Careers

What Are the Ethical Concerns Around Working Two Jobs?

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Depending on where you are in your career, working two or more jobs may be financially necessary, or it could satisfy an interest you have beyond your regular job, serve as a professional development opportunity, allow for exploration outside what you have always done -- or it could be all of the above. Although working two jobs, also known as moonlighting, has not always been regarded favorably, it is becoming more common, particularly among the Millennial and Gen Z populations.

As the world of work becomes more flexible, job candidates are able to transition between different roles on a more regular and accepted basis. They are also able to pursue multiple opportunities at the same time to satisfy different personal and professional needs. For example, those pursuing roles in creative fields like theater or those teaching may need two or more opportunities to support their primary interest. Having a portfolio career through freelancing may also be an option for those unfulfilled by the traditional nine-to-five work environment. A common practice in recent years is for people to initiate a side hustle (an entrepreneurial venture) while still keeping a salaried position, offering security in the form of a steady paycheck and health benefits.


Working two jobs has its benefits, the most obvious one being extra income. In addition, with the proliferation of portfolio careers, people have the option of exploring different interests, skills and passions, thus becoming more fulfilled and marketable. An additional job could expand on what you do in your regular role or it could stretch you in a completely different direction. My writing gig, for instance, builds on my experience as a career coach and stretches me as a writer. Working on different projects has been shown to increase creativity and the value employees bring to each role. A side hustle also adds a layer of security so if you happen to lose your primary job, you still have an income, even if it may not be as much as you’d like.

Despite the benefits of working multiple jobs, the practice could cause problems if you are not transparent and careful. Specifically, there are four concerns to keep in mind if working two or more jobs.

Time Management

“When working two jobs, it’s important to be mindful of your time and when you are working for which employer,” advises Caitlin Magidson, counselor and career coach at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School and in private practice. Whether you are working for two different employers or you have an employer and your own business, you want to make sure it is clear what the time commitment for each role is. You may want to set clear boundaries as to when and how you can be reached in regards to each role. In addition, you may want to set up different email accounts so inquiries about the different roles are not mixed. “It can be a lot to juggle two different email boxes,” says Magidson, “but it’s important to be focused and present with whatever employer you are getting paid to work with.”

Working multiple jobs can be challenging, especially if the hours you spend working total more than the traditional 40-hour work week. To avoid confusion and even burnout, know what days and what hours are devoted to each role and only focus on the role applicable to that time period. If you find yourself experiencing downtime in one of your roles, it may be tempting to start working on tasks you need done for your second role. Don’t. Although a version of that is allowed for on-campus student employees -- specifically, focusing on academic studies during downtime -- the practice is not common or welcome in the professional world.

Productivity

A concern closely related to time management is productivity. Even if your primary employer is okay with you pursuing a side gig or another job, you are still expected to perform at your best. You want to show continued engagement and assure your colleagues that you are available to take on challenges and support them. If you don’t want your second role to negatively impact the quality of work you provide your primary employer, consider coming up with a strategy to stay focused and help you practice self-care. If you already have a side gig and are looking for full-time employment, you want to be prepared to answer questions about your productivity. When employers hire you, they expect full commitment from you and if you are not ready to tell an effective and convincing story of what purpose your own venture serves, how it has prepared you to bring value, and how you’ll avoid divided loyalties, you may end up not receiving an offer.

Clients

“When working two jobs, you have to know the ethical boundaries around cross-business,” Magidson emphasizes. This is especially the case if in both of the roles, your main responsibility is to work with and manage clients. To avoid putting yourself through an ethical quagmire, you want to make sure there is no crossover between the two groups of clients. “Because I coach clients at a university, I cannot continue to coach them in my private practice or refer them out to myself,” adds Magidson. “It would be unethical to market my personal business to students I work with now.” Ultimately, this particular concern has to do with trust. If your primary employer cannot trust that you won’t take clients away from them, the relationship will be jeopardized and your integrity negatively impacted. Although you may make extra cash in the short term, the negative impact on your reputation will last for a long time.

Proprietary Information

“It’s unethical to take private information from one company and use it in another,” says Magidson. “You have to respect trademarks and proprietary information for both companies you work for.” This applies for both intellectual property and physical property. This concern is especially salient when both opportunities are in the same field. Although some companies -- like Google and LinkedIn -- are famous for allowing their employees to spend time working on side projects they are interested in (because the practice makes employees more creative and productive), all make sure that employees engage in passion projects after taking care of primary responsibilities. In addition, those employers often include non-compete clauses and intellectual property assignment clauses to protect themselves as well as any ideas or prototypes created in their work spaces or with their resources.