Should You Tell Your Employer About Your Side Job?

How to inform your boss of your moonlighting.


Low wages, pay freezes, and the threat of layoffs mean that for many employees a second job is a necessity. But does your employer agree?

While a side job can mean the difference between "making it" and financial ruin, companies have become more stringent in regulating what their employees do outside of work. Some organizations prohibit side jobs altogether, while others enforce disciplinary action ranging from immediate dismissal, to a written reprimand, to a demotion.

From a company's perspective, it's for good reason. But don't allow your employer's policies and red tape to scare you away from creating financial padding and learning new skills. Whether you take on additional work as a freelancer, consultant, floor salesperson, or start selling your handcrafted goods, moonlighting can be your path toward building a better future.

If you decide to set up shop outside your current workplace, set up a meeting with your boss first. You need to request approval even if there are no explicit policies regarding side jobs in the employee handbook. (Hint: And if a second job is clearly prohibited, you can still ask.) Don't risk getting fired or losing extra income over a simple five-minute conversation. Here's how:

Know Why Your Company is Worried

Employers typically don't see any advantages to their employees working side jobs, but it can be beneficial for both employer and employee, stimulating creativity, motivation, and new ideas. The key is to keep the focus on your current position:

Put the company first. Most employers want to hear that you'll continue to put your job at their company first. Assuage your manager's concerns by letting her know you won't work at your second job during office hours and that you'll still be able to work overtime during periods of heavy work. Show your commitment to your current position as a priority.

Lay out how you'll remain effective. Your boss doesn't want you to be overwhelmed and fatigued just because you're working multiple jobs, so lay out the strategies that will allow you to remain just as effective as you are now. Don't talk about the new job; discuss how you'll continue to rock your current one.

Keep quiet about confidential information. A small number of companies will be concerned that you'll leak confidential, in-house information, particularly if your side job is utilizing the same skills that your existing job does. If you can't get permission to work in the same vertical, try a side job in a different arena all together.

Act as a good representative. What you do off-hours can seem like none of your employer's business, but it is, especially if what you're doing could be deemed offensive to your employer's customers. Make sure that whatever side job you choose won't put you in an awkward position with any of your company's clients, partners, or customers.

These tips should get you quick approval to take on the side job you've been dreaming about. If you can't get approval however, consider volunteering or taking a career development class. While many employers won't support you getting paid to expand your skill set, they will endorse broadening your horizons in general.

Rebecca Thorman's goal is to help you find meaningful work, enjoy the heck out of it, and earn more money. Her blog Kontrary offers career, business, and life advice that works. She writes from Washington, D.C.


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