Jobs For Laid Off Moms and Dads

Filed under: Work Life

Like so many folks in this troubled economy, Ms. L. was laid off recently. Unlike some people, she was able to find employment, albeit in a very different field.

Ms. L. used to be a vice president at Chase. Now she's a nanny, being paid off the books, which is why she declined to let the New York Times publish her real name.

The new gig was a happy accident. Ms. L. was asked by her neighbor if she could babysit their 5-month-old. Ms. L. agreed to one week only, but that was a while ago. For the moment, she has stopped looking for a job in finance. Despite the fact that she only earns $12 an hour, she is enjoying herself: "All my friends tell me I seem so relaxed. And I just love this baby."

This got us thinking -- what are some of the ways that newly unemployed parents can use their existing skills to find work? The Times had some semi-serious advice recently ("Become a butler" was one suggestion), but we thought we could do better.

Parents, especially those that are primary caregivers, have different needs than the childless when it comes to working. Perhaps most important is a flexible schedule, to allow for last-minute pickups due to emergencies like pink eye. Working from home is also a plus, as is a job you can walk away from if you find a full-time gig. (Hey, this downturn can't last forever, right? Right?) With that in mind, here are some ideas for alternative careers, some more realistic than others:Party clown: Making children laugh isn't as easy as it looks, but as parents, most of us have at least some experience entertaining young 'uns. Start by learning how to make balloon animals, then practice your act in front of your own kids. They're the toughest critics this side of Statler and Waldorf.

Secret shopper: This is one of those jobs that sounds more fun than it actually is. Basically, you are hired by research companies to visit stores and report back on how you, as a customer, are treated. It's like spying, but without the guns, girls and martinis ("shaken, not stirred"). Sounds easy, right? Now imagine going into a bank 50 times, asking to buy a money order, and writing a report about your experience. Still interested? (Check out Snopes for tips on how to avoid scams.)

Phone sex operator: Like Brett Michaels sang in the 80's (and still does, if they pay him enough), people want someone to talk dirty. Sexy chatterers can earn between $9 and $20 an hour working from home. Check out Spike Lee's film "Girl 6" for a peek into the life of a lady who charges by the minute. And consider a second phone line. You really don't want the kids listening in.

Substitute teacher: Put aside the memories of the torture you inflicted upon substitutes you encountered and think of the flexibility, the adventure...the paycheck. In some areas, subs can earn up to $150 an hour. Not bad for what sometimes amounts to glorified babysitting.

Customer service representative: You know how annoying it is when you call customer service and are speaking to someone whose accent is too strong for the cast of "Slumdog Millionaire" to understand? Working at home, you can join their ranks, and try to elevate the quality of customer care your fellow consumers receive. But remember -- this call may be recorded.

Professional crafter: etsy.com has made it easy to make a few bucks selling your handmade stuff. Check out some of the offerings and if you think you can do the same or better, sign up for an account and start hawking your wares.

eBay seller: Even those of us who are artistically challenged can earn money selling old stuff on the site that made "Internet auctions" a household word. Start with some of your old comics and toys: A copy of the first appearance of Superman is expected to fetch six figures. Surely the toys your children no longer play with are worth a few dollars. Bonus: Cleaner closets.

Donate your eggs / sperm: This choice is fraught with emotion and, of course, physical demands. But the financial rewards can be quite, well, rewarding. Donor Egg Bank, Inc. says that "for domestic donors, total compensation for time and efforts begins at $5,000" Menfolk can make a little extra scratch (not five grand, though) by planting their seed in a paper cup.

Short order cook:
Greasy comfort food is typically a big seller when times are tough. Turn the speedy kitchen skills you've honed making meals for the rugrats into a new career flippin' flapjacks.

Blogger: Heather Armstrong, aka Dooce, started out as a web designer and now makes big bucks selling ads on her blog, where she talks about her life and family. The field is crowded, but the opportunity is there.

Reality TV star: First, have eight babies...on second thought, maybe just get a masters degree instead.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.