Side Hustle

Career-Minded Millennials Should Think Twice Before Starting a Side Hustle

Millennials might be more entrepreneurial and harder working than earlier generations, but let's not overlook how motivating economic insecurity can be.
Career-Minded Millennials Should Think Twice Before Starting a Side Hustle
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Guest Writer
CEO and Entrepreneur
7 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

I’m a millennial.

There. I said it. I was born in 1984, so I’m right on the generational edge, and most of us don’t really like to admit that we’re actually millennials. I miss the cutoff for Xennial by one year. I’m just a plain ol’ millennial.

And, like most of my peers, I’ve had side-hustles throughout my professional career. I’ve even managed to turn that side-hustle into a full-time gig running an ecommerce marketing agency.

But not everyone is as happy about our moonlighting as we are.

“[It] depends on the seniority of employees and the nature of the side-hustle. If they are supporting their aging parents’ business or are a senior executive supporting young entrepreneurs, then I would absolutely support it, especially if they are performing at their current job. However, if the side hustle is taking away from their productivity or is competitive with their job, then absolutely not!” — Barbara Paldus, Founder and CEO of Mylah Beauty

How employers see it

At a high level, employers want to know, “will it take away from the thing I’m paying you to do”?

And that’s fair to ask.

However, it seems like there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes of different companies’ policies on side-hustles.

Jeremy Neren, CEO of GrocerKey, states, “I support GrocerKey employees having a side hustle because I believe that it's in a company’s best interest to endorse employee growth. By supporting their growth, you earn their respect and in turn get higher quality work from them in addition to building company morale.”

I’ve talked with a lot of startup founders, and even asked this question on LinkedIn, and this seems to be the consensus with most of them.

Another great example of this thought process is from Brian Wallace, founder of NowSourcing.com, who stated that he’s, “100% in support of employees having a side-hustle! As long as it doesn't directly compete with their day job of employment, it's very healthy to have your employees pursue their dreams of exploring different types of work and industries. Several of our employees currently do this and it contributes well to their professional development, work-life balance, and job flexibility!”

In the startup world, this makes a lot of sense. Most startups were created by people that were working on a side-hustle on nights and weekends while working a paying full-time gig. Why wouldn’t they want to support the very thing that afforded them the success they now have?

Larry Kim, who recently sold his marketing agency, WordStream for $150M, and now runs a startup, MobileMonkey, agreed with this — with one caveat.

“An employer doesn't have any right to your time outside of work hours, so from that perspective, I see no issue if someone wants to go to night school or make some extra money or whatever. However, if it was being worked on during regular work hours, and/or interfering with normal business work, I wouldn't tolerate it.”

That’s an important distinction and one that’s often overlooked by many people. Having a side-hustle needs to truly be “on the side”. It’s not something you should be doing while you’re also getting paid at your day job. But, if you go further up the chain, from startup to Fortune 500 company, the side-hustle is a bit less accepted.

When I asked executives and owners of companies that are valued over $1B none wanted to go on record saying that they forbid them, but it felt obvious that they aren’t in favor of them. It seems, that as companies mature, they’re looking for a more committed relationship. And that’s the best way to look at this -- as a relationship.

When you’re young, you’re a bit more carefree. You might have a new girlfriend or boyfriend every three weeks (and your longest relationship is three months). Startups are also young, and they love that carefree, “wanderlust” spirit about you. They aren’t looking for a 10-year commitment.

But, as you get older, you tend to want to find “someone you can settle down with.” You want someone who is committed to you and only you. You want someone who wants to build their life with you and grow old with you.

That’s the same for the more prominent, more mature businesses. They’ve grown up, and they’re looking for commitment. They aren’t saying you’re a terrible person for wanting to live free, but they’ve moved past that. They want you to want to build your career with them and focus exclusively on them.

That being said, there’s a growing push to change the stigma of side-hustles within corporate America as well.

"For obvious reasons, the corporate world doesn't foster their employees to have a side-hustle -- they already have a lot on their plates,” says Ryan Patel, former VP of Global Development at Pinkberry. "But, if the side-hustle somehow benefits the individual, such as guest speaking or giving back to the community, corporations should make a change and not only allow for side-hustles but highly encourage them.I'm not suggesting they dedicate an additional 40 hours to their week, but having a creative outlet will strengthen the best minds in their companies."

How millennials see it.

We get screwed. When I graduated as a registered nurse in 2005, everyone said I would never have to worry about a job because the demand for nurses was so high. Then 2008 happened and I was the low man on the totem pole. I was laid off for a bit and went back to school for marketing to diversify my skill set.

Side-hustles are how I kept food on the table.

We can bellyache about how hard it is to find a job after college, or about how the high cost of living makes it hard to survive on an entry-level salary. Catherine Baab-Muguira does a fantastic job of summing it up: millennials are obsessed with side hustles because that is all we’ve got.

Telling a millennial that you don’t support their side-hustle feels a bit controlling to us and sounds a lot like you don’t care about our general well-being. I know that’s not true, but that’s how we feel, and it’s based on real-life situations, not prognostication.

So does it matter?

Well - it depends on what type of job you’re looking for.

Even if your boss says it’s ok, a millennial determined to climb the ladder at a more traditional, corporate business should probably think twice about having a side-hustle. On the other hand, if you work for a startup, go ahead and jump in once you’ve cleared it with your workaholic, eccentric founder.

Either way, the key is to figure out where you want to go and make sure the choices you make lead you down the right path.

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