It’s a hot summer’s day and at an ice cream parlour on Park Street, Moushumi Sarkar, 18, is standing behind the counter handing out chocolate cones and vanilla cups to customers pouring in by the dozen. “On a hot day like this, ice cream sells like hot cake,” she puns, taking a break, “and though it gets a bit hectic, I find the rush very challenging.”
If you haven’t already guessed, Sarkar works at the ice cream parlour and like most young and committed workers, she enjoys the adrenaline rush at the job.
But there is a difference. Unlike those trying to climb the corporate ladder of their company, Sarkar is not even planning to stick it out at this job for more than three months. “This is just a summer job for me,” she explains. “After my higher secondary exams, I was sitting at home getting bored. So I decided to take up this job. It not only gives me something to do but I can earn a little money, as well as gain some work experience, even though it isn’t really related to the career I intend to pursue.”
Sarkar, who plans to become a chartered accountant, is an example of the vast number of youngsters who are taking up part-time jobs for a number of reasons, ranging from earning some pocket money to gaining a little experience in the job market while they wait for college to start.
Summer vacation sees a lot more people going out — to shopping malls, cinemas, food and beverage outlets and ice cream parlours. So the counters at these places face a rush. As a result, more employees are required to man them. And students cash in on this seasonal demand for workers.
Gone are the days when Calcutta used to look down upon part-time jobs. A city known for its preference for full-time, prestigious and secure jobs seems to be shedding its inhibitions and cashing in on the job opportunities provided by the opening up of more and more malls, multiplexes, music stores and eateries. At last count, 40 to 50 such outlets were offering summer jobs. These range from international fast food giants like Domino’s, Pizza Hut, Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) and McDonalds to malls like Forum on Elgin Road, City Centre in Salt Lake and Big Bazaar on the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass.
These apart, the burgeoning number of multiplexes and music stores, such as Music World and Planet M, offer job opportunities too. Reckons one official, “At least 200 additional jobs are generated in the summer.”
This kind of opportunity for part-time work never existed in the city earlier,” notes Barun Adhikary, a Calcutta-based career counsellor. “Now youngsters and these multinational chains are enjoying a symbiotic relationship. While the latter need local manpower, for the former, a part-time job means being able to afford a cell phone or the latest music video, CD, DVD or a state-of-the-art electronic gadget.”
Nor is money the only incentive. As Avishek Datta, restaurant general manager, KFC, points out, “Training comprises a big part of being employed with us. You learn how to work with people and develop supervisory and customer relationship skills. Your part-time job here is really a training ground for your future career.” Observes a city-based psychologist, “Working gives young people exposure to crisis situations, helping them develop the ability to take quick decisions.”
Of course, the money isn’t bad either. Depending on where you work, the payment could be on an hourly, weekly or monthly basis. You’d probably get Rs 18-22 an hour, if not more. You may have to work in eight-hour shifts or a fixed number of hours (30-35) per week. There are even options to work only during ‘peak hours,’ or during breakfast, lunch or dinner time. Then, you end up working only two to four hours a day. The minimum age requirement is 18 years and the minimum educational qualification 10+2. An interview in person is obviously mandatory.
What exactly do you have to do' As a 20-year-old student who works part-time at a multinational restaurant chain points out, “You should be prepared to do anything from mopping floors to washing utensils. You may have to wait at tables or take orders on the phone and then rush somewhere in inclement weather to have food delivered. But it’s fun, maybe because we know that this is not really our career. ”
Parents too have come to terms with their children working. Says housewife Nayantara Sinha, “Initially I was a little reluctant to let my college-going daughter work at an apparel store but I relented when I realised that many of her peers are engaged in such jobs. She has bought us all gifts with her salary and I think that makes her very proud.”
The ultimate aim of 18-year-old Debdutta Mukherjee, a college student, “is to reach a very good position in a very big company”. But right now she is taking her part-time job at a leather goods showroom at a mall very seriously. “The skills I am gaining here, including selling skills, will help me immensely in the future. And I’m glad I don’t have to ask my parents for pocket money!”
Even if you are not a student, a part-time job can be an option if you are looking for temporary work. When part-timers, like students returning to school or college after the summer break, leave, “there is no dearth of applicants to fill their places”, claims the manager of a restaurant chain. Most of these restaurants, stores or malls encourage walk-in interviews, he says. If there is nothing available at the moment, you are likely to be put on a wait list, to be called later.