Should You Get a Second Job?

These are reasons both for and against having a second job.

I have often wondered what motivates people to take on a second and sometimes a third job. This probably begs the first question of why people work at all. Most work for the money to be able to support themselves and their families. That’s an easy answer and often the most important reason.

The next question is why people pick the jobs they work. This is a little more difficult. Sometimes its because its what they love to do. Other times it’s the only job available or the only one for which they are qualified. Or it may be that the job fits their personal needs or family needs concerning hours and working conditions. 

It’s clear that often people take a second job to supplement their income. Their first job doesn’t pay enough to support them, so a second job is necessary to make ends meet.

People also take on a second job because it is something they like doing and fulfills a part of them their primary job doesn’t. Many authors started off doing something totally different and then developed their writing skills to become a published author. Their primary job was in their eyes their second job. The second job can also give you a backup source of income if something happens to your primary job or you decide to quit.

What’s the price of having a second job? It clearly takes time away from your family. It also can add stress to an otherwise busy life. It can establish a lifestyle which becomes dependent on this second source of income. It can also reduce your effectiveness in the work you do on your primary job. In some cases, a second job can lead to discipline or other workplace actions because employees may do the second job during the time, they are being paid for doing their primary job.

Federal employees as well as many private sector employees must seek approval of any second jobs the employees may be seeking to work. The purpose of the approval is to make certain the job does not conflict with their primary employment. As an example, an employee who sells insurance for one company can’t take a second job selling insurance for a competitor. A federal employee acquisition specialist can’t work a second job for a company that sells products to the agency the employee works for. However, even with these restrictions, there are many second jobs employees can do without a conflict.

As can be seen, there is good and bad to second jobs. If you have financial issues, then taking a second job is not a choice; it may be an imperative. For others, the money you can earn may be an incentive, however, it may not be the sole motivating factor.

Why you should consider a second job

  • It may be a good career move. It can broaden your experience and give you insights into areas you would not experience in your primary job.
  • It can expose you to new people who you otherwise would not meet. 
  • It gives you opportunity to learn new skills.
  • It can help build financial security in uncertain times.
  • It gives you a chance to do something you may have always wanted to do.
  • You need a change and are bored with your current job but not quite ready to quit.

Why you shouldn’t consider a second job

  • You have a lot on your plate already with your primary job and family responsibilities.
  • The second job does not pay enough to be worth the disruption to your family life.
  • The second job is or is perilously close to being a conflict with your primary job. Is the risk of getting fired worth the pay?

I have a confession to make. Throughout most of my work life from age 16 on I always had a second and often a third job. I have been a serial second and third job person. I am biased.

I think for most people a well-chosen second job can lead to new experiences and friendships that might not be otherwise available. To a new family, a second job can be the answer to making a little extra money that makes having a family a little easier.

With second jobs usually the worst that can happen is you walk away, or even if you lose the job, you still have your primary job to rely on. 

About the Author

Joe Swerdzewski, former General Counsel of the FLRA & owner of JSA LLC is the author of The Essential Guide to Federal Labor Relations, A Guide to Successful Federal Sector Collective Bargaining, etc. For more info on JSA’s services, email or subscribe to JSA’s newsletter.