So, what do you do outside of work?

We’ve all been asked this before, but when you’re a job candidate and the question is posed by an interviewer, you might start to sweat. And if you’re an individual with a side career (or a “side hustle”) as your leisure activity, it can be particularly daunting to explain. Where do you even start? Do you even start? How can you be honest with your involvement without sounding like you don’t have time for this job?

Carolyn and Heidi, the authors of this post, know very well the pressure that comes along with answering these questions. Carolyn performs, competes in, and teaches aerial arts, and Heidi is professional pianist as well as a music engraver/editor, recording engineer, and composer. We’re also committed Vantagians.

Side Hustles and the Gig Economy

Having multiple jobs and contributing to the gig economy is a present and growing reality for many Americans, and the reasons for this are varied. Certainly, technology and ease of partaking in a side gig plays a role in facilitating the gig economy (think Uber, Task Rabbit). But individual financial pressures drive toward it too, with median wages staying low, pensions being slashed, and rising student loans all contributing to the need to make more money in new ways.

Further, there can be a more personal and psychological motivation behind the side hustle. While all generations are taking part in the gig economy, for Millennials like us, the side hustle is an outlet to stay connected to a passion and “keep you from feeling pigeonholed” by a single job; a way to express your many passions, not just one.

When the Side Hustle Meets the Hustle Hustle

This ‘other gig’ can be scary to an employer, and there is certainly common thought that a job applicant should not disclose side hustles in an interview, for fear of coming off as less-than-committed to the job they are applying for.  But we argue that the side hustle is not something employers should be scared by (or employees scared of disclosing) and can actually be a benefit to your organization.

It’s commonly accepted that skills learned and traits cultivated in one area of your life can transfer to other seemingly unrelated areas. For example, many organizations seek to hire former athletes for positions that require a degree of competitiveness.  The arts is also an arena for individuals to cultivate valuable skills that organizations can harness. As mentioned in our recent post on creativity, Nobel Prize winners are 22 times more likely to perform as actors, dancers or magicians; 12 times more likely to write poetry, plays or novels; 7 times more likely to dabble in the arts; and twice as likely to play an instrument or compose music.

Not only are there transferable skills, but having an activity outside of work is more beneficial for recovery time (the time needed to bounce back into focused engagement) than less-active rest time, like watching TV. Additionally, having interests in unrelated fields boosts creativity, a trait that is linked to innovation and is becoming increasingly valuable in the workforce.

As discussed in Forbes, many of the skills learned in obtaining a music degree, or most fine arts educations, are incredibly valuable to employers. Just a few transferable skills include:

  1. Time Management – Artists are very sensitive to the time they have in producing a deliverable. Only so many ensemble rehearsal minutes exist, and the work outside of the rehearsal room has to be efficiently managed in order to deliver the best to the ensemble.
  2. Calm under pressure – Artists learn to manage performance anxiety and harness it successfully to present themselves in front of a crowd as appealingly as possible. This practice lends itself to effective public speaking as well as being able to calmly adjust on the fly to whatever might be thrown their way.
  3. Diligence / Attention to detail – Artists are taught that their work and the honing of their craft is never complete; there is always more that can be done to enhance a final product. They are able to focus meticulously on something for an extended period of time to ensure quality output, a direct result of their years of steady training.

Balancing the Hustle

As in any employment situation, there will need to be an aspect of negotiation. Organizations need certain commitments from their employee, and the employee needs certain allowances to be able to pursue their side hustle. Perhaps the side hustle and job are already aligned; for instance, a regular 9 to 5 job paired with a side hustle that only requires time on the nights and weekends. In other cases, this negotiation may include job sharing (i.e., part time work), flex hours, flexible time off/blended life, etc. For us, while our regular hours here don’t usually overlap with our gigs, when we need to travel for our side hustle, we’re able to arrange a flexible work schedule.

These modifications to the “typical” job structure are not necessarily bad for the organization, nor should they be seen as something that’s purely employee driven. In fact, many organizations dropped jobs down to part time status after the changes in health care, and others have opted for more part-time positions as a way to increase flexibility in their staffing. This, of course, results in fewer full-time positions available, but Greg Waldorf argues working multiple part time jobs will be the new normal, a trend the Bureau of Labor Statistics supports.

Ultimately, our workforce and the nature of our work is changing, perhaps faster than our mindsets. And there is no need to shy away from the candidate who has an involved side hustle – and no need to be cautious to disclose your side hustle. Not only is it a benefit in our current economy, but it could be the way of future work.


We want to hear from you. Do you have a side hustle? Do you have an employee heavily involved in a side hustle? How do you manage the balance?

This post was co-authored by Carolyn Kalafut.