There is a sea change going on in the American work force. I cite an August 5, 2013 Washington Times article by Stephen Dinan. Since January 2009, the country has added a net total of 270,000 full time jobs while adding a whopping 1.9 million part-time jobs during the same time period - a 7/1 ratio. The figures were provided by the House Ways and Means committee.
Healthcare is (and will continue to be) an increasingly bigger burden on individuals as employers shift cost or drop coverage all together. A 2011 McKinsey & Co. study says 30% of all employers will “definitely” or “probably” stop offering their worker’s health insurance once the bulk of the healthcare reform law’s mandates take effect in 2014. That figure jumps to 50% among employers with a “high awareness” of the reform law’s requirements, the study found. As 2014 dawns, some studies say as many as 65% of small business and 45% of big business will eventually stop providing employee health coverage. Whatever figure you use, there is a high probability you will soon bear the burden of providing your own healthcare coverage.
The negative one-two financial impact of part time work combined with paying more for health insurance is obvious. Less obvious is the opportunity presented to those willing to view their career differently. How many times have you heard friends or acquaintances proclaim, “I hate my job, but I need the health insurance”? “The only reason I work is for health insurance”? “My pay isn’t that great, but the benefits are terrific”? Careful what you wish for… For better or worse, binding health insurance to an employer will quickly become a thing of the past for a large portion of the work force.
I think most traditional job seekers are stereotyped as looking for a full time job offering health insurance coverage. Look at the numbers in the first two paragraphs and relate them to what you hear about the job market. No wonder labor participation is at its lowest in decades (62.8% as of December 2013). It’s getting harder to find full time work – let alone full time work offering health coverage.
If any one of a 1,000 factors (age, job gaps, long term unemployed, bad credit, etc. etc. etc.) is hurting your job search, maybe it’s time for a different approach. A viable alternative to endless hours filling out web site pages applying for jobs only to hit “submit” and send it to Lord knows where to be read by Lord knows who. Or worse yet, hit “submit” only to get an error message, lose all the data and start over at the beginning. How many hours have you waited for head hunters to call back after pitching you a “wonderful opportunity”? Almost without exception, you won’t even be acknowledged unless you are one of the chosen few. Your credentials are sent to a cyberspace black hole never to be seen or heard from again. For some reason, far too many companies don’t deem job seekers worthy of common courtesy. Even if your efforts lead to a coveted full time position, there is certainly no guarantee it will last (or include health coverage). Back to countless hours of job sites, unreturned phone calls and rejections (if the company even bothers to keep you informed).
What if you embrace the sea change and seek part-time, interim or project based work? There are benefits. Have you considered?
1) Working 2 or 3 part time positions does not put “all your eggs in one basket”.
Lose one and you still have income as well as current skills that stay marketable because
you are still working.
2) Shorter lead times. With temporary or consulting work you can often interview today and
start work tomorrow. Full time employment often takes weeks of interviews with no
certainty of an eventual hire.
3) Potentially higher pay. If you possess skills that place you near the top of your
professional, you can often negotiate higher rates than your salaried counterparts. You are
there to make problems go away – the quicker the better. Get compensated accordingly.
Remember the healthcare discussion? Your rate better take overhead (healthcare) into
4) You are in perpetual marketing mode. You are always looking for work so your network
never goes stale. Seeking or asking for work gets easier and becomes second nature – or
at least an understood role of your new employment approach.
5) If the fit is right, part time/temporary work often leads to offers of full time,
I’m not naïve enough to think everybody is willing or capable of running their own business. Those individuals could explore working through agencies. The advantage of working through agencies is that they will handle your administrative headaches (insurance, payroll, taxes, etc.) as well as marketing your skills. The disadvantages are loss of control, loss of individual brand identity and lower pay (the agency takes their cut).
Old habits die hard. Some will never give up the ideal that full time, “permanent” work is the only way to go. In-demand, highly skilled, effective networkers find new jobs with relative ease. The traditional model still works for them. As the numbers in the first paragraph illustrate, fewer job seekers are finding success using the traditional approach.
Instead of practicing your answer to “where do you see yourself in 5 years”, you may want to practice your answer to “what can you do for us in the next 3-6 months”.