I first wrote about parallel careers six years ago when I mainly coached artists. I used the term “parallel careers” to refer to the artist who juggles the creative career with the money job (e.g., waiter/ actor; office by day/ comedy club by night). Today, not just artists have parallel careers. There are people who start their own companies evenings and weekends while continuing to work as an employee for someone else during the day. There are consultants or freelancers, who are really looking for another long-term job. So knowing how to juggle parallel careers is something that artists, entrepreneurs, and jobseekers all have to do, and we all increasingly find ourselves in at least one of those categories.
There are different reasons for having parallel careers. Sometimes it’s by choice and sometimes it’s by circumstance. The most common reason is that one career provides the money and stability, and the other career provides the upside and personal fulfillment. If these are your parallel careers, here are some tips to meet the challenges:
Clarify your motivations for each career. How much money do you need to make from your money job? How much scheduling flexibility do you need? Depending on your requirements, your money job may mean temping, a traditional 9-to-5, or an entrepreneurial venture. What is your ultimate artistic/ entrepreneurial/ job search goal? Do you ultimately want just one career or do you plan on keeping both? If your money job is truly just for the money and you are not intent on making this a career, then you focus on the short-term benefits and less on the long-term investment.
Follow the business protocol for each career. Take the example of an actor who supplements with temp work. Acting resumes differ from corporate resumes. Audition clothes differ from interview clothes. Interviews vary at a casting office versus a corporate office. You need to understand the required marketing materials, dress code, and work environments of each career. As an entrepreneur, you need to have different skills than as an employee. A job search is different from a consulting assignment. Do not assume your knowledge in one area translates to the other career.
Maintain perspective about the benefits of both careers. The benefits of an artistic career include doing what you love every day, not just the roles you book or gallery sales. On the flip side, whether you are an artist, entrepreneur or jobseeker, your current money job is not just about money. Your money job is an investment in your art, your business and your long-term career. Your money job sustains you in the immediate term to give your other pursuits a chance to succeed. Your money job develops different skills and introduces different people and situations into your life. Resist the trap of begrudging your money job. Remember that both careers contribute to your ultimate life goals.