Your Job Will Come: Balancing job search with real life

As anyone who has been out of work can attest, looking for a job is more than a full-time job.

With the networking, finding jobs to apply for, applying for those jobs, and hopefully going on interviews, a job seeker can easily spend more than 40 hours a week looking for someone to hire and pay them for 40 hours of work a week. Yes, it's stressful to be unemployed, as 13.7 million Americans are.

Add to that the underemployed, defined by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics as people outside the 8.9% federal unemployment rate, and who are seeking full-time work but can't find it, so they have at least one part-time job. Add another pile of stress to the pile that sits in front of you as you continue looking for full-time work.

As someone who has been unemployed for almost a year, and underemployed for much of that time with various part-time jobs, I know the struggles of balancing many jobs with a job search, along with taking care of a 4-year-old daughter while my wife works full-time.

It's difficult, but there are some solutions, as we discuss today in the podcast "Your Job Will Come," which can be subscribed to on iTunes.

Before I get into my suggested solutions for juggling part-time jobs during a job search, I want to make clear that I don't pretend to know the sacrifices that poor people have to make while having to work multiple jobs. I don't live in a rural area where jobs are scarce, and I'm lucky enough to have a spouse who works full-time at a job that pays enough to keep food on our table.

Here are some lessons I've learned in the past year as I continue working at a few jobs while still looking for part-time work:

  1. Time management is key. If you couldn't multi-task before you lost your job, you're going to learn now. Scheduling appointments and getting as much done in limited time is crucial.You'll have to hop around different tasks from one hour to the next.
  2. Prioritize. There aren't enough hours in the day to do what you want to do, so put priorities on things, taking into account how much they pay, when they're due and what can be done at set hours. I do freelance writing and editing, so jobs that don't pay well enough for my time get passed up.
  3. Be flexible. Or at least find jobs that have flexible hours. I have one part-time job that has to be done by noon every few days. Some days I get it done at 8:30 a.m., others as late as 11:30 a.m., but it always gets done on time.
  4. Don't do everything at once. If you need to wash the dishes, go do it. But trying to be on a phone call or other work-related task is difficult while cleaning the house or taking care of your child. Leave the multi-tasking to work.
  5. Keep the jobs separate. Don't let the jobs conflict, such as doing work for competing companies. While this probably goes without saying, only do the work for the one company while it is paying you. Don't try to work for two businesses at once. For example, I edit and write for WalletPop, and when I'm on the clock for them, I don't do other freelance work.
  6. Find time to relax. For the first few months after I was laid off, I did nothing but job hunt every waking hour. I was burning out. I'm still busy from the time I get up until bedtime, but childcare duties force me to take most of the afternoon off. I usually steal an hour or so to read the paper or do something to relax, and most of the afternoon is spent playing with my daughter.
  7. Get a date. This is part of the relaxing mode, but focuses on spending time away from your desk, out of the house with your spouse. I hire a babysitter every now and then so my wife and I can go out.
  8. Pay to get your time back. Whether it's hiring a babysitter for a night out, or paying a gardener to pull your weeds, the expense is worth it if you can buy some time to relax.
  9. Have a support system. A spouse, friend, relative or former co-worker is great to have available to bounce ideas off of and help keep your spirits up.
  10. Enjoy the time off and stay positive. While it sounds crazy if you're unemployed or underemployed and have difficulty paying the bills, taking the time to enjoy being away from full-time work is important and helps put things in perspective. I've tried to maintain a positive attitude during this past year, and think that my hard work in the job search will eventually pay off. During that time I've taken time to spend with my family and do simple things that I couldn't have done during a regular workweek, such as long weekday picnics, a matinee or playing at the park with my daughter.
Some people make a career out of working many part-time jobs, called portfolio careers. While it's more difficult to do in a recession, creating a career out of part-time work can include working one place a few days a week, freelancing on the side, and getting your own business off the ground. There are online tests to help determine if you're up for such a career.

One reason I continue looking for full-time work, beyond better pay, is because my part-time jobs don't offer health benefits. And while all jobs are "temporary," even the illusion of job security is appealing in a full-time job.

Part-time work has its own illusion: Being free. Setting your own hours is a sort of freedom, but the constant search for the next contract, the next payday can take a lot of time too.

Aaron Crowe is an unemployed journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area. Read about his job search at

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