Have you heard of the new career trend sweeping the nation? It’s called the “Side-Hustle” and it enables career changers to test the waters of a new field or pursue a passion without quitting their day job.
In general, a side-hustle doesn’t mean basing your entire livelihood on the gig economy, which lacks a single official definition; TechTarget describes it as “an environment in which temporary positions are common and organizations contract with independent workers for short-term engagements.” According to a report by Upwork and the Freelancers’ Union, only ten percent of freelancers consider themselves part of the gig economy.
Though short-term gigs are also valuable in building up experience, a side-hustle has a longer-term focus: either developing a talent or interest into something more concrete, one that can provide a sense of purpose, or capitalizing on the skills you’ve learned at work. Just a few ideas for making use of a dormant talent include creating an online class in cooking, illustrating, or calligraphy or editing videos or résumés. A side-hustle could also mean consulting in your area of expertise—if you’re already a marketing pro, for instance, you could provide consulting in social media, search engine optimization, or Google AdWords. Even a short-term gig can provide valuable networking opportunities, since “every new introduction is a new opportunity, whether that’s in the form of a partner, a client or an employee.” Ideally, the side-hustle isn’t your main source of work or income, and therefore less stressful to your bottom line than, say, living gig-to-gig.
Why Do a Side Hustle?
You’ve probably heard the career advice to “Follow your passions,” or “Do what you love.” But it can be risky and stressful to gamble your entire livelihood on an untested pursuit.
- With a side-hustle, you can explore your interests without putting your entire financial security at stake.
- You can engage with potential new career paths and even build up funds to ease the transition to a new career.
- Even if you don’t intend to turn your side-hustle into your primary career, it can make you a more attractive candidate to employers who are in the know.
Though side-hustles and gig work are often strongly associated with millennials, and digital sharing-economy platforms such as Lyft and Airbnb receive a disproportionate share of media attention, up to 30% of the working-age population in the U.S. uses independent work to supplement their incomes (source: McKinsey Global Institute). A recent survey by Bankrate.com found that 44 million Americans claim to be working a side gig at least monthly, and their numbers are only likely to grow.
Take, for example, UC Berkeley Extension program director and instructor Tim Bombosch, who has worked as a publications technology consultant providing services to Cisco, Apple, Ericcson, Micron, Affymetrix, Wiley Publishing, Deloitte and more. Tim first found opportunities to side hustle in graduate school, where he trained liberal arts majors in then-nascent computer, email and internet technology, and published newsletters for nonprofits using desktop software. This side-hustle led him to develop a plan to pursue technical writing as a backup career option to academia.
Three Ways to View the Side-Hustle
Side-hustles are a great way to build skills and map out your career path in a way that gives you practical experience in fields that interest you. In order to move your career in the right direction, how do you find a side-hustle model that fits in with your busy schedule?
1. The One-Two Step
The side-hustle may be one of two (or more!) completely separate career trajectories. But there are times when a side-hustle is just that—a way to make some extra money on the side, or a way to explore a passion or hobby that recoups its costs.
Pew Research Center found that 42% of participants in the gig economy gave “fun” as their number one reason for working side gigs.
This way, you maintain your day job while pursuing a different professional path outside your 9 to 5. For instance, you might be a web developer with a passion for helping people to eat healthy, so you set up a website offering your services as a nutrition consultant. If you work in law during the day, you might channel your love of photography into becoming a wedding, pet or event photographer on nights and weekends. You never know; you may find a way to apply the skills you learn to your 9 to 5! Or the passion you have for the side gig may end up being the career you transition into.
2. The Fusion Side-Hustle
This can be an opportunity to find a career path that blends with the skills you've learned in your current job. Do you have a passion for data, but work as a nurse during the day? Maybe a career in health informatics is right for you. Do you have a background in art and design, proficiency in Adobe Creative Suite and also the ability to code on the side? You can channel your design know-how into a UI/UX career or side-hustle.
If a hybrid role is your goal, a side-hustle may provide a unique advantage in getting you up to speed. These roles are fast-growing and highly compensated, yet they “call for a set of skills that aren’t typically taught as a package. The training ecosystem preparing job seekers for these roles is relatively weak, and these roles do not typically align well with established higher education programs” (source: Burning Glass Technologies).
3. The Change-Up Side-Hustle
One time-tested way to successfully make that career change—by gaining connections, expertise and credibility—is to pursue education to become knowledgeable in that subject area. UC Berkeley Extension offers a variety of courses, certificates and bootcamps in coding, UX/UI and data analytics that are available entirely online or scheduled around the 40-hour workweek on nights and weekends.
And you can supplement that additional education with a side-hustle of volunteering, which gives you the experience and connections in that field. Bonus: You can apply what you’ve learned in your continuing education to a myriad real-world situations.
For example, when Tim was laid off from his technical writer position with IBM, he enrolled in the Certificate Program in Project Management. But he did not rest on his credential alone: He also began volunteering to organize speakers for his local chapter of Society for Technical Communications (STC).
In addition to giving him a built-in network with industry leaders, Tim’s volunteering led him to take a leadership role as chapter president, which connected him to people who were able to recommend him for jobs. Then, as the rare (hybrid) combination of a technical writer with a PMP® Certificate, Tim was able to leverage his public-speaking experience with the STC into speaking engagements at conferences and conventions.
So, as you can see, there are many ways to use a side-hustle to change careers without fearing a financial impact. It’s a great way to test out the waters of a new field, develop new skills, possibly make a bit more money on the side and raise your confidence before you plunge into a new career.
Will we see you on the dance floor doing the side-hustle? UC Berkeley Extension offers career clinics that can help you identify a different career path or side-hustle.
Check out our side-hustle playlist!