ClockDue to the widening gap between rich and poor across the world – a situation that has been exacerbated by the recession – more and more low-paid workers have to find second jobs to make ends meet. For many, it’s not a cool lifestyle choice in tune with the modern flexible-work zeitgeist; a second job is simply an economic requirement and there is little glamour associated with it. We live in an increasingly low-wage economy, according to this EPI study, which found that around a quarter of workers earn under two-thirds of the average wage in places like the U.S., the U.K., and Canada.

Second jobs can become self-defeating and even compound the situation if you put your first job at risk or you damage your career and progression prospects within your first job. So, what steps can low-paid workers take to hold down a second job without putting their first job at risk?

1. Don’t Fall at the First Hurdle

Check that you are not contravening company regulations. Review your employee handbook to see if they have a policy on second jobs. Some will allow it, some may allow it after approval, and some may not. Follow the rules here, so that your first, most important job is not put at risk.

2. Be Discrete about Your Moonlighting Gig

You don’t have to lie about a second job to colleagues, but be discrete about it, as it could have a negative impact on your career. You could be seen as less loyal, less available for overtime, and less committed to your first job. None of these may be true, but the perception can be damaging.

3. Choose a Different Second Job from Your First Job

One way you can mitigate the effects of weekly burnout is by doing a different second job from your first job. If you spend your day job in the office, then try and have a second job outdoors doing something more physical. This allows you to rest and recharge from the first job while doing the second job. Avoid doing 40 hours of paperwork, followed by another 20 hours of second-job paperwork — that is the royal road to burnout.

4. Set Realistic Financial Goals

Find out how much you need to earn. Is it an extra $500 a month? Set your financial goals and stick to them. Resist the temptation to go over this amount, which can put you in burnout territory.

5. Incorporate Breaks and Holidays

Make sure that you build plenty of time into your schedule for breaks and holidays. Build a humanistic schedule, rather than a robotic two-job working schedule.

6. Use the Second Job to Learn a New Skill

A 2010 BLS report shows that a small but significant proportion of people take second jobs to get experience in a different business to perhaps learn a new skill or expedite a change in career.

I’d love to hear any more tips and pointers on how to take a second job without jeopardizing your first job, particularly from those who are doing it successfully.

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