Whether out of necessity or preference, you may be considering joining the 28 million Americans currently working part time. If so, experts say there are a number of concrete steps you can take to improve your prospects and make that critical transition from seeking to landing a coveted part-time job.
First, if you already have marketable skills, such as familiarity with various software packages or industry-specific experience, you'll want to leverage those strengths as you launch your job hunting effort. But even with a work history short on bold-face items, part-time job hunters can still stand out. The key, says Business Week Online workplace columnist Liz Ryan, is to follow the basic rule of "show, don't tell."
"If you worked for a river-rafting outfitter or as a nanny, remind the employer what you gained on that job,” she says. “’I led 26 forty-something businesspeople safely down Class 3 rapids’ is a big deal, and so is 'I taught conversational French to 8-year-old twins over a summer.' Help the employer see you -- the whole person."
Where the Jobs Are
According to Alison Doyle, job search expert for Ask.com, some of the sectors offering the greatest part-time work opportunities today include retail, delivery, call center, hospitality, healthcare and education, where schools are often looking for part-time and per diem workers.
Ryan agrees, noting that call centers, customer service bullpens and other order-taking organizations like Alpine Access and Arise Virtual Solutions are a good fit for many part timers, especially those looking for part-time jobs from home. Ryan cautions that part-time retail jobs, despite widespread availability, tend to involve brutal hours, low pay and a level of professional dress that can be difficult to afford on part-time wages.
Think of Employers’ Needs
While it's natural for job hunters to prioritize their own needs, Doyle suggests part-time job seekers consider prospective employers' concerns as well. With turnover so high in the part-time sector, she says employers want to know you're committed and that you genuinely want the job.
"Employers typically seek candidates who are specifically interested in a part-time job, rather than candidates looking for any job because they can’t find full-time work," Doyle says. "The best way to address the fact that you actually do want to work part-time is to mention it in your cover letter and during the interview."
Ryan again touts the "show, don't tell" approach to letting employers know you'll be able to deliver on their needs.
"On your resume, don't write, 'I am reliable,'" she says. "Why should a hiring manager -- a total stranger -- believe you? Instead, tell a story. Write, 'When I worked at Starbucks during high school, I only missed two days of work (flu) in two years of employment.' That ministory addresses both the reliability and high turnover issues. Let the hiring manager know that you're tuned in to his or her business, and not just your own job search."
No Stones Unturned
Finally, cast a wide job searching net, and take advantage of any networking opportunities you can. Don't be shy about getting the word out that you're looking for part-time work, whether through friends and family or social media sites. As Doyle says, news of an opening can come from nearly anywhere.
"Just recently, I heard about someone getting hired for a position that her dentist told her about," she says. "Someone else got an internship because he mentioned he was looking at a birthday party, while an acquaintance was offered a job over the phone by an employer his friend had given his resume to. Networking really does work."
Learn more about part-time careers.