The Perks and Perils of Working Multiple Jobs

by Ellen Mehling, Career Development Consultant at METRO

Working more than one job is something many people, including information professionals, have found necessary to do over the past few years. Some are working full-time and want another job for additional income or other reasons. Others work multiple part time jobs, but reluctantly; a full-time job is their preferred work situation but such positions are still hard to find. Still others prefer to have more than one job and seek out multiple employment opportunities eagerly. These multiple or additional jobs may be part-time, and/or project, temporary, contract, or consulting positions (also known as contingent work). They may entail working at a physical office or workplace, working from home, or occasional one-off events such as a speaking engagement or teaching a workshop.



Making more money is probably the first benefit many people think of when they consider taking on a second (or third) job. This can be a big perk, and how much you can make depends on what you are doing and how much time you can devote to it.

There is a measure of security to having more than one job. It can be a buffer against complete loss of income and professional identity if you lose a job, and it can also reduce the feelings of helplessness that can often accompany such a loss; you won’t feel that your career is entirely in someone else’s hands.

You will have more opportunities to gain more skills and have a richer resume if you work multiple jobs. You won’t have a gap on your resume if one job comes to an end, and you’ll have a ready answer when asked by an interviewer, “What have you been doing since you got laid off?"

Another benefit is a larger network and greater visibility within the profession. In the long run, this may be an even bigger benefit than the increased income. Aside from your reputation for your skills, strengths and experience, you can also become known as someone who is busy, connected, and engaged in the profession. As your reputation grows, more and more opportunities may come your way, which can lead to an even more widespread reputation. Ideally this will gain a momentum of its own as time passes and will require only minimal “marketing” on your part. You will see and hear more about the profession, know more people in it and what's going on, and have exposure to a greater number of ideas and projects, which you can adapt - these things can make it easier to find a job, and make you more valuable to any employer.

If you decide that you don’t want to continue with one of your positions, it is much easier to resign (respectfully, of course) if you have other work to fall back on. Anyone who has ever wanted to quit a job but felt unable to can appreciate what a relief it can be to have the freedom to end an unsatisfactory work situation.

You will gain greater flexibility by regularly meeting other info pros and putting yourself in new professional situations. Employers value flexibility; if you have only one job for a long period of time (7 - 10 years or more), a potential employer may wonder how easily you’d adapt to a new workplace. If you have been working at additional jobs over that same time period, your adaptability will be much less in question. If your additional work does not require face time at a workplace, it can give you flexibility of different kind: when and where you get the work done.

What you need to know and do

Working multiple jobs requires stamina and discipline. Work may no longer be confined to certain hours of certain days, and the division between work time and personal time can get blurred. If a “day off” is defined as "a day in which no work at all is done" then a true day off may become a rare thing. Friends and family may object if you are not around or available as much as they would like, or as much as you have been in the past. You may have to address this with them so they understand why you are working an extra job or jobs and you may have to deal with their resistance on an ongoing basis.

It is crucial to keep track of deadlines and meet them routinely, without reminders or prompting. If your supervisor is worried that you might drop the ball, monitoring you may become an unwelcome extra task for him/her and that could lead to you being replaced.

In order to meet those deadlines, and in general, you must be organized and work efficiently. You need to have an accurate idea of how much time you will need to get assignments done (and add time for unforeseen delays - illness, family emergencies, unexpected difficulty in obtaining necessary information, etc). If you underestimate the time you’ll need, your employer(s) may not be happy with you, your stress level will increase, and if you are getting paid a flat fee you may start to feel that a particular job or assignment is not worth it. It is a very good idea to “over deliver” routinely; submit an assignment early or deliver more than promised. Each job or assignment or project is a chance to contribute to your reputation for reliability and professionalism.

You must get along with others and be easy to work with, positive, punctual, professional, and give extra effort at every opportunity. If you are difficult in any way, your employer may just decide it would be preferable to hire someone else. For project or consulting work, you simply won’t be re-hired at a later date (and won’t be recommended to others either).

It helps a great deal if you like what you are doing. With the job market the way it is now, this is not a luxury you can always hold out for, but you will be more likely to perform well and less likely to burn out if you enjoy the additional work for its own sake and are not doing it just for the money.

In order to prevent being overwhelmed, be sure to schedule personal time as you would schedule work events and deadlines, and stick to your schedule as much as possible (again, leaving some extra time for the unexpected). It is very important to recognize when you’ve taken on all you can handle, and to say “no, thank you” if another opportunity is offered to you. Express gratitude for the offer but communicate clearly that you cannot take on any additional work at this time. This is actually a good thing, for a number of reasons: you will feel less stressed and more in control of the situation, having many offers coming in means you can choose the ones that most appeal to you, potential employers/clients will see that delivering quality work is a priority for you, and if you refer others in your place you serve and benefit your network and further enhance your reputation.

If you are looking for a full-time job, remember that people are more likely to help you if they can see you are doing everything you can to help yourself. Working multiple jobs shows you are putting a lot of energy into helping yourself. It takes time and effort, but the career benefits can be substantial.

Image courtesy of Wenzday01 via Creative Commons on Flickr.