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What’s Your Side Hustle?

Dear Stephen,

I'm in my mid-thirties, and I'm a sales rep for a contract furniture company. During the pandemic, business was really slow, and I was afraid I was going to be laid off, so I took a second job because I knew that I wasn't going to make my sales goal and my commissions were going to be down.

I literally became a gate agent for an airline because I could do it on weekends. Yes – I'm the one checking your bag and ticket while you get annoyed because you have to pay more since your bag is overweight. I don't know if the side hustle is a generational thing or a COVID thing, but I have a friend who opened a ceramics company, another friend who works in food service, and we just love the extra money even though our real jobs in the furniture industry are back in full swing. One of my friends is a Peloton instructor, even, a really popular one, in addition to selling furniture!

Right now, our company wants us in the office four days a week, soon to be five. I'm nervous about my side gig because sometimes I cheat the system and work on Fridays at the airport.

Have you heard of this before? Are there a lot of people working two jobs today? My parents' generation would call this #moonlighting... today it seems everyone has a "#sidehustle." Hey – I should mention I live in #NewYorkCity, and life is expensive. Another friend of mine told me this isn't ethical, and now I'm concerned about maybe getting caught. What do you think?


Side Hustler

Dear Side Hustler,

I'm a bit distracted by the fact that your side hustle is working at the airport. I can't imagine any place I'd rather not be than an airport. And there is nobody that I have more sympathy for than airport workers, constantly being berated and yelled at by passengers. The only people who have worse jobs are people who hand out parking tickets.

I hear the side hustle phenomenon is partly a result of the pandemic combined with inflation... no matter where you live, it's costing more money than ever. People who are feeling financial pressure – or maybe they're just more ambitious – pick up a side hustle, and sometimes a side hustle becomes a passion.

For the record, let me be clear, to me, it's completely unethical to have any side hustle if you're a salaried employee or a career professional in sales, marketing, or anything in our industry. While I appreciate you may not be making the income to support your lifestyle, you should be using your extra time and energy to find a career that is more professionally and financially satisfying.

None of our client companies, who pay a full salary and benefits, along with a 401K, vacation, and business expenses, are expecting a person to have a second career. As a matter of fact, one of the biggest issues with hybrid working is that people use that fifth day for personal errands, childcare, doctors' appointments... just generally working on things besides your job. But using it to make a second income! That's even worse.

There's nothing good or inspiring about your story. I don't think you're ambitious, I think you're being dishonest to your employer. So do yourself a favor, and do it very soon, before you get caught, find a job that you really find fulfilling and that you really like that allows you to afford your rent. That's the answer to your situation.

In terms of the furniture industry that I recruit in and that you're working in right now, if your goal is to become super-rich, you probably should try another industry. If you want to be working with creative, accomplished people, be proud of what you are selling, and make a good living, stick with us – but find a company and career path that suits you. And no matter what, please don't cheat – it'll get you in the end.

Sincerely yours,