Jan 07

Why a Side Hustle Is the Secret to Career Happiness

Illustration by Katherine Borah

A side hustle–an extra gig you explore during your downtime from your main job– is a great way to flex your skills, earn extra cash, pursue your passions, and more. And since “launch my side hustle” is on more than a few 2019 goal lists, Joy will be bringing you articles on side hustles each week for the first few months of the year. Get ready to get inspired!


Karla Walsh, a 31-year-old food editor in Des Moines, Iowa, hates downtime. Even though her job for a national media brand requires her undivided attention 40 hours a week, she also spearheads wine classes as a certified sommelier, serves as a social media consultant for neighborhood restaurants, and has worked as a food critic for a local newspaper.


“The extra culinary experience gave me an advantage when I started my current job as a food editor,” she says. “And stepping out of my day-to-day has inspired story ideas I wouldn’t have thought of otherwise.”


Balancing so many extra projects also helped her realize how much she can get done in a short amount of time. “I’m always happy to help when a colleague needs a hand with a photo shoot, or if the team needs someone to step up when another staff member is on maternity leave,” she says. “My side jobs made me see how much I can accomplish in a day—and it’s a lot.


Similarly, Michelle LoSardo, a human resources assistant in Charlotte, North Carolina was surprised at how seamlessly part-time yoga teaching fit into her schedule. “I teach a class at my office on Mondays, and it really sets the tone for the rest of the week, helping my colleagues and me find calm after a busy weekend,” she says. “I’ve also had coworkers reach out with wellness questions, which is a nice way to bond with the staff.”


She worried that teaching an extra Friday-night class at a local cidery would cut into her personal life, but it’s had the opposite effect: “If anything, teaching has expanded my social circle,” she says. “I’ve made a lot of friends through this class, some who came to the very first one and continue to support me each week.”


If it’s starting to sound like a side hustle can improve your full-time work performance and boost your overall happiness at the same time, that’s because—well—it can. “Assuming your company doesn’t have any restrictions on part-time work, a side gig can help you explore other interests, make more money, and learn new skills,” says Roy Cohen, a career coach based in New York City. The key, Cohen says, is knowing what you want to get out of your side hustle: Are you trying to make a career change? Advance in your current industry? Or maybe you just want more money? Let your goals guide you, then prepare to reap these rewards.


You’ll feel more inspired, motivated, and fulfilled

It might be hard to imagine taking on more work, but Beth Cabrera, Ph.D., senior scholar at George Mason University and author of Beyond Happy: Women, Work, and Well-Being, says the *right* kind of work can actually give you more energy.


“People are usually happier doing more as long as the extra work is something they like,” she says. That’s because meaningful work can energize you in almost every other area of your life: “We want to do work that’s meaningful—work that we look forward to,” Cabrera says. “And if you can’t find meaning in your full-time job, which is the reality for a lot of people, a part-time job can help you stimulate your mind, connect with your community, and keep you challenged with new tasks.”


You’ll become more productive at work

This added energy also helps you manage your time better. “People who work multiple jobs tend to be really efficient and deadline driven,” says Cohen. “You have no choice but to get your work done, so there’s no point in putting something off.” You know the saying if you want something done give it to a busy person? The busier you are, the more you tend to accomplish.


You can tap into your creative side

A full-time gig may not give you everything you need, and that’s okay. “Not everyone has one clear passion, and a side job can help you explore your other interests,” Cabrera says.


Cohen has clients who use side hustles as a way to flex their creative muscles—say, by working in an art gallery—while keeping their more lucrative full-time jobs. “Side gigs can be the perfect solution for people who have passions that don’t necessarily pay well,” he says.


You’ll see a spike in your confidence

Cabrera says finding a side job that taps into your talents is one of the best things you can do because the added confidence will spill over into the rest of your life. “Contributing your skills to a new cause, surrounded by people who see you in a different light, is a great way to build relationships and boost confidence,” she says. That’s especially true if your full-time work environment is toxic: “Positive reinforcement at a side job can lift you up—and help you network for a new job later.”


You can safely explore a career change

Let’s say you’re a banker but you want to be a baker. “Work in a bakery on the weekends to see if you like it first,” Cohen says. “Taking up a side gig is a low-risk way to explore a new industry.” If you like it (woo!), now you have more real-world experience and you know you need to make a change. And if you hate it, at least you didn’t give up your day job in the process.


Do I Have to Give Up a Job I Love to Pay the Bills?

The 24-Year-Old Software Engineer Earning $180K… But Still Working On Her Side Hustle

What Is a Lady Nook and Why Is It the Key To Work-From-Home Happiness?