6 Red Flags in Part-Time Jobs; Know When to Jump Ship

By Matthew McCallister


When you are a teenager or even a young adult, you are often forced into a position where you have to settle for a part time job until you can finish your education/training and get started with your long-term career. However, just because you have a short list of options, you need to look out for some "red flags" when considering a prospective employer or figuring out when it is time to leave.

What is a "Red Flag"?

In case you aren't aware, a "red flag" is another word for a major warning sign of future drama or trouble. Typically used in dating for signs of potential issues that might signal bigger trouble down the line. 

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Just like how you look for warning signs on a first date, you should look for these warning signs in your first month or so at your part time job.

Important Note: Be Careful About How You Leave a Job

Note: It is really important that you hear what I am about to say

While it is certainly tempting to flip the bird and shout "F*** this, I quit!" to a crappy organization, you need to leave any employer with class and not before you have a new job lined up.

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That means following these essential rules:

  • Put in a 2 weeks notice and honor it
  • Avoid any theatrics on your last days at those companies
  • Still do a good job while you are employed by them; you're still one of their employees
  • Don't directly bash them on social media after you are gone (at least avoid specifying the workplace or company name)
  • Make sure you keep yourself in good standing with any employees and managers that like you

Failing to do any of these could result in you getting blacklisted by that company and would look bad on your record when you find a new prospective employer . Just remember, there is definitely a good way and a bad way to quit, and you should always avoid burning bridges with a company, no matter how badly your were treated.

I am not one of some career expert nor do I have an extensive knowledge of human resources, but I have done plenty of part time work, and am speaking from experience. Here are 6 red flags of an awful part time job that you need to look out for in a recruiter or potential employers throughout your job search and interview process.

Out of respect I have for former employers and colleagues, I will refrain from using the company name when I am referencing past negative experiences. Also, I don't want you to leave this blog thinking that all part time jobs are bad; some of my closest friends were made when we were both part time workers at the same job.

1: Management Consistently Fails to Honor Your Availability

A huge red flag against an organization's culture is when management constantly pressures you into working at times that you previously communicated were impossible, leading to an incredibly poor work-life balance. Whether it was caused by poor communication or just them not caring, it is wrong for a company to do that to you too much.

I used to work at a Grocery Store while I was in school, and they would often make me work evening hours even when I told them I needed that time off to study for exams and complete assignments. Never forget that a part time job is never meant to be long term: you are meant for so much more. 

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If you died in a freak accident on Monday, they will have your replacement in there by Friday. The worst culprit was my first job ever, where they made us be on call AT AN ICE CREAM SHOP!

If you no longer feel like the job is respectful to you or your work life balance, you need to find a new job or resolve that lapse in communication.

2: Management Won't Defend You From Abuse

At most part time jobs, work culture is built on the concept of impermanence. The only salaried person that's in it for the long haul is the manager, everyone else is just a temporary asset until they get fed up and find a better job.

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Bosses have very little incentive to protect you from "Karens" and abusive customers. They know you will be gone in a few years. Quite frankly managers feel relieved when the crazies come for you and not them.

You want an example? It feels like I could give you a hundred!

I cannot tell you how many times a customer would be abusive to myself or fellow employees (no amount of communication would ever calm them down) and the manager would just watch from a distance, wait for the customer to leave and then finally scope out the situation.

An employer who won't defend their workers isn't worth working for.

3: The Culture is Toxic or Makes You Uncomfortable

Another big warning sign is when there is a toxic work environment that makes you extremely uncomfortable, preventing you from buying into that company's mission. I personally enjoy working and collaborating with people from different walks of life, but there is a line when their behavior becomes so inappropriate or offensive that you hate being scheduled with them.

I worked in a kitchen as a dishwasher for a while, and if you know anything about working in a kitchen, it can quickly turn into a very toxic environment. 

Toxic environment

You deserve to feel safe and comfortable at all of the companies you work for, so if you can tell right away that you will have problems with your coworkers or managers, you should find another workplace.

The worst coworker of my life was at a restaurant (I will not be giving the company name) I worked at for two weeks. This woman would cuss me out in front of guests and publicly berate me in front of the other staff. It was only a matter of days before I had enough and told the manager that I quit and would not stand for such disrespect.

The worst part? This wasn't the first time someone had quit because of this woman; she would constantly yell at coworkers and make everyones life a living hell in that workplace. Despite all that, the company chose to side with her, so I quit on the spot.

You don't have to endure verbal abuse or even harassment in the workplace, even if it is the workplace culture that surrounds that job.

4: Raises and Opportunities Don't Exist

Food Service business like the working in a grocery store or fast food are the epitome of the term "dead-end career", despite constantly having tons of vacant management positions.

 Why? because the company doesn't trust their own team! 

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There is nothing quite as disheartening as seeing a good coworker has been a leader for years, and knows more about running things than anyone get snubbed for yet another opening by an outside hire that nobody even likes. 

Of course, most people working part time jobs don't care about climbing their respective corporate ladder, but you can tell a lot about a company by how much they trust and reward their team leaders; the ones who are 100% bought into the success of the company.

5: You Have Witnessed or Experienced a Mental Breakdown While at Work 

Unfortunately, mental breakdowns among employees are far too common in part time jobs, and it has everything to do with a dysfunctional company. In my opinion the biggest warning sign in a potential employer. The worst part is that bad companies will often fire people who "freak out" before trying to reach out and talking to them about any help they may require.

a toxic workplace will set the employees up for incredibly high stress levels with no answers for support, and then punish people when they happen to consequently "snap". 

Mental health is a serious issue, and everyone has a different tolerance level to stress before they break down. A job that doesn't respect your mental health doesn't respect you and doesn't deserve your time or labor.  

If you are experiencing mental health issues or seen your physical health deteriorate, there is help out there for you and it is ALWAYS closer than you think. Take a break and use the time off to get yourself into a healthy environment.

6: The Staff Has a High Turnover Rate and You Pity the "Newbies"

One thing that I remember from some of the worse jobs I ever worked was how quick the hiring process was and how often new people would come in and leave even quicker. 

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Most employees would be gone within a month, and we were constantly short-staffed; the recruitment process never stopped but there would always be a few who were convinced to stay by the hiring manager.

The people that stayed, however, had my pity. Deep down, I was miserable, and I had a gut feeling that they were gonna become miserable as well. At that point, I stopped and asked myself "wait, if I am so miserable, why am I here? Is it worth the money at this point?"

If that is you, then you should consider looking at different options.

Closing Note: Never Put a Short-Term Job Over Your Long-Term Success

As a young adult, you will get addicted to seeing money come into your bank account that you will try to convince yourself that you can fully do both work and education at the same time; to somehow have it all and have a good professional life while also keeping up with your daily life.

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I remember a semester in my freshman year of college where I told myself that I could work 30 hours a week while also trying to keep my As in Calculus, English, History and Physics...

I finished with three Bs, a C, and lost my spot on the Dean's List.

I'm not a dumb person (at least I tell myself that) but I would have posted much better grades if I just acknowledged my own limits at the time and cut back on my work hours.

When you are in the part time service industry, they only look at you as labor. You may form friendships with your coworkers and even management if you are lucky, but you are expendable to the company.

About the author

Matthew is a professional blogger and content marketer. He is a student at The Ohio State University, where he is currently pursuing a degree in Computer Science. His favorite hobbies include weightlifting, hiking with his dog, and playing video games.

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