Managing Two Jobs – Or How to Make It All Work

by mzumtaylor on December 21, 2010

in Earn More,Income Generation

We’re taking a break today from our regularly scheduled programming (the Budgeting Basics series) to welcome the readers from MultiPassionateProductivity.com which is written by the delightful Kirsten.

Hi, readers!

If you’re anything like me (multi-passionate and curious) you have worked a series of entry-level jobs because any place you’ve worked didn’t hold your interest long enough for you to get promoted before you moved on.

… Or maybe that’s just me.

In any case, if you find yourself in the position of working an entry level job, especially as your graduation date gets further and further away, you’ll probably find, as I did, that one entry-level job just won’t cut it (not enough hours, not enough money, etc.); you need two.

Working Two Jobs – How To Decide If It’s Time

The prospect of working two jobs can be scary. Often it means more than 40 hours a week, and no weekends. It’s not something to jump into without consideration, but it can be done with out going insane. Really, I promise.

If you read my guest post on Kirsten’s blog, you’ll already know that between the time I graduated from college and now, I have had eleven jobs. Most of them I worked for at least six months to a year, which means I often had two jobs at a time, and sometimes had three. The point is I’m still here, and not any crazier than I was before I started, so it really can be done.

But how do you decide if it’s the right thing to do?

Do you need more money?

Often, for me, the primary motivator in finding a second job is that I am stressed about paying the bills and making it all work. “Spend less” is one of the primary tenets of personal finance, but there comes a point where you can’t spend any less than you are and still feed yourself and put a roof over your head. The flip-side of the “spend less” coin is “earn more,” which is a less often promoted tenet of personal finance, but equally valid.

If you’re working part-time (less than 30 hours) at a minimum wage (or close to it) job, the first thing I would do is ask your boss for more hours or a raise. That is a perfectly legitimate method for earning more, but often (especially since the economy still sucks a bit), finding another part-time, minimum wage jobs, is the easiest way to make more money.

Are you bored at your current job?

I’m not too proud to admit that this is a reason that I have picked up a second job. I found the work that I was doing at my first job to be less mentally engaging, so I found a second job to help stave off the boredom. (It beats the hell out of quitting and not having any income while you look for another job.)

This is not a good reason to get a second job, and I would suggest having other reasons as well as boredom, but who am I to say you shouldn’t get a second job out of boredom when I’ve done just that. (Fortunately, it only happened once.)

Working Two Jobs – What Kind of Second Job to Get

You may not have much choice in the matter, depending on the economy where you currently live, but if you do, it’s a good idea to try to find jobs with complimentary schedules.

Say, for example, you currently work in a restaurant, and you need a second job. You have two easy options:

  1. Find another restaurant job that you can work, and balance your availability between the two.
  2. Find an office job (or something similar) that you can work in the mornings, and work in the evenings at the restaurant.

I have done both of those things. Personally, I found the office/restaurant gig easier, but the restaurant/restaurant gig isn’t hard, you just have to be clear on your availability with both.

But that’s what I mean by complimentary schedules. If the restaurant you work at is only open for dinner, find a job that you can work in the mornings. If the office you work at only has you working until 2 or 3 in the afternoon, find a job you can work in the evenings.

Working Two Jobs – How to Make It All Work

You’ve decided that you need a second job, and you might even have already lined up a few interviews. Heck, you may even have started your second job, and are just looking for advice in how to juggle everything.

Handling the Schedules

As I mentioned above, complimentary schedules is a valuable thing in having two jobs. But no matter what two jobs you have, most businesses have discernible “shift breaks” (things start at 8 am and break at noon for lunch, and get running again at 1 pm until 5 or 6 pm, for example) that you can use to structure your availability so you’re not screwing yourself over or the business you’re working for.

I find it easiest to give very specific availability to my jobs whenever I have more than one. That way my schedule doesn’t change too much from week to week, and my two jobs were usually okay with that.

Just makes sure you schedule enough time between your availabilities at each job to get from one place to another. (and change, if you have to. More on that below.)

Most business, especially lower-paying ones are used to scheduling around their employees school schedules, so your second work schedule shouldn’t pose too much of a problem. If they give you grief, tell them you would be happy to work for them exclusively if they’d give you more hours or a raise. That usually shuts them up. Or it gets you a raise. Either way you win.

IMPORTANT: If you are going to have two jobs, make sure that you have a fool-proof way to keep your schedule straight. The specific availability thing works very well, but make sure you write it down and don’t forget it. “I have another job…” won’t work as an excuse for long, and you’ll likely find yourself in search of a second second job if you mess up your schedule or forget a shift too many times.

Handling Schedule Screw-ups

The biggest reason you don’t want to use “I have another job so…” as an excuse is because you’ll have to use it for real at least a few times, and you don’t want it to lose it’s effectiveness.

