From broker to bartender

Faced with a job market that gets tougher every day, out-of-work professionals are heading to the service sector.

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By Jessica Dickler, CNNMoney.com staff writer

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Ramy Sukarieh, 32, was laid off from Credit Suisse. Now he hopes to tutor others in French or math to make ends meet.
What should President Obama's first priority be?
  • Finalize a foreclosure plan
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  • Fix the bank bailout program
  • Detail how he will cut the federal budget

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- With job openings few and far between, skilled professionals are trading their business suits for aprons - with mixed success.

Ramy Sukarieh, 32, worked in Credit Suisse's multi-asset class solution group in New York until he was laid off in October. He has tried to find a part-time position waiting tables, but he's been turned away from many restaurants and coffee shops in his upscale Brooklyn neighborhood, he said.

"Every place I go they say you're the 20th person who has come today."

Now Sukarieh, who is from Lebanon, is trying to tutor others in Arabic, French or math to help cover costs, which include rent and his student loan. He posted an ad on Craigslist but so far no one has signed up.

"If I don't find a job within a month or so I have to move out and live with my brother."

For Maggie Seidel, 32, finding a temporary job has worked out. She was an associate director of an art gallery in New York until she was laid off in December. With few openings at museums and galleries, Seidel has been babysitting a few hours a week for extra cash to supplement her severance.

The work, taking care of a nine-month old baby boy, pays $17 an hour, which Seidel says helps with the "day-to-day expenses" and still leaves plenty of time to work on her resume and apply to other openings in her field. "It gives me the flexibility to job hunt at the same time," she said.

While part-time work can help fill the void between jobs, there is an economic downside, warned Brad Jensen, Associate Professor at Georgetown University McDonough School of Business.

There is a trickle-down effect that happens when these professionals "displace the workers that would otherwise have those jobs who are potentially out of work," he explained.

In addition, Jensen said, "The cost of professionals taking these kinds of jobs is that, as a society, we're not fully capitalizing on their potential," Jensen said. "They're underemployed."

But if one doesn't need an MBA to wait tables, these days, it doesn't seem to hurt, at least for the job-seeker.

"People come in every day asking if there are openings" said Cleve Mash, who owns three night clubs in West Palm, Fla. If a position is available, Mash says he is eager to fill it with a skilled professional between jobs.

In fact, many of the bartenders, bouncers and servers employed at Mash's clubs are out-of-work mortgage brokers, loan officers and real estate brokers, he said.

"It helps my business tremendously because you have someone that has a professional mentality," he said, "they're going to come in on time and take the job very seriously."

More than 2.6 million people lost their jobs in 2008, bringing the national unemployment rate to 7.2%, according to the Department of Labor.

And the so-called under-employment rate, which counts those part-time workers as well as those without jobs who have become discouraged and stopped looking for work, rose to a record 13.5% in December from 12.6% in the previous month.

The number of people working part-time jobs now stands at 8 million, the highest number since the Labor Department started tracking the data in 1955.

While Sukarieh is hopeful that he will land a part-time job soon, he believes it will take months before he will be able resume his career in the financial industry. "I'm not going to leave the financial industry but it's going to take some time," he admitted.

On the upside, when the economy does begin to bounce back and hiring resumes, unemployed and underemployed workers with gaps on their resumes will likely find full-time jobs again in their respective fields without trouble, Jensen said.

"There will be a lot of people out there who have a one year gap [on their resumes]," he said. "I don't think it'll be a scarlet letter or anything." To top of page

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