drinking and sometimes you have to optimize databases until 2am on a random Tuesday, but it's the best way to gauge if you could go out on your own again.

If, after six months or so, you are starting to raise a steady income from the side project, you're in a much better position to determine if you could quit your dayjob entirely.
posted by mathowie at 8:58 AM on December 15, 2007 [2 favorites]

You're making one big mistake.

They do not care how this will help you.

They only want to know how it will help them.

--You can offer to be paid hourly instead of on a salary, maybe at a slightly lower rate than your current hourly rate.

--You can offer to be "on-call" at times when they need a programmer ASAP, at night, weekends, etc. You don't have a house, a wife, and a child but your boss does and it's harder for him to be flexible.

--If something big comes up, you can work a LOT without them worrying so much about paying you overtime or burning you out, because you won't be working a 40 hour week.

--You can argue that your productivity will drop less than your salary, therefore saving them money (can you convince them that this will improve your productivity in some way?)

--You can offer to learn some programming language/skill that you want to learn anyway, on your own time, that will benefit them. You can use said programming language to do your side projects, at least some of the time, and that experience will make you a better programmer.

--You can offer to forgo any benefits that you are currently receiving as a full-time employee (don't do this unless they balk).

--You can offer to give them a trial period, and be willing to reevaluate your schedule with your manager at 30 days, 90 days, and 6 months and be willing to go back to working full-time if they so desire.

Make it look good enough to them, and they won't care why you're doing it. If someone asks, say "I would like a little more time to myself, and I think this arrangement would really benefit the company."

Good luck!
posted by sondrialiac at 9:24 AM on December 15, 2007 [1 favorite]

I think you're getting a little too focused on the "socially acceptable" reasons for wanting time off. Having a wife or a house or kids or school should in no way reduce whether an adjusted schedule is applicable to you.

Assuming that you have a friendly relationship with your boss, I'd mention this casually at first. For example, ask about his weekend, and when he asks about yours, mention that you're working on a prototype of extracurricular/entrepreneurial activity XYZ. Repeat for a few weeks, and continue being a star at work. Meanwhile, check the company intranet for examples of part-time benefits, or look around you to see if others are working adjusted schedules, so you can see if this is done in your organization.

Spend this time analyzing the project schedules to pinpoint slow weeks for you, and then bring up an adjusted schedule as a way to focus your energies on projects. If you're regularly slow on Mondays and Tuesdays, for example, or towards the end of a month, propose to concentrate your focused hours to critical periods like build releases. This will make the project more efficient while reducing margins -- a benefit for everyone.
posted by mochapickle at 10:08 AM on December 15, 2007

Mathowie makes a good point, but there are also economic reasons behind an employer's reluctance to accept part-time work. If you receive health insurance and other bennies, it costs your employer just as much to provide these if you work full or part-time. From the point of view of the employer, it costs more since its spread out over fewer hours.

As sondrialiac explained, most if not all employers don't give a crap about you beyond how they benefit from your work.

Unspecified "personal reasons" is the best "socially acceptable" excuse.
posted by three blind mice at 10:26 AM on December 15, 2007

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