hinking of taking on a second job? For many, it's a good idea. Moonlighting can be a great way to earn some money, especially if you use those funds to pay down debt, earn a few extra dollars for a trip, or meet some other short-term goal. And with the holidays just behind us, who couldn't use a little extra cash?

Moonlighting peaks just before and after the Christmas holiday season, according to Diana Schafer of Norrell Services in Madison, Wis. And with good reason. According to Jayne Rowsam of Borders Bookstores, many workers are drawn to second jobs because the positions are short term and offer reasonable discounts and wages, both big draws for the financially difficult holidays.

Beth Thompson, a University of Wisconsin-Madison research scientist who took a part-time job at Borders over the holidays, said "I thought it would be a good way to pay off some bills, make a little extra money, and avoid postholiday financial woes." Thompson used her extra income to buy Christmas gifts and put some money aside for a midwinter vacation.

"I think it's important to use at least some of the money for something fun that I couldn't otherwise afford," she said.

Thompson's not alone. Most people who work second jobs, many in the retail or restaurant businesses, are looking for a short-term fix. According to Jeff Moore, manager of a Chevys "Fresh Mex" restaurant in San Francisco, wait staff can earn anywhere from $40 to $150 a shift, which is a big incentive if you're committing to work after an already long day.

     Jobs usually
     have one thing
     in common:
     Employees look
     for something
     rewarding in their
     second positions.


Most people who
work second jobs,
many in the
retail or
restaurant businesses,
are looking for
a short-term fix.
Find something that interests you
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than eight million people hold multiple jobs (two or more part-time jobs or one full-time and one part-time position), and the jobs are as varied as the people themselves. Jobs range from wedding photography to leading wildlife tours, but usually have one thing in common. Employees look for something rewarding in their second positions.

"As a researcher at a university, I don't have a lot of interaction with other people," Thompson says. "Moonlighting in retail was less stressful than my day job and allowed me to interact with lots of different people. I worked in a bookstore years ago and found the interaction with others to be really satisfying and fun."

Popular second jobs range from wedding photography to delivering singing telegrams (only the gregarious need apply). Quieter types often choose house sitting or pet sitting, but regardless of the choice, employees should make sure the jobs add to their lives instead of taking away from an already hectic schedule.

The downside
There are, obviously, trade-offs to multiple jobs. The downside includes long hours, extra travel, less time spent with family and friends, and, if you have kids, childcare dilemmas. If you chose a job in retail, you may be expected to "look the look," which can result in unwanted clothing expenditures.

Still, if you can avoid the pitfalls, second jobs can be rewarding, both financially and socially, and actually can be fun.

So, where would you go with that extra cash?

Ten things to consider if you're thinking about a second job
  1. Take a job that's different from your regular job. This will help you avoid burnout.
  2. Choose a second job that interests you. If you're gregarious, joining a wait staff could be just the thing. If you're reserved, you might want something behind-the-scenes.
  3. Consider whether you'd have to buy a new wardrobe to work at your second job. Retailers in particular want their salespeople to present a certain image.
  4. Have a financial or social goal in mind before you accept a job, and stop when you reach it. Use credit union direct deposit to send your paychecks to the accounts you want to beef up.
  5. Put a time limit on the number of months you want to work a second job (most people max out at six).
  6. Make sure there are no restrictions on your first job that would prevent you from taking a second position.
  7. Consider travel time when choosing a job. If you add two hours of commute time to an already long day, you may be headed for trouble.
  8. Reduce extracurricular activities while you're working two jobs. Burning the candle at both ends is one thing, burning out is another.
  9. If you hope to change jobs, try a "trial run" at a company you're interested in. It may turn into something bigger—or persuade you the change wouldn't be as beneficial as you'd hoped.
  10. When you reach your goal—be it social, financial, or both—it's time to go. Smile, wave, and say goodbye!

©1999 Credit Union National Association, Inc.