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The struggle to move from part-time to full-time work

The transition from part-time to full-time work isn't always smooth in a recovering labor market. Here's what you need to know.

Though the economy is faring much better than it did during the Great Recession, there’s still a ways to go before job seekers feel the full impact of the labor market’s recovery. According to a new CareerBuilder study, 32 percent of part-time workers say they want to work full time but haven’t been able to land a full-time job. Perhaps more concerning, of those who want to work full time but aren’t, 31 percent say they are the sole breadwinner in their household. Thirty-nine percent say they struggle to make ends meet financially. One in four part-time workers who want full-time jobs currently work two or more jobs. TWEET THIS

What barriers are job seekers encountering in their quest for full-time work? How are they making ends meet in the interim? Here, we look at the struggle almost a third of U.S. workers are facing of moving from part-time to full-time work.

Obstacles to finding full-time work
There are plenty of reasons that job seekers are still having a hard time landing a full-time position. “Though we’re seeing an uptick in full-time, permanent hiring, many workers are still having difficulty finding positions in their field of expertise,” says Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder. She adds that a part-time job is still an important career step that workers shouldn’t discount: “For some, a part-time job is just a means to a paycheck; for others, it’s a preferred work arrangement or stepping stone.” However, if part-time work isn’t your top choice, it’s important to look at what’s keeping you from full-time employment.

When asked why they believe they have struggled to find a full-time job, part-time workers looking for full-time work gave the following responses:

  • There aren’t as many jobs available in my field as there were pre-recession: 54 percent
  • I don’t have the skills necessary for in-demand jobs: 51 percent
  • I haven’t looked for full-time jobs on a regular basis: 31 percent
  • I don’t have the education needed: 29 percent

But these barriers aren’t making job seekers less eager to work, and many would take any opportunity to impress employers and show they’d be a valuable worker. The majority of these workers (62 percent) say they would be willing to work without pay for an organization for a period of time to prove the value they can bring as a full-time employee.

Educational breakdown
Of the job seekers who are working part time but want full-time work, 29 percent say they don’t have the education needed for a full-time job they’re pursuing. However, 27 percent have a four-year degree or higher, 8 percent have an associate degree, 18 percent have had some college and 7 percent have participated in a job-specific training program after high school. Forty percent have a high school degree or less. Though education levels vary, there are opportunities for all of these workers to grow and expand their expertise – but it will take work.

Haefner says, “Those looking to make the transition to full-time employment should approach a part-time job as an opportunity to learn a new skill set, make new professional connections or explore a new career path. In addition, they should seek out companies they are interested in working for and join their talent networks so they will be first to hear about new job openings with those companies.”

The financial – and physical – toll on part-time workers
The inability to find full-time work has affected not only workers’ financial situations, but their lifestyles and even their health. When asked to choose from a list of experiences they have had as a result of their struggles, part-time workers who say they want full-time jobs cited the following:

  • Downgraded to save money (e.g. traded in for a cheaper car, canceled cable, moved to a smaller home): 31 percent
  • Had to borrow money from family or friends: 29 percent
  • Suffered from depression: 23 percent
  • Moved back home with parents: 22 percent
  • Went into high credit card debt: 17 percent
  • Experienced health issues: 14 percent

These are all very real issues that a significant number of households are dealing with each day they’re unable to find full-time work. As the economy continues to improve and the workforce grows stronger, more job seekers will be able to secure full-time positions. But in the meantime, pursuing higher education, new skills and part-time work are best practices for workers looking to take on full-time positions.

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