PORTLAND, Maine — "There's not enough hours in the day to get it done," career mail carrier John Graham said.
Graham has been walking the streets of Portland for 19 years. Right now, he's working 60 to 70 hours a week because, well, the mail has to be delivered.
That means overtime...lots of overtime. But he volunteers for those extra hours, to keep padding his 401k. He plans to retire at age 57, and live very comfortably thereafter.
"You never have to work another day in your life when you retire as a letter carrier," he said.
But the benefits do not come without sacrifice, especially when the postal service is short-staffed. Graham estimates they need about 30 additional staff for all the mail to go out on time every day.
It's not for lack of trying.
"Some guys work in 7, 8, 9, 10 days in a row, upwards of 12 to 13 hours a day," he said.
And it's not just letter carriers pitching in.
"I've seen postmasters out delivering, supervisors out delivering, building managers out delivering."
So while Graham may be a mail carrier, he's also an unofficial postal office recruiter. He is telling everyone who might be looking for work to apply.
But how do you convince people to choose to work long hours outside in the elements when they could be making that $18 plus an hour, working in an air-conditioned store or office? Even fast-food joints are now offering competitive hourly pay, paid vacations, health insurance, even profit sharing.
Graham does it by touting the long-term benefits that he feels make his government job a worthwhile career.
"For the right person, it's a very promising career," Steve Doherty, the spokesman for USPS Northeast District, said.
The post office is adapting as letters lag and packages surge. Processing facilities, mail trucks, and delivery routes are changing with the times. While the physical nature of postal jobs is not for everyone, Doherty touts job security as one of the reasons he's been with the postal service for 26 years.
"I'm working for a company that hasn't had a layoff and 200 years. Not many places can say that," he said.
Government pension and health benefits for retirees are other big selling points. Those are highlighted at regular post office job fairs. The pandemic made those gathering impossible face to face, so, for the past year, the postal service took to holding drive-thru job fairs. They are now back to being in person.
The Postal Service has also streamlined the application process and set aside some requirements, all in an effort to get more people in the door and on the road.
But for now, the hours remain long. There are days that not all mail gets delivered because there aren't enough carriers.
"Be patient," Graham said. "If your route didn't get delivered one day, it will be a priority the next."
As the holidays approach, the overtime requests will get overwhelming. That's why Graham is out spreading the word, all while delivering the mail.
"I'd really love to see more people in here in all facets."
The postal service needs carriers and processors, but also lawyers, nurses, and mechanical engineers, and many other jobs you would not necessarily think of being part of the USPS.
If you've applied in the past, your application is not kept so you're encouraged to apply again.
Starting pay is about $18.50 an hour.
Click here for more information on how to apply.