Moonlighting? No, just the rise of the side project

Posted on January 20, 2012

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Does anyone just do one job anymore? OK, I know the answer is Yes. And there are plenty of people right now not in employment who would be happy to have “just” one.

But it looks like more and more people are adding strings to their bows – and not just those whose weeks are routinely spent managing multiple projects, clients, products etc..

Let me take an example from recent years. I used to interview and speak to a lot of chief information officers (CIOs). At the time, these guys were key contacts and in demand, not just to those working in tech media but plenty of others too – those selling to them, industry analysts, consultants of various hues, not to mention their own teams and colleagues.

On several occasions my team would organise roundtables and other debates with CIOs taking part. But quite often, when it came time to the ritual of handing around business cards, some of the CIOs surprised us. They didn’t promote their main employer – be they in manufacturing, pharma, banking, maybe even a government department – but a start-up where they were invariably a director.

It’s not hard to imagine how these VIPs end up involved in all kinds of things, only it’s not just about the very senior.

Plenty of people I’ve worked with, be they in tech, video production, marketing or writers, have side projects and even their own small companies.

Now you can see why this is. Some like the extra income, others see how it develops their careers and gives more options long-term.

But it can be confusing. For one thing many of these projects are under the radar of a main employer, which might outright forbid this type of thing. Some used to call it moonlighting.

I’m not so much thinking about that. Rather the old “What’s your line?” question professionals have asked each other for years becomes harder. People like to hear a simple answer.

Then there’s how we define ourselves online. Think about LinkedIn, the ultimate “What’s your line?” asker. Just as it is awkward when someone is inbetween jobs so too such networks find it hard to allow for those with split working lives. And it can be hard enough when that split is in the same sector – there are plenty out there doing two or more quite different things.

The split professional life will become more common. People will write books about that, not short blog posts. But that’s not to say it will be easy for many of us and the online places we hang out to get our heads around it.

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Posted in: Social media, Work