Ask Money

Take this job and ….?

Chris Farrell Apr 11, 2011

Question: Dear Chris and Tess, I love the show! Thank you so much for helping educate those of us who are financially-challenged.

My question is about my daughter. She received her BA in Community Journalism in 2009. Her husband was able to find a teaching job in Virginia, but she was not able to find anything for over a year.

She finally was hired by Barnes and Noble as a seasonal employee in November, 2010 and was kept on as a part-time permanent employee and has enjoyed her work (she LOVES books and music) and has done a good job. It is possible she could advance in the company as a manager.

BUT she is still part-time and often gets hours that barely cover her gasoline costs to get to work. She keeps asking me why she should stay in the job if it costs her money to work. She and her husband have huge student loans to pay off and are barely making it through each month (and sometimes don’t) which causes problems, of course.

What advice would you give her about quitting her part-time job at BN?? Thank you! Lisa, Demorest, GA

Answer: She’s in a tough spot, but I would be very wary of quitting her job. She’s building a resume. She is bringing in an income. My recommendation is not to quit unless it’s for a better job or at least until she has a realistic job-hunting plan in place.

Here’s why: The economy may be getting momentum, but the unemployment rate is still 8.8% and the broadest measure if unemployment-and underemployment is 15.7%. I was the moderator at a talk about the labor market at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota last week and one of the things that came out is some employers are saying don’t bother to apply if you don’t have a job. It’s legal, too.

Right or wrong–and I think it’s wrong–the longer people are without jobs the more prospective employers look at them as damaged goods. A strong market forces employers to abandon that attitude, but we’re far from vibrant growth these days.

Yes, her job isn’t paying much. But she’s still a recent college graduate and the job is improving her work experience and her resume. It also sounds as if she’ll get a positive review from her managers when she needs one. The real reason for her to stay with the job now is that she’s improving the odds of getting a better paying job–hopefully soon. It also seems from your note that the income–however little–helps pay the bills, too.

The counter-argument to this perspective is that it’s time consuming to look for full-time work. There’s something to the old saw that it’s a full-time job to look for a full-time job. So, she should keep sending out feelers, setting up informal coffee meetings with people doing the kind of work she likes, and create a job-pursuit plan. There may come a point when the odds favor her quitting and going all out for full-time work with benefits. But I would be wary of abandoning her work until that plan is well in place.

What do other people think? Do you have any experience that could help her decide what to do?

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