The Psychology of Working More Than One Job

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Are you working more than one job? If so, you probably already know, from all the attention that today’s gig economy has been getting, that you have lots of company. However working multiple jobs is nothing new.

In the U.S., according to the Census Bureau, between 4.5 percent and 6.2 percent of the workforce has been holding down more than one job since 1970.

In the UK, the practice of working multiple jobs may be even more commonplace. The Independent reports that about one in four workers have a “side hustle” in addition to their main job. Those numbers are expected to double by 2030.

The Advantages of Working Multiple Jobs

For some workers, a second, third or fourth job may offer little more than much needed income. Maybe their main job doesn’t pay enough or does not offer enough hours. They take on added employment to pay the bills. It’s just more drudgery.

But there can be advantages, too. When workers don’t think they can count on keeping the same job for many years, having more than one job offers some security and a sense of control.

The most fortunate of the people holding more than one job are those who are in it for the personal fulfillment rather than the money. Kabir Sehgal, for example, describes himself as “a corporate strategist at a Fortune 500 company, US Navy Reserve officer, author of several books, and record producer.” In an article in the Harvard Business Review, he said that “working many jobs makes me happier and leaves me more fulfilled. It also helps me perform better at each job.”

Sehgal uses his income from his corporate job to subsidize his career as a record producer. That’s one advantage of having multiple jobs. Another is that he gets to make more friends and a greater variety of friends by having several different kinds of jobs. That’s fulfilling in and of itself, but in addition, the diverse perspectives offered by his friends are good for business.

“When you follow your curiosities,” Sehgal says, “you will bring passion to your new careers, which will leave you more fulfilled. And by doing more than one job, you may end up doing all of them better.”

If I were working more than one job, I think I’d worry that my employers would disapprove. Maybe they would see me as stretched too thin, or too likely to come to work exhausted. However, a study of business leaders in the UK found that many of them approve of side hustles. Of those supportive employers:

“Around half feel that allowing the practice helps to retain their best people, half also said that allowing the practice actually helps them attract top talent. And more than half feel that it makes their staff more productive and happier.”

People working multiple jobs, though, are going to need more support than they are currently getting. Entrepreneurs, for example, may need “access to 24/7 trusted advice, and multiple evening and weekend events so part-time business owners can access the skills and support they need to go full time, if that’s the aim.”

The Profile of the Worker with More than One Job

The Census Bureau’s “Multiple Jobholders Report” described the people who are working more than one job:

  • Women are more likely than men to be working more than one job at the same time.
  • Most people who are working multiple jobs have just two jobs at a time.
  • Usually, one of their jobs is a full-time job and the others are part-time.
  • Typically, the additional jobs are in the same occupations and industries as the primary job.

Kabir Sehgal is a true outlier. He’s a man, he has more than two jobs, and his jobs are all in very different sectors. We will need more research in order to know whether he is also an outlier in terms of the happiness and fulfillment he gets from working so many different jobs.

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