November 11, 2006

Are You an Employee?

Know where you stand, and don’t be caught by surprise at tax time or when you are ready to move on to another job. Build your work history, your skills and experience in work that you want to do as soon as possible. When you can’t work at what you want to do, you may need to take temporary or part-time work to build a current work history and gain income until you find what you want. Whatever you choose to do, you need to know your responsibilities and the advantages and disadvantages of your choices.

• If you are an employee at a company, whether full-time, part-time or temporary through an agency, you filled out a W-4 form. You may also qualify for some benefits.

• If you are a contract employee, you will fill a 1099 at the first part of the year, and you will be responsible for payroll taxes. You are basically self-employed with no benefits.

• If you WFF (work for a friend or family member), it will help you pay your bills while you look for a job or get training, but you may not be able to verify your hours or work to a prospective employer.

• If you work UTT (under the table), you may find yourself not getting paid for your work, getting caught working illegally or at best have nothing to explain gaps in employment.

You can show that you are responsible and learn quickly if you go through a training program, go back to school, go through an on-the-job training program or do volunteer work. Employers want to see gaps in employment (3-6 months without verified work experience) filled with training or volunteer work.

You may know that you will show up with the skills needed to do the job, but the employer may be skeptical. You want cheaper products and employers are cutting costs. One way that employers are cutting costs is by cutting benefits and full time employees. More than ever, companies are looking for people with a proven track record. If you don’t have one, you can get one. You can get references by working or going to school, paid or unpaid.

Looking for fairness in the work world can keep you unemployed and unskilled for today’s workforce. Once you have a job, and develop a track record and higher-level skills, it will be easier to begin changing things for the better. In the meantime, we can bring a good attitude to our jobs and build better working environments from the ground up.