When Should You Consider Getting a Second Job, and How Can You Manage Both?

A man working at his second job at the computer desk of a warehouse.
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From trying to ease financial stress to developing skills, increasing your professional network, and even simply bringing in some extra spending money to boost you past that living wage mark, there are many different reasons to get a second job. The dual-employment life isn’t uncommon either. Roughly 13 million U.S. workers already juggle two occupations on a regular basis.

If you’re thinking it might be time to pick up a second job, here are a few considerations as you prepare to apply for jobs and manage the expectations and demands of multiple workloads.

How to Determine if You Need a Second Job

Before you willingly dive into the exhausting, often stressful life of working two jobs, it’s important to be fairly certain this is actually the right move for you on a professional, financial, and even a personal level.

While there are many different reasons to get a second job, and each person must come to their own conclusion, here are a few things to keep in mind as you make your decision: 

  • Your income-to-debt ratio: This is calculated by adding up all of your monthly debt payments and then dividing them by your gross (that is, pre-taxed) monthly income. A good income-to-debt ratio is around 36% or less.
  • An emergency savings fund: How much money have you set aside as a “rainy day fund?” Depending on your situation, you should have at least three to six months of expenses saved (and possibly more).
  • Savings for life goals: It doesn’t matter if your goal is to save for college, to get married, to buy a house, to have kids, or to retire, are you managing to set money aside to meet your life goals?
  • Going on vacations: Do you plan on going on vacations? If so, can or should you, based on your current cash flow?

Is a Second Job Worth it?

Ultimately, you must decide if getting a second job is worth it. Everything from bigwig items such as a decades-long retirement plan all the way down to whether you can afford to go to the Poconos on vacation next year should be taken into consideration as you look into getting a second job.

Can you afford to do what you want and need (while maintaining a healthy debt-to-income ratio) right now? If you take on more work will you still have the time to live a healthy lifestyle and maintain that crucial work-life balance?

Think about the above items, along with any personal ones you may want to add to the list, and then use the information to help guide your decision.

How to Find a Second Job

While it’s easy to spend all day applying, conducting interviews, and honing your skills while you’re unemployed, finding work as an employed individual can be a bit more difficult. It’s wise to start looking for work in a manner that won’t impact your current employment. Here are a few steps that you can take to minimize the impact as you search:

  • Brush up your resume: As you tweak and tailor your resume, include any updates in your professional experience, education, and skills and strip out any irrelevant or dated information.
  • Gauge your free time: Consider how many hours you can commit to a second job without spreading yourself too thin.
  • Commit specific hours to the job hunt: For instance, if you work from 9 to 5 during the workweek, begin applying to jobs for an hour each evening or a couple of hours on the weekends.
  • Keep a close eye on your schedule: Always be ready to respond to an interview inquiry without accidentally interfering with your current work schedule.

Addressing Your First Job During Interviews

When it comes to the interviews, it’s important to address your primary job during the interview with your potential new employer.

While it may be tempting to hide the fact that you have another job, the truth is, sooner or later it will come up. As your new employer begins to schedule you in for shifts or assigns you work, you may find it difficult to juggle two jobs’ worth of responsibility while keeping both of your employers in the dark about each other.

Instead of setting yourself up for such an unpleasant scenario, be open and honest about your situation; this will help you find a job that will be willing to work with your existing schedule.

How to Manage Two Jobs

Once you land a second job, it’s important to find a way to balance both jobs and your own personal life without allowing any of them to significantly suffer.

Find Jobs That Complement Each Other

On the one hand, try to find jobs that suit the existing skills you already possess. Try not to take on new challenges or dive into untrodden industries for your second job unless you absolutely have to. The stress of learning a new market, operations, and even industry jargon will only exacerbate the increased workload you’ll already be working with.

On the other hand, don’t simply look for another job that mirrors what you already do at your current job, such as working as a proposal writer for a corporation and picking up a position freelance writing on the weekends — also as a proposal writer. That will set you up for burnout quickly.

Instead, look for a position that allows you to exercise different skills that complement each other or even the same skills in different ways. For instance, if you’re a writer in the above scenario, you may be able to thrive by applying for a side gig writing resumes or even managing social media as something that complements but doesn’t exactly copy your other job.

How to Safeguard Your First Job

When it comes to preserving your first job, make sure that you create an airtight schedule that allows you to commit an adequate amount of time and effort to both positions.

In addition, consider any conflicts of interest as you look for other jobs. If, for instance, you signed a non-compete agreement as an entertainment reporter for one company and you apply to write movie reviews for a competitor, you will likely run into issues before long.

Instead, strive to properly separate and compartmentalize your two jobs, schedule them carefully, and give them each their proper degree of attention.

Practice Self Care

Finally, make sure to address your own personal self-care concerns as you go about tending to two sets of responsibilities. This may include:

  • Making sure that you’re spending time “unplugged from work.” This can be critical to maintaining proper work-life balance.
  • Avoiding blue light from your phone after a certain time of the day. This will help you sleep better and can even indirectly reduce the risk of things like depression, diabetes, and cardiovascular problems.
  • Taking the time to feed yourself a healthy diet. Properly fueling your body is critical to your long-term success.
  • Scheduling in enough time to properly sleep. At least seven to nine hours is recommended.
  • Finding time to relax and socialize. If you spend too much time at work, you can quickly end up depressed, anxious, and stressed.

If you take the time to care for your basic self-care needs, you’ll be able to maintain both jobs and your personal life with as little drama and strain as possible.

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