I made the decision mid-last year to take a 6.5 month leave of absence from my full-time job at Massachusetts General Hospital to give myself time to travel the world and work only at a part-time pace. While I have had a part-time job consistently for the past six years, I worked solely part-time for about six months straight (while I was in the country, in between jaunts to Europe) while on leave from Mass General.
While I was employed solely part-time for those six months, my schedule was extremely flexible. I worked a set 3 days per week for a medical logistics company for roughly 4 hours per day – sometimes more or less, but I was also on call for the other 3 days of the week that the company was open for business. Simultaneously, I was working as a part-time Funeral Director’s apprentice for a local funeral home (my dream job!) where I worked essentially on an on-call schedule the entire time. I would get about 4-6 hours of notice when it came to informing me that I was indeed on call for a given 24-hour period, and 1-2 days notice if I was set to work a wake or funeral. The “on-call lifestyle” was something I had to adjust to. It was difficult to make (and keep) plans knowing in the back of my mind that I could be put on call at work any minute with very little notice. There were actually a few times of note at the funeral home that I was called in to work when I wasn’t on call and only had 30 minutes to prepare myself to get to work.
Essentially, my current full-time and part-time jobs are connected in that they both fall under the umbrella of healthcare. I work full-time as an Administrative Coordinator in the Operating Room at Mass General, where I have been for three years, and part-time doing customer relations for the medical logistics company, where I have worked part-time for six years. While my jobs are for different companies, there is actually some overlap. My part-time position requires me to be in-house at Mass General almost every shift, just in a different capacity. The overlap in my jobs, while convenient, is actually not something I enjoy about the work I do. I would much prefer if my jobs were completely separate in order to hold my interest in what I am doing. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
I am a classifiable workaholic, so I am most content when I am working like a maniac. While I feel indifferent about the work I do for the medical logistics company, I was super passionate about the work I was doing for the funeral home. This being so, I crafted my life around the work I was doing for the funeral home and left myself as little time as possible to do anything else. There were a couple of times, however, that my part-time/per Diem status came in handy, especially when booking last minute trips (a nasty habit I just can’t help but give in to). Working part-time made my schedule flexible enough that I could mold my hours to fit my needs, thus leaving me in a prime position to take full advantage of the opportunities I wanted to take part in. Most of the time I used my part-time status to my advantage, it was for travel (weekend jaunts to New York, a last minute long weekend in Jamaica, a week in Dublin and Paris and backpacking through 5 countries in Europe over the course of 11 days). I do not believe I would have been able to accomplish very much of that had I been working a full-time job at the time. Apart from massive traveling adventures abound, I also spent a great deal of time just enjoying the summer – sitting by the pool, drink in hand, listening to music. These are things I did not even know I enjoyed doing because I never had the time to realize my interest in them. Working a flexible, part-time schedule allowed me that time.
Advantages and Disadvantages
The obvious advantage to working part time was the flexibility. I just can’t drive that point home enough. My sleep schedule became regulated for the first time in my adult life and my priorities began to shift. I gained the ability to become myself and separate myself from my career – a task I had never been able to do before. I find that working full-time, I fall into a scenario where I become my position, and it’s beyond unhealthy. My part-time jobs were just that – jobs. I showed up, fulfilled my responsibilities, and left when I put in my time. I gained the ability to leave my work where it belongs: at work. I never took my work home with me like I do working full-time. I was alleviated of all the stress and aggravation that comes along with my full-time position (that I, unfortunately, have since reabsorbed). The one and only disadvantage I found to working part-time was the financial strain I faced from not working enough. As a student, I accrued significant debt in the student loan department. Those payments, compounded by the cost of living in general, were enough for me to be forced to go back to work full-time. Had my finances not been an issue, I would have been entirely content remaining a part-time employee for certain.
Since transitioning back to a full-time employment lifestyle, my life has changed quite a bit. First and foremost, I find far less enjoyment in what I am doing. I enjoyed, very much, the fact that my employment was varied from day to day. I have always been a person who has dreaded falling into a routine. Day-to-day living is just too uneventful for me. I need excitement -- change and difference – in my schedule. I do not have that anymore. Financially, I am significantly better off (and you’ll never hear me complain about that), but with financial stability comes more financial stress. It’s an endless cycle, I suppose. Since transitioning back to full-time, I honestly regret having had to make the decision. Everything seems so… ordinary. I fully recommend the part-time lifestyle to anyone who is considering it and can financially manage the hours. The freedom and flexibility a part-time schedule allows is priceless, and I’d give anything to get back to that.