By Codrin Arsene
There was a time when having a second job was not really something to be proud of. It implied that your primary source of employment was not enough to keep you afloat that you had to take on a secondary shift / job.
Much of the liberal media (full disclosure: I used to subscribe to this viewpoint) cried out that this a symptom of labor oppression where a person works a full time job and simply can’t make ends meet. This forces them to take on an additional job. Furthermore, we all instinctively expect that it is the poor, uneducated people working in stagnant, minimum wage positions across the country that are forced to work multiple jobs.
As it turns out, this is not really the case. A recent study conducted by economist Etienne Lalé shows that in America more educated people hold a second part time job than those with fewer years of formal education (source: http://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2015/article/multiple-jobholding-over-the-past-two-decades.htm). 6% of people with a college degree work extra jobs vs 4% of uneducated workers who do the same.
This phenomenon is called moonlighting.
A large number of people in America do not necessarily take a new job because they absolutely need it. Instead, they do it because it is an opportunity to learn new skills, become more financially independent, put money aside for a trip or save for retirement.
Say what you will about companies like Uber, but with 160,000 drivers on the road, most of them working part time, we see this phenomenon every single day (http://expandedramblings.com/index.php/uber-statistics/).
I have been moonlighting ever since I was 14 years old. I got my first job working as a part time writer for a medium sized newspaper and I also worked on a radio show. I didn’t do it because I needed the money, but because it was a really exciting thing to do (and yes, the money was great too).
In a world in which many people continue to look down on moonlighting, you should know there are quite a few advantages to taking on a second job. Here are some of the benefits that should convince you to seriously look into supplementing your income while doing something you’re good at (or what to get good at!).
Get Mo’ money and mo’ power
I was raised by my family with the following idea deeply ingrained in my consciousness: we save money to spend it in a superior way. Superior is something that gets to be defined by each individual. In my case, it is traveling, going out with my friends, and flying my parents and grandparents to Chicago twice a year.
The reality is that in any situation, no matter how much money you make, you can always find a way to spend it and need more. Of course, a second job will not make this problem go away. But it will allow you to accomplish more of your dreams. You get more done and you get to dream higher.
In a nutshell, often times, a second job allows for more financial flexibility and more power to you to decide what is best for you, what makes you happy, and how to achieve it.
Learn New Skills or Improve Your current skills
I have seen this again and again. People in their 50s and 60s lose their jobs and cannot find a new source of employment. Part of it is, of course, ageism, a sad and true phenomenon. But it’s more than that. When you work in the same job even for 2-3 years, you’re not really learning something new, most of the time. Sure, you may be working on new projects that have a sense of novelty but for most jobs you’re just applying the same skills again and again.
One of the big advantages of moonlighting is that you’re constantly learning new things; you are exposed to new ideas; you deal with new personalities outside of your comfort zone; you deal with strangers versus the same co-workers that you say hi to every morning.
Without realizing, when you take on new side jobs, you’re actually learning new skills and improving your current skills at the same time. And if you ever get unemployed you are no longer limited to one single domain of activity – your previous job. All the things that you learned through your side jobs become critical skills to looking for new sources of employment instead of staying idle for too long.
Build and Manage New Connections
Most of us do not do enough networking. We interact with the same people every day at work and in our personal lives. An unexpected benefit of moonlighting is that over the years you meet and work with new people. And if you do your job right, even if an opportunity only lasted for 6 months, you can always go back to your previous employer and ask for a reference or some guidance if you were either laid off or you want to try something new.
Ultimately, moonlighting achieves something that doesn’t come naturally to most of us: it puts us out there, working and collaborating with people outside of our immediate work and personal lives. In other words, it helps you avoid putting all the eggs in one basket.
As you are looking for long term opportunities – be that a better pay or a better job – the connections you build while moonlighting become a comparative advantage you will get over the rest of the applicant pool.
Achieve more flexibility and employment security
I have a permanent day job which I love. I really like my co-workers and what I do on a daily basis. But I work in corporate America and I know, very well, that the tide can change with little notice and I can potentially find myself unemployed. It hasn’t happened thus far, thankfully, but it is always a possibility. For all of us.
Moonlighting gives me both a psychological and a very tangible feeling of security. Of course, losing my day job would come as a great shock and it would impact my financial life. That goes without saying. But at the same time, I do have other things that can keep me afloat while looking for another full time opportunity.
In a day and age when most Americans can’t afford a surprise $500 bill (http://www.cbsnews.com/news/most-americans-cant-handle-a-500-surprise-bill/), I take great comfort into knowing that if I get laid off I have something on the side that would pay the bills while I’m looking for another job. Moonlighting makes that happen. It does for me and it can certainly do it for you too.
Do something you like and get paid for it
It appears that the majority of Americans don’t really like their jobs. 87% of the workforce feels disengaged from their jobs – 63% are unhappy with their current job while 24% really hate their jobs (http://www.forbes.com/sites/susanadams/2013/10/10/unhappy-employees-outnumber-happy-ones-by-two-to-one-worldwide/#6b0b14a92f29).
Moonlighting is a perfect strategy to find something you like to do that will take your mind away from your current job. Conversely, moonlighting could simply allow you to do something you really enjoy but you can’t do as part of your full time job. I have a friend from college who loves to mix drinks and does so at a nightclub in Manhattan while working as a lawyer during the day. Another person I know is very crafty and sells handmade presents on etsy.com. Yet another friend works for the government and codes mobile app games on the side. I like to write articles, but work in technology while having an interest to improve my content marketing skills.
These are just a handful of examples which show the benefits of moonlighting as a means to do something you like. And the best part is – you also get paid for it.
The percentage of people working side jobs has actually been declining over the last twenty years. In 1994, 6.5% of Americans worked more than one job. Today, the percentage is around 5% (http://dailysignal.com/2015/04/20/fewer-americans-are-working-two-jobs/). In a way, this could be interpreted as a great sign that more people find the primary source of income to be sufficient for their needs. Critics will certainly argue that a second job puts a strain on the free time an employee has which is already more limited in the United States than in Europe were 24 days of vacation is standard versus the typical 10 days here.
On the other hand, as we have seen, the benefits of moonlighting go far beyond the additional pay check. This is America, y’all. The land of opportunity. The place where you can get a second job, make money, build connections, learn new skills, do something you like and have fun at it.
That’s it folks. I’m going back to moonlighting some more.
Also published on Medium.