Joshua Kim wrote an interesting post in his blog on Monday about voluntary part-timers. His thesis is that part-time workers are valuable because (if I may abbreviate and paraphrase) they: budget their time efficiently (they don’t take coffee breaks); have good schedules for excelling on projects; do good work to make sure their jobs are secure; are not worn down; often actually put in more time than the part-time they are hired for; and by choosing to balance their life and families their own way, they can be highly internally motivated.
I also enjoyed reading the comments from readers, some of whom sound really happy with their part-time careers. I think we need more discussion of part-time. I don’t know very many part-timers in academia and I’m sure there is a really interesting diversity of creative ways that people are putting together rewarding careers that don’t drive them crazy with unmanageable schedules. Happy part-timers are out there, but they’re the quiet types. Because they aren’t recognized regularly for high-powered work, their careers are low profile. They usually don’t have the clout to ask for more: raises, promotions, benefits, again this makes their careers low profile. They may be somewhat cowed by their full-time peers; once again, low profile. Unless we bring this discussion out into the open, think outside the box about how part-time can fit in at universities and then push for more rewards, respect and options for smart, motivated, educated and engaged part-time workers, the potential for academic part-time opportunities is destined to be under-utilized and under-explored. Which would be a shame, because Joshua Kim’s thoughts are right on: done right, part-time can be a valuable option for all involved.