If both of your bosses schedule you to work at the same time, for example, you have to figure out how to get out of one of the shifts. This is another reason to have a fool proof way to keep track of your schedule, so you can find out early if something is going to conflict.

I always find it easiest to have one schedule that is always the same and the other that is flexible within a specific availability, so I can spot snafus early.

As soon as you realize that something’s wrong, let people know. If you catch it early enough, your bosses will not only be very happy with you, but they’ll likely be able to fix it. Catching it early beats getting a call at your other jobs from an irate boss or supervisor asking “Where the hell are you? You were supposed to be here an hour ago! Blah blah blah…”

I hate getting that call.

Handling the different dress codes

Every job has a dress code, whether it’s business casual or jeans and the company t-shirt. No matter how different your two jobs are, you have to arrive dressed properly for both of them. This often requires planning ahead, as going back home to change between jobs is not usually an option. (Although if you can build it into your schedule, that can be good.)

Usually, I end up carrying my clothes for my second job in my car with me, and changing the bathroom at my first job. You’ll get funny looks the first few times you do it, but your co-workers will get over themselves.

Handling food

One thing I struggle with when I have two jobs is remembering to find time to eat.

Breakfast usually isn’t a problem (you should definitely eat breakfast, if you don’t already, because it kick-starts your metabolism and helps you function better through the day), because I can do that at home, but lunch or dinner can be trickier.

Because I’m usually getting a second job because I need more money, eating out isn’t usually an option for lunch or dinner. If I’m working in an office or at a retail job, say in the morning, I pack a lunch that I can stick in the communal fridge. If I’m working at a restaurant in the evening, usually they’ll feed you at some employee discount, which can really help, so that takes care of dinner.

If you’re working two office/retails jobs, you can pack two lunches and then just carry them with you. If you’re working at places that don’t have a communal fridge, pack PB & J or other items that don’t require refrigeration and snack on those.

As with the dress code thing, eating when you have two jobs requires a bit of planning and forethought, but it’s certainly doable.

Handling Relationships

If you’re in a relationship when you are working two jobs, things can become strained between you when you suddenly are working more hours and don’t have as much (or any) time off.

This is where open communication in a relationship really helps. If your significant other recognizes the need for you two have two jobs, often they will be more understanding of not seeing you as often.

The key things are open communication, as I said, and making the most of the time you do have to spend together, even if it’s only a few hours here and there.

One thing to know, if you’re working two jobs (unless they’re both office jobs M-F 9-5), you’ll likely never have a full day off unless you request it.

Handling Time Off

It’s not impossible to get time off if you work two jobs, you just have to make sure to plan ahead. There aren’t going to be any spontaneous weekend jaunts in your near future, if you want to keep your jobs.

You just tell your family and friends that if they want to include you in their plans, they have to give you at least two weeks notice. You can then inform your employers of the plans, and request the time off.

If one (or both) of your employers forgets to schedule you off, become familiar with the company’s process for covering shifts. Often, if it’s their mistake, they’ll help you fix it, but it’s a good idea to do as much as you can to make it work, too.

Having Two Jobs…

Having two jobs can be difficult, but it can also be worth it, both for the peace of mind you get from knowing that you’ve got enough money coming in (multiple income streams FTW!), and from the diverse job tasks you’ll be asked to do. As someone who is interested in learning a little bit about everything, working different jobs where I am often required to do vastly different things is one of my favorite parts of having two jobs.

Good luck. And if you need any help deciding if two jobs is the right choice for you, or just need to talk about how stressful it all is, don’t hesitate to contact me.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Abigail December 22, 2010 at 8:59 am

Megan, this post is insightful and very helpful. Although you didn’t say anything I hadn’t heard before, it’s really good to get a reminder. Not only that, but it’s really nice to know that there are others out there who are doing what some call crazy and making a patchwork existence to make ends meet and to provide a life that they find interesting and challenging. One other thing I wanted to add in – while this is a relatively weird concept for Americans (working more than one job) it is accepted and done by the vast majority of people in many countries. So we’re not alone, not by a long shot. Great writing and I look forward to reading more!

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leo June 28, 2013 at 7:32 am

Thank you man I needed those tips!

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Annonymous July 14, 2013 at 7:54 am

Good tips thanks

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Diane November 14, 2013 at 7:20 pm

LOVED this blog and how you worded it! You covered everything and I appreciate it. I esp. like where you remind people to eat. And how to beware of packing a lunch that may not need refrigeration if ya do not have access. So True! I am hoping to get two jobs next week, and don’t know how to tell one about the other. One is fast food…I did warn them and they seem flexible, but the other is management training and I think the two will fit, but we’ll see. I am recovering from being the MOM, and in between jobs. When I used to work two jobs, I found I was happier. Less time people (most) actually deal with life more efficiently, I think.

Thanks again
DIANE

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mzumtaylor November 19, 2013 at 8:17 pm

Thanks for the comment, Diane. I’m glad you found the blog post interesting and helpful. Best of luck!

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