More Than a Day Job

From Pedicabs to Peddling Cosmetics, Economy Pushes Some to Seek Extra Work

Pedal power: Part-time pedicab driver Nate Chenenko makes $19 to $23 an hour by giving tourists a lift on Thursdays and weekends to supplement his full-time job as a contract specialist. (Richard A. Lipski - The Washington Post)

By Nancy Trejos
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 4, 2009; Page F01

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.