The search for a position that aligns with your career aspirations sometimes takes longer than expected. At what point do you consider taking a stopgap job or doing a side hustle to earn some extra money? And what are the pros and cons of doing so?
First, it’s important to understand that there are some key differences between these two alternatives. If we are completely honest, a stopgap job is one that you would never accept if you were gainfully employed in your desired industry. The bottom line is that you take a stopgap job because you need additional income.
The best kind of stopgap measure is a temporary or contract position in your field. This allows you to expand your network and keep your existing skills sharp. You may even be able to add a few new accomplishments to your résumé. Another plus to this approach is that it you can get an inside look at different organizations and workplace cultures.
Unfortunately, many stopgap jobs are menial and don’t offer much in the way of professional development. A good example of this is the laid off software engineer who ends up in an orange apron selling wares at the local home improvement store.
However, even this may be better than isolating at home. Unemployment can take a toll on one’s self-esteem. Stopgap jobs, even those below your area of expertise, offer human interaction and the routine of going to work. Many job seekers stay more focused and upbeat when they have some money coming in and a reason to get out of the house each day.
It is important to consider how the stopgap job will look on your résumé. It may lessen gaps in employment but it may erode your professional image and detract from your larger career goals. One of the biggest challenges is to remain committed to your search for a professional position.
Rather than taking a stopgap job, you may consider creating additional income through a side hustle. Scott Balster, principal at Employtown and creator of the Side Hustle Muscle Movement, helps people create abundant lives with full-time work and side income. Balster believes that side hustles offer job seekers and those already employed a chance to increase earnings and find greater personal and professional satisfaction.
There are always individual considerations but side hustles typically add to your professional image and toolbox rather than detract from it. You might think of a stopgap job as a Band-Aid. A side hustle, on the other hand, is curative and nurtures our personal and professional wellbeing.
Side hustles are a great way to gain the training and expertise we need to be more competitive in the job market. Side hustles can also allow us to dip our toes in new career waters without giving up our steady paychecks. They can be the bridge to a new full-time career or they can always remain “something extra” we do on the side.
According to Balster, “Job seekers who focus on creating side hustles typically find themselves partnering and interacting in new ways with other professionals. The process of creating and implementing a side hustle naturally expands a job seeker’s network and can lead to discovering employment opportunities they were not finding through traditional job search processes.”
Balster adds, “Side hustles also increase the value we bring to our day jobs. Many of my clients have full time jobs. They are looking for increased job satisfaction as well as additional income. As they create their side hustle, they often bring greater energy and a renewed sense of creativity to the workplace.”
Balster believes this is because through creating a side hustle we strengthen what he refers to as the idea muscle. “The more we tap into our creativity and solve problems, the more we build the idea muscle. This leads to having greater confidence and success in everything we do.”
Balster offers a list of hundreds of side hustle ideas to fit your lifestyle and he also provides templates and coaching to help people get started in various side businesses. There are endless ways to create a side hustle that matches your talents, needs, and goals.
You can teach what you know, offer a service, consult in your industry, or invent and sell a product. You may decide to rent vacation property through an online site. Side hustles can be born of hobbies or they may be an extension of what we do in our day jobs.
We all know people who have side hustles. I recently met a schoolteacher who imports and sells coffee grown on a small farm in Costa Rica. He is supplementing his income and creating a fair-trade business model that supports rural farmers in developing countries.
Another colleague sells medical devices by day and does professional photography on the side to nurture her creative spark. An accounting manager in my neighborhood started a seasonal sprinkler blowout business to help his young son gain business skills and save for his college education.
Jobs have become more temporary and transient in nature and yet we still yearn for and need some amount of stability in our lives. Side hustles are a great way to take more control over our destinies. Balster says, “Ideas are the currency of the future. The process of generating ideas and building a profitable side hustle helps us create our own sense of security and avoids being completely at the mercy of employers and the economy.”
Stopgap jobs can ease financial pressures but this approach can sometimes be a slippery slope leading to a downward spiral in our careers. Side hustles, on the other hand, expand our horizons and tend to increase our marketable skills.
Managing our careers has become more complex than ever. What would you do if you lost your job tomorrow? Maybe it’s time to do the hustle.