Job Juggling? The Changing Face Of America's Workforce

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How Americans are struggling to make ends meet.

One of the moments in recent years that I will never forget happened during a televised town hall style meeting. Former President George Bush was talking to a single mother in Omaha, Nebraska. She was concerned about the economy and the lack of jobs.

He asked her if she had a job, and she said that yes, she did have a job. In fact, she had 3. With a look of shock, quickly followed by pride and excitement he said

"You work three jobs? … Uniquely American, isn't it? I mean, that is fantastic that you're doing that."

Somehow, he seemed to believe that holding 3 jobs was a good thing and that the mother was an overachiever.

This couldn't be further from the truth.

However, many Americans are finding themselves holding several jobs, and rather than becoming rarer, this is starting to become the norm. Because most jobs don't pay enough to make a living wage or don't offer full time employment, people are having to hold down several jobs just to pay the bills. This means that they work longer hours, are constantly juggling their schedules, have no time for a family life and don't have the benefits that a full time employee would have.

It's becoming so prevalent that recently the New York Times did a piece on the rising trend of people who have several part time jobs. They interviewed many people who have 3 or 4 jobs and tried to find out why this is becoming normal. A few of the people interviewed where struggling artists, actors and musicians who work multiple jobs in order to have time to pursue their dreams. Still, there are many people who are juggling jobs who are just trying to pay their bills and keep their apartments or homes.

For these people, their lives lack the same type of structure as someone who works a 9 to 5 job. For them, each day is different and they have to make every moment count. Perhaps they work in a retail store part time, do some freelance work in their field in between their regular work hours and then they work a night job as well. This can mean working 60 hour week and not having health insurance, 401ks or a pension.

Although the Times article focused mostly on young, recent college grads who are finding it difficult to live on an entry level salary, there are millions of workers who don't have degrees that are holding multiple jobs that pay minimum wage or slightly better. Without health insurance, they know that one accident could land them out on the street. To make things worse, working long hours and the stress of keeping so many jobs and juggling the demands of each job and their families can cause them to have medical problems. Not having enough time to sit down and eat at regular intervals, the lack of sleep and no time to relax and have some down time can play havoc on even the best of immune systems and can cause their bodies to wear down, forcing them to solider on. Eventually, it catches up to everyone and then they find themselves in an even worse situation.

Living paycheck to paycheck is hard, and it isn't what the American Dream is all about. We shouldn't be proud of the people who manage to juggle multiple jobs, we should be thinking about why it is that someone should have to live this way just to be able to not live in a homeless shelter or on the street.

The Times article did have an upside, they said that the good news is that people who juggle multiple jobs have an attractive skill set to offer employers. Because they have a proven track record of being able to manage schedules and multi-task, they are much more hireable than someone who is less flexible. Still, I think that is a nice way of saying that people who are holding down multiple jobs are more hireable because their track record shows that they are willing to do whatever it takes to make a living, even if it means working longer hours, sacrificing their health, time with their families and they would be grateful for even the minimum of benefits and salary.

A study by Johns Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies found that for women, at least, there really isn't a long term upside to having multiple jobs. They found that women who had several part-time jobs in their 20's didn't earn any higher wages when they were in their 30's. The reason is that part time work doesn't offer advancement opportunities, provide advanced training or help build a career path.

Many experts believe that this trend isn't going to end any time soon and they actually think that it will grow and that it will become the norm for people in their 20's. I just can't help but wonder what will happen when these people begin to consider starting a family. Will their children spend most of their time in day cares and with babysitters while their parents are working several jobs just to take care of the bills?

Do you have several jobs? What do you think about this growing trend?

By Melissa Kennedy- Melissa is a 9 year blog veteran and a freelance writer for ManhattanJobsBlog and Nexxt. Along with helping others find the job of their dreams, she enjoys computer geekery, raising a teenager, supporting her local library, writing about herself in the third person and working on her next novel.


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