by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.
Are you one of us? Are you thinking of joining us? By us, I am referring to the one in 17 Americans who are working more than one job. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, about 7 to 8 million of us — about 5+ percent of all workers — work multiple jobs (which is often referred to as moonlighting and dual or multiple jobholding). Interestingly, after years of decline, the number of workers holding multiple jobs again appears on the rise. And as we listen to various workplace futurists, there is a sense that we will become more increasingly a workforce of independent contractors working for multiple employers.
Who are we? Why do we do it? What are some strategies for finding and surviving a second job — or a third?
You’ll find the answers to these questions in this article on moonlighting in America.
People working multiple jobs come from just about every demographic group — across all ages, races, genders, marital statuses, geographic locations, and education levels — from the very young to the highly educated. More men moonlight, though the number of women doing so has risen dramatically over the last decade. The majority of moonlighters are married, most in their late 30s or early 40s… and the vast majority (at least of reported moonlighters) are white. And interestingly, the highest percentage of people working multiple jobs are located in Midwestern states, such as Nebraska and North Dakota, while some of the lowest are in the Southeast, including Florida, Georgia, Alabama.
Here are some statistics:
|Demographic Characteristic||Percent of all Multiple Job-Holders|
|Widowed, divorced, separated||17.4|
While not listed in these Labor Department statistics, most moonlighters come from low-income and medium-income households. Those workers at the bottom of the wage scale (barely earning a so-called living wage) do so to sustain a basic standard of living, while those in the middle-class range often moonlight to achieve a higher standard of living. Higher-income workers hold multiple jobs more often for professional growth or enjoyment.
People have all sorts of reasons for taking a second job. Some do it as the beginning of a career-change move, gaining experience in a new career field before making the full switch. Others work multiple jobs to simply meet living expenses. Still others do it (usually on a temporary basis) to earn extra money. Finally, others do it because they simply enjoy the second job.
While the reasons vary somewhat by demographic profile, here are the overall numbers for why they work more than one job:
|Reason for Multiple Jobs||Percent of all Multiple Job-Holders|
|Meet expenses; pay off debt||27.8|
|Earn extra money||35.4|
|Get new experience; build up a business||4.6|
|Enjoys work of second job||17.4|
Although not listed as a reason in the Labor Department statistics, another reason cited for working multiple jobs is the need for a flexible or non-traditional work schedule.
Strategies for Finding and Surviving a Second Job
There is no question that holding down multiple jobs is stressful. A moonlighter needs excellent time management skills, otherwise job burnout is quite likely. Considerable anecdotal evidence reveals that marriages and relationships suffer for those working multiple jobs. Expect to spend much less time with your family and friends. Some moonlighters work up to 75 hours per week.
On the other hand, some of us need to work multiple jobs simply to survive. And there is no question that having multiple income streams provides you with more money. Of course, there can be other rewards from working multiple jobs.
Here are some strategies for finding and surviving a second job:
- Check your main employer’s policies. Before you even consider looking for a second job, take the time to check your current employer’s policies about holding outside employment.
- Understand your reasons for taking a second job. If your reasons are purely monetary, you may be able to talk to your current employer to pick up extra shifts rather than take a second job.
- Consider a trial basis. Moonlighting in short doses — to accomplish some short-term goals — usually works better than working multiple jobs for long stretches of time. (The majority of moonlighters are short-termers.)
- Find a job that interests you. Perhaps your main job is a boring office job. Try something fun like being a tour guide or other more unusual job for your second one. Or start your own business.
- Consider second jobs that are less stressful. If your first job is a pressure-cooker, find a second one that is relaxing to you, such as pet-sitting or tutoring.
- Find jobs that are geographically close to each other — or to your home. Your time will be limited enough without adding a long commute to your second job.
- Seek out new opportunities with new employers. If you are contemplating a career change, but are not sure of your next career, use second jobs to test out some of your career ideas.
- Reduce your load. If you are working multiple jobs, it’s probably time to cut some of those extracurricular activities.
- Carve out time for significant others. You must find a way to schedule some time with your family and friends or those relationships will suffer… and if you have a partner, be sure s/he is okay with your plans.
- Know when it’s time to quit. Whether it’s when you reach your financial goal or when you are beginning to mentally or physically break down, you must reduce your load… though that does not necessarily mean quitting your second job (if it has become your new career passion).
Final Thoughts on Moonlighting
Unfortunately, a certain group of American workers will always need to work multiple jobs just to sustain some basic standard of living, but whatever your reasons for moonlighting, just be sure to go into it with your eyes open to the benefits and risks. Second jobs can be professionally and financially rewarding, but if you are weak on time management, be sure to brush up on those skills before tackling the multitasking involved in multiple jobs.
Interested in making your second job an entrepreneurial enterprise? Read our article, Characteristics of People Moonlighting With Side-Gigs, Side-Hustles, Micro-Businesses.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
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