Side Work – An Outlet for Your Passion or a Necessary Evil?

So many people that I know have more than one job. It doesn’t appear to make a difference how ‘full time’ their primary job is; many of these folks have benefits too. So, why do so many of us have second (or third) jobs these days? My two primary theories are that second jobs, or side work, are either an outlet for a personal passion or a necessary income stream (or both).

I have a full time job at a non-profit, but I also teach swimming lessons on the side. Teaching swimming lessons, primarily to young children, is something I have done for almost 20 years. Even while working full time and pursuing my MBA, I have continued to teach lessons. My motivations are varied and the extra income is certainly a big part of it, but money is not my primary driver.

I like to say that I simply can’t say no to the kids! I am not really such a softy, but in reality, every time I have thought I should stop (I just don’t have the time!), I think about all the kids I have taught over the years. Many of these kids have gone on to the swim team or become swim instructors themselves. I have developed relationships and made connections with some truly amazing people.

It may sound like I am motivated by neither my passion nor the money, but that is not the case. My passion is to connect with people! Not only in my ‘day job’ but in my side work, I am offered the opportunity to directly connect with people and have an impact on their lives.

This is why, although I may indeed stop teaching swimming lessons one day (possibly soon), I know I will continue to seek an outlet for this passion. Maybe I will become a volunteer with an organization like Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra that allows similar connections to be made. Or maybe I will continue to seek out employment opportunities that allow for the outlet of this passion.

Unfortunately, however, a large portion of the people that I know simply can’t afford to stop their side work. The challenges of the labor market, rising cost of living, increasing wage gaps, and the decreasing opportunities many face result in difficult economic times. Without turning this into a debate on the state of the job market, I urge you to consider what you are doing as a leader or employer to improve your workers’ situations to the point that they seek out side work simply as an outlet for their passions.

Are there adjustments to your wages or benefits that could have a dramatic impact on your employees’ lives without threatening the bottom line? What are your employees’ reasons for needing an extra job? We all want our employees to be able to focus on the job they were hired to do, not be distracted or exhausted because of their side projects. A better understanding of your employees’ motivations will allow you to be a better leader and maybe even discover some surprising skills and hidden talents within your team.

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