How to Earn Side Cash While Job Hunting

part timeSo, you're looking for a job. You're not alone, and right now it's safe to bet that it'll take a little longer than usual before you score the position you want. What can you do in the meantime to earn a little side cash, pay the bills and maybe have a little fun to boot?

Before you start a part-time job, make sure that you know what you're looking for in terms of permanent work so that smaller ventures don't create a conflict. Balance is the key, and whichever temporary gig you choose should fit into your larger plan.

1. Restaurant and Food Service Work

Whether you're serving up chilled martinis or burgers and fries, waiting tables is often considered the quintessential part-time job – and there's a reason for that: schedules are flexible, and with tips you can earn well over minimum wage. Most shifts don't conflict heavily with regular office hours, which is helpful for making business contacts and attending interviews during the day. Job prospects are considered excellent due to the high employee turnover that is characteristic of this industry – but don't forget that competition can be stiff at upscale establishments where the tips are the highest.

Waiter/waitress median hourly wage = $14.50 (including tips)

2. Retail

If food service isn't for you but you want a job to fill time on evenings and weekends, working in retail can fit the bill. Employment growth for these jobs usually reflects the expansion and contraction of the economy, so right now, it might be a little harder than usual to land a position. Despite that, job opportunities are still considered good because of the high level of turnover in this sector. Furthermore, warehouse clubs and supercenters are supposed to have excellent prospects as their popularity is increasing with bargain-hunting consumers.

Sales clerk/cashier median hourly wage = $8.16

3. Temp Agency Work

Companies are wary about hiring directly at the moment, creating many temporary job opportunities. "Employers are looking for more flexibility now," says Eric Buntin, of Randstad US, a staffing company. However, they are still looking for plenty of entry to mid-level temp positions that, with a little patience on your part, may turn into a full-time job. "It's important to be flexible, but be clear with the agency about your long-term and short-term plans, so they can help you meet your goals," advises Buntin. "Some contracts could be just for a week, then become one month and eventually lead to a hire." Salaries vary widely depending on the industry and your experience, but the potential is there to earn quite well while you're waiting for a permanent offer.

Entry level temp work (healthcare) median hourly wage = $8.00; Experienced contractor hourly wage = $35.00**

4. Recreation Workers

Sharing your knowledge of creative arts or sports and recreation can be a fun way to earn some extra money, and this job sector offers an unusually large percentage of part-time and seasonal employment, leading group outings or activities. Work environments range from community centers to summer camps. This is considered a tough field if you want to get into it full-time, but for part-time, job openings are good, stemming from the large number of people who leave the field each year.

Recreation worker median hourly wage = $15.03

5. Test Prep Instructors and Tutors

Opportunities in educational support are growing, many of which are part-time positions, usually scheduled during evenings or weekends. As the economy weakens, work at graduate test prep centers increases, says Scott Shrum, director of MBA admissions research at Veritas Prep, "and we're always hiring, but especially now." If you've done well on standardized tests and have a passion for helping others succeed, you can earn $100/hour teaching GMAT prep courses. If test prep doesn't sound like a fit, students from elementary school through college are often in need of tutoring or extra help with homework assignments as well.

Test prep instructor wage = $100/hour*; Tutor = $13.40

Need more flexibility? There's money in odd jobs.

If you're looking for more casual ways to earn some cash, you can get a long way by using a little creativity, according to Robin Ryan, Seattle-based career coach and author. In her years of coaching people toward the right position, she's seen many innovative and entrepreneurial spirits come out in their part-time moneymaking ventures, from mowing neighbors' lawns after finishing their own, to planning birthday parties for their children's classmates.

"One woman was cooking dinner for her family one night and thought to herself, why not offer to cook for other families in the neighborhood," Ryan recalled. She ended up having a number of families willing to pay for meals a couple of times a week. For just a little extra prep time in the evenings, this turned a chore into a moneymaker.

"Also, if you have clothes that don't fit anymore, furniture, or that terrible gift that your aunt gave you for Christmas – sell it!" Ryan advises. Sites like Craigslist or Ebay can make this very easy, or you can rally a few neighbors to have a larger garage sale to increase your inventory and your earnings to few hundred dollars in an afternoon. Whichever route you choose, part-time work is important. "A serious job search takes about 20 hours per week," according to Ryan, "any more than that is just spinning your wheels – job searching is slow. Fill the rest of your time with something that produces results. Psychologically, this helps a lot."

Claiming Unemployment and Taxes:

If you're collecting unemployment, you may be wondering how a side job will affect your claim. Legally, you must report all earnings, which will then be subtracted from your unemployment check until you exceed the amount of your benefit. Sometimes it is just a partial deduction from you benefit, so it's best to check with your state's unemployment office for full details on how to report your earnings.

Regarding taxes on self-employment or odd jobs, you usually don't have to report earnings of $400 or less. The IRS gives complete information in publication 501 about federal filing requirements.

Next: Top 10 Companies Hiring This Week >>

Bureau of Labor and Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook 2008-09
Salary data from unless otherwise noted.
*Salary quote from Veritas Prep.
**Salary quotes from Randstad US.

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