How Workers Are Balancing Multiple Jobs

work life balanceIn the 1980s, the stressful balancing act of working mothers gained national attention in TV shows and films. Never mind that women had been balancing family responsibilities and working outside the home for generations. Suddenly it seemed as if people, or at least the media and business owners, realized how difficult it is for workers to balance their personal lives and their careers.

The need for that balance didn't disappear when 'Murphy Brown' went off the air. Today's youngest professionals, known as Millennials, have been touted as a generation of workers who refuse to sacrifice their personal lives for the sake of their careers. Over the last several years, many companies have instituted flexible schedules and telecommuting options that allow workers to balance their personal and professional lives.

Then the economy soured and telecommuting became the least of everyone's worries. Layoffs and pay cuts across the country forced workers to look for part-time and freelance jobs just to make ends meet. Suddenly, a 40-hour job wasn't enough to pay the bills, so workers took second and third jobs. Although the extra hours of work are necessary to survive, they're also putting a strain on workers and their friendships or relationships.

The need for more money

In a CareerBuilder survey at the start of 2010, 19 percent of workers intended to take a second job this year in order to make ends meet. Freelance gigs and part-time jobs are no longer ways to earn extra cash -- they're necessary to cover everyday expenses.

Communications specialist Laura Lang ran a successful marketing and PR firm for 20 years before the recession began affecting her clients. In March of this year she took a job on a contingency basis, but it has since turned into a permanent position.

"My own work is now being done on the side, and I am digging my way out of the financial holes via my newly gained full time re-entry into the workforce," Lang says. But the work isn't easy to balance and she's slowly transitioning away from her old profession.

"It was a hard decision to make, but I am slowly letting go completely of my marketing work. It was just too hard to survive in this economy and I needed the stability being offered by these larger companies."

For some workers, however, one job isn't enough to survive. For Jessica Ayers of Los Angeles, Calif., working two jobs is necessary in order to earn enough and receive benefits. She works a minimum 40-hour week for a boutique PR agency and part-time as a receptionist at an athletic club.

Although balancing two jobs means she's awake at 4:30AM twice a week to start her day and only has Saturdays off, she considers the sacrifice necessary.

"My job at the gym offers me a 401(k) plan, access to almost 10 upscale health clubs throughout the city, and is the equivalent to about one-quarter of what I make at my PR job," Ayers said. "That extra change is completely worth the time and energy, especially living in an expensive city like Los Angeles."

The good and bad of balancing

Deanna Miller faces a similar situation. In her search for full-time work, she accepted a part-time job for 25 hours each week and eventually took on freelance writing work. In addition she began a second part-time job that required a 20-hour weekly commitment. Fortunately, she finally found a full-time job, but she still kept her second part-time job, which means the occasional seven-day work week.

"The biggest challenge is that I do miss out on spending time with family and friends, and have to juggle my time," Miller says. "For instance, this past August I not only worked a 40-hour Monday-Friday work week, but worked 14 hours every other weekend and did a freelance writing project that amounted to about 30 hours over the course of the month. I just told friends and family ahead of time that my free time was non-existent in August, and to be patient. Since we don't have children yet, my husband and I just squeeze in time together when we can; but we know that this won't always be our life."

And even though Miller's husband is looking for a full-time job, they see the positive side to the situation.

"We actually just paid off the last of our credit card debt and continue to work second jobs, odd jobs and freelance jobs to provide for our long-term goals of home ownership and parenthood," she says.

The value of multiple jobs

If you're in a situation where you're seeing your co-workers more than you're seeing your children, hearing about the sunny side of multiple jobs isn't high on your list. Although having to work a second or third job isn't preferable for many people, at least one worker thinks it's a smart way to do business. That's how small business loan officer Denise Beeson sees it.


"Presently I have three jobs: I teach small business management classes at a local community college, consult with small businesses for their marketing and finance needs, and finally, sell programs for commercial loans," Beeson says. "With all three sources of income, I find that when one area is down, the other two can keep me afloat."

In fact, Beeson believes her mantra ("How to make a living without a job") has prepared her for the coming workplace trends.

"I believe that the future will be contract employment for most and the responsibility to make a living has shifted back to the individual. Easy? No. Realistic? Yes."

The rough economy hasn't been kind to workers, to say the least. If you can find a positive side to the situation, perhaps it is seeing workers realize how strong they are and what they're capable of. And now they can navigate their careers to prepare themselves in case another workplace setback occurs in the future.

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