By Nancy Trejos
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 4, 2009
Shelby Shenkelman enjoys working as a pricing analyst for a company that produces airline meals. At 25, she is making more than $50,000 a year.
"It should not be a bad salary," she said.
That is, unless you have $30,000 in student loans, a $300 a month car payment, some credit card debt, grocery bills that seem to be going up and rent that definitely is going up.
"I can survive on my one paycheck, but it's very, very difficult. It's very, very tight," the Reston resident said.
In December, she decided to take a second job. Two nights during the week and on weekend days, she works as a personal shopper at a clothing store, earning $9 an hour plus commission.
With a grim economic outlook for 2009, more Americans are not just cutting costs but are finding ways to make more money by taking part-time or odd jobs, employers and economists said. Many are doing it because their wages have stalled while the cost of living has gone up. Others are picking up extra work to pay off debt or cushion their savings. For others, it's a backup plan in case they get laid off from their full-time jobs.
In a survey of 1,400 workers by the staffing firm Express Employment Professionals, 42 percent said they were looking for a second job to make ends meet. In a Pew Research Center survey of 2,413 adults, 24 percent said they or someone in their household has taken an extra job because of economic troubles.
Meanwhile, staffing agencies across the country are seeing an uptick in the number of people seeking evening and weekend jobs, even if they are overqualified for them. And traffic is increasing for Web sites such as SnagAJob.com that specialize in hourly work.
"I think a lot more people are open to just doing any kind of job, maybe not specifically in the field they have been trained for," said Amy Little, branch manager of Manpower Inc., a national staffing agency. "They will just do anything and everything to make ends meet."
At a time when employers in many industries are scrutinizing every full-time employee, however, working a second job could have the unforeseeable effect of interfering with a primary job, human resources experts said.
"There's no question that there are times when you have conflict especially if you take a seasonal job," said Robert Trumble, professor of management at Virginia Commonwealth University and director of the Virginia Labor Studies Center. "Most people recognize that their secondary job is secondary. But you do have to recognize that you have moments of clear conflict. Maybe both [employers] are asking for overtime and you can't do it."
Workers should also be aware of the possible hidden costs of taking on extra work, experts said. For example, if you have children, a second job could require you to spend more on child care. Or you might have to pay more for transportation.
"Sometimes we find that people don't do their research, and the part-time job does not create the benefit it was meant to," said Joanne Kerstetter, president of Consumer Credit Counseling of Greater Washington, a division of Money Management International, which is the nation's largest nonprofit debt counseling agency.
Juggling two jobs has certainly been a challenge for Shenkelman.
"I have to leave my full-time job on time. I can't put extra hours in so I can make it to my part-time job," she said.
And she doesn't have as much time to spend with her family or friends. Nor is she sleeping as much as she used to. "I also do not get to do as much for myself, like just going to the Mall and walking around," she said.
But she is happy to have the extra income so she can pay her bills and have some semblance of a social life. "I didn't want to never have spending money, to never go out with friends or see a movie," she said.
For Nate Chenenko, having two jobs has made traveling on weekends more difficult.
"My free time has a much higher opportunity cost now: Taking a weekend trip costs me the price of the trip plus the wages lost from missing work at my part-time job," he said.
On weekdays, Chenenko dons a collared shirt, tie and dress slacks and heads to the Navy Yard where he is a contract specialist for the U.S. Navy.
On Thursday and Friday nights and on weekends, he switches to ski pants and a cap and drives people around the District in a pedicab, or bike taxi. Since he started in October, he's been making about $19 to $23 an hour pedaling as many as four people at a time to such destinations as Union Station and the White House. It's a big help, he said, especially considering that he is making about $40,000 a year, and that his grocery and utility bills have gone up.
"Instead of buying or purchasing expensive things, I'm trying to save," he said. "I took this to build up that safety net."
Labor experts said you should avoid any conflicts with your primary employers by checking your employee handbook and making sure you are even allowed to take a second job. If a second job is permitted, be honest with your employer about your extracurricular work. And whatever you do, never do work for your second job while at your full-time one. Keeping that primary job should be a priority.
"When you can keep what you have, that's the easiest and the best," Trumble said.
Finding a second job might not be easy depending on the industry. Indeed, data released by the Labor Department showed that the unemployment rate rose in November to 6.7 percent from 6.5 percent in October.
But economists and labor experts said seasonal, temporary, weekend and evening jobs such as bartending are still out there. Jobs in health care or assisted-living facilities, for instance, are always available because people don't stop getting sick or growing old during recessions. Cleaning services also offer flexible evening and weekend work.
Second jobs don't have to be traditional either, said Mechel Glass, director of education for Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Greater Atlanta. "What are some talents or skills you have that you can utilize to bring in additional money?" she said.
Take on sewing projects, tutor students, offer to cook for co-workers for a fee. If you sing, try to get gigs at weddings. If you like animals, walk dogs or do some pet-sitting.
If you love to shop, get a job with your favorite retailer where you would have the added benefit of getting discounts. If you know anything about traveling, electronics, movies or just about anything, you can write a review for http://www.reviewstream.com and possibly get paid for it, the credit counseling agency recommended.
Trumble, the human resources expert, said that during recessions, people also often turn to self-employment or direct selling for companies such as Avon, the cosmetics manufacturer.
Take Peggy Kelley, 60, who supplements her income from her full-time job as a minister at a D.C. Baptist church by selling fragrances and recruiting others to sell products for LMS Fragrances.
Since June, she has been calling and e-mailing people, passing out fliers at restaurants and stores. In one three-week period, she made about $4,000. And she needed it. She is also a landlord, and some of her tenants stopped paying rent because they lost their jobs or had their hours cut. She exhausted her savings paying mortgages on four homes.
"In this market, everything has changed. People have lost their jobs. You get excuses from tenants," she said. "This is the worst economy I have ever experienced, and I am 60 years old."
Ron Cooper Jr.'s reason for starting a business was that the one he has been in for 11 years is in trouble. The Fredericksburg car salesman recently started the Stafford franchise of the national pet-waste-scooping business DoodyCalls.
"Obviously, in the auto business sales have declined over the past few years," the 32-year-old said. "I felt it was a good time to try something new with a small business."
On evenings, he does advertising and bookkeeping. On Mondays, his day off from his full-time job, he scoops clients' yards. Overall, he said, he devotes about 15 hours a week to the business and has four clients. Prices start at about $14 a week for a normal-size yard and one dog.
He's counting on this: People might stop buying Corvettes, but they will always need to have their yards cleaned.