Side hustles have long been a way for people to earn some extra cash. More than a third, 33%, of Americans with a side hustle say they're using it to diversify income streams, 25% say they're using it to save up for a specific financial goal, and 23% say they're using it to save for a specific purchase, according to a December 2020 Zapier survey of 2,001 Americans.
But side hustles aren't just a way for you to make more money. They can also help you further your career. "A side hustle can definitely be a way to open a door into a new field, or to gain skills and experiences you didn't already have, or just to make you more well-rounded," says Vicki Salemi, career expert at Monster.
A side hustle can be "a great opportunity for you to build a skill that you need to further your career but you're not necessarily getting the opportunity to do so in your current full time job," says Amanda Augustine, career expert at TopResume.
Say you work in an administrative role but you're curious to try sales in your company. A part-time job in retail or starting an online store could give you more knowledge or understanding of the basics.
"Negotiating, invoicing, collaboration, communication, interaction with clients, marketing yourself" can all be parts of a side gig, says Salemi, "and those are all marketable skills for your resume."
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If your side hustle is in another field altogether from your 9-to-5, "it really helps you network and tap into different groups of folks," says Sage Quiamno, a workplace expert and advocate for women of color.
Whether your side hustle is serving as a virtual assistant or walking dogs, your gig can open up an opportunity to meet and network with a slew of people your day job might not give you access to. Those business contacts might become mentors, help you identify strengths you didn't know you had, or notify you about relevant job openings.
"It's always good to have a platform that connects you to a wide set of diverse folks," she says, because connections and community are "truly what helps people grow within their careers."
If you're interested in making "a more drastic or fundamental career change," says Augustine, a side hustle can be a "way of testing the waters." Maybe you'd always wanted to be a business owner and opening a shop on Poshmark is your way to check it out, or you want to work in education and tutoring or teaching an online class is your way of seeing if helping people learn is a good fit for you.
Having a side hustle is a way "to learn more about it to see is it really a viable path," says Augustine. It's a way to build those skills and make those connections so if you're one day interested in a pivot, you've already gained experience and a network in your new field.
Before diving into your side gig, "take a step back, look big picture in your career," says Salemi, and ask yourself, "Where do you want to be a year, two years, five years from now?" After you've answered that question, ask yourself, "What side hustle can help get me there?"
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