This is a guest post by that Frugal Pharmacist. Her blog is about financial independence and how she's taking one step at a time.
In this case, I'd like to talk about the professional value of per diem employment.
Here's my current work situation. I'm a pharmacy manager, working less than 40 hours a week. I work per diem for a large chain as well. Between these two jobs, I probably average about 35 hours a week over a year.
At the moment, since I've been wanting to re-acquaint myself with my hospital skills, I'm looking into a per diem opportunity at a small hospital too (the first I have seen in about 3 years since I've been watching).
Personally, I've maintained at least one side job for almost all of my professional career. And if I didn't have one, I was actively looking.
When most people think about per diem employment, what comes to mind is:
- People looking for full-time work but trying to get their foot in the door
- Retired pharmacists who just want to pick up a few hours.
- Working parents who just want to pick up a few days here and there.
I can understand the reasons for this. Typically, as a per diem employee you may not be eligible for benefits, or if you are, it is minimal benefits. But, there are ways you can make it work and be the answer to an employer's problem.
Way to "make it" per diem
If you are in the position to have your health insurance paid for, perhaps by a spouse, this makes the decision a lot easier. But, you can make it work if you still need insurance.
For me, at my main job, I work just enough hours to qualify for benefits. The company is happy because they are looking to cut labor hours (who isn't these days!) and I'm happy because I can work less (or more, at my other jobs). Being that I'm a salaried employee, I'm not eligible for overtime, so, it's not like I'm missing out on anything there.
I work part-time at my main job, by choice.
For many, with shrinking labor budgets, part-time work may not really be a choice, but you can still make it work. And while you're making it work, you can expand your professional skills and professional network.
I offer up all my days off to my second per diem job. I don't work each day I'm off, but I give them full availability on my days off and schedule anything else in my life around that. This typically means I work a day every week or two. If I was willing to do more travel, I could probably be working 2-3 days a week much of the time. This company doesn't owe me any benefits. They are happy to have someone with a flexible schedule or who they can call in on short notice who also doesn't work enough to get overtime.
I'm solving a problem for them.
- I don't work enough hours to qualify for overtime.
- My schedule is open/flexible for my days off.
- I'm available on short notice.
- I don't qualify for benefits.
This situation works really well for me, personally, because I'm in a fairly rural area. Even companies with float staff are going to have to pay large amounts of drive time, hotel costs, etc., (often resulting in overtime) to send one of their staff out. So, it may be a little easier for me to find these opportunities.
You can still make this work in larger areas. Maybe you reach out to small chains or independent pharmacies. No one wants to pay a staffing company pharmacist wages, and sometimes independent pharmacists (and their staff) get sick or need a vacation. Offer your services. Let them know you aren't seeking anything more than per diem. Check out the market you're in, I'm sure there is an opportunity somewhere, though you may have to inquire. Maybe the business never considered looking for someone per diem.
Professional and Personal Benefits
Some of these are applicable to everyone, some are just my personal opinion.
- Grow your professional network by meeting with and working with a variety of people.
- Grow and maintain your professional skills by working in a variety of settings.
- It may be a way to build a new skill if they are willing to train you, an opportunity that may not be available if they are looking for a full time, already trained, employee (I'm especially looking at people looking to transition into say, hospital work from retail here).
- Set yourself up for opportunities to transition into full-time work if it becomes available and you like the place because you've already tried it out.
- Be known as the problem solver! It's great to be the person people know they can call when they need help.
- Keep things exciting and fun! It can be really refreshing and relaxing in a way, to work somewhere that you're not at e-v-e-r-y-day. The day to day annoyances don't get to you the same way.
- The opportunity to make more money if you want to, perhaps over the number of hours that would be available to you at your regular job.
- Often, this means you've always got a backup plan. If your main job isn't your main job anymore, you may be able to talk to your per diem employer and transition to something more stable.
I really can't say enough about the first three points. It can be really easy to become stuck in a rut with your particular work setting or company. Per diem work lets you interact with others. It shows you what else is going on in the world of pharmacy. After working with one company for a long time it can sometimes be hard to seperate what is company rule from legal rule. Per diem work helps you keep an open mind to the various ways of doing things, keeps you on your toes and always learning.
Potential Problems with Per Diem Work
As I've said above, if you don't have a way to cover your basic benefit needs (like insurance) or don't have any access to 401k (which you really should be contributing to) it can be harder to make this work.
Also, if you are relying solely on per diem employment, there may be times when there is simply no work available. It does happen. For this reason, this work setup can be a really good option for people who want to work full time, but don't have to work full time.
It can be hard to get out of your comfort zone. You will have to be more flexible and willing to adapt, but, building the adaptability skill does benefit you in the long run.
Keep your mind open!
If you're looking to make a change or trying to start your career as a pharmacist, do consider taking on those per diem opportunities. Explain the reasons you are the answer to a problem!
Alex is the Founder of The Happy PharmD. He loves anime, his family, and video games, but not in that order.