I’m a huge proponent of employees doing side projects provided it’s on their own time. There are countless ways doing side projects can benefit your own career, and maybe we’ll get into those another time (many are very obvious). But today I want to make the case for why side projects also greatly increase your strength as an employee of Joe Schmo or Jane Doe’s company.
Acquisition of New Skills
Some big companies will you send you to training seminars and possibly even pay for your post-grad education, but that’s not reality for most companies; not in a down economy. Side projects enable you to learn new skills (presumably you’re interested or you wouldn’t do them after hours) that could inevitably help you become better at your own job.
I know a project manager for a Fortune 500 company who helps small business build blogs and websites to increase their online visibility and grow their communities. When her superiors saw her work they asked her to lead a team to build an internal community with social tools, and convince their ‘old boys network’ to participate in an effort to increase collaboration.
Expand Your Own Visibility
This is one some company’s get apprehensive about, fearful they might lose the employee. (We’ll talk about this more Thursday.) I understand this, but under the right circumstances an employee that can build a name for himself becomes a valuable asset to the team he’s (or she’s) on.
I suspect there’s lots of vendors out there who want to work with Altimeter group because Charlene hired a rockstar like Jeremiah. Or visual learners who want to work with Dachis Group because Jeff went out and snagged David. Unless they’re local sports fans, most people want to watch teams with the best players. It’s the same way in business. Customers want to work with the most prolific teams.
Obtain New Clients
There are times when someone will come to you, and ask you for X, Y and Z. Maybe you only do X, and maybe they’re one of the few companies with some discretionary income. Perhaps you’re just booked and aren’t willing to give up your weekly time set aside to watch Dexter. (I sure wouldn’t blame you.)
The point is if you’ve honed your craft in your spare time, you’ll get good enough that eventually a client comes along that’s a better fit for your company than your Friday night freelancing. Upselling the potential client often means they still get to work with you (in addition to other smart people) and your boss gets a new client and more money. Everyone’s happy.
Supplement Your Income/Passion/Intrigue
I admit that I’m a frugal freak of nature. If I can’t eat it or read it chances are I don’t buy it. I put nearly everything I make in savings, my Roth IRA or invest. Having a little freelancing income on the side provides me with guilt free spending: a new T-shirt, a 6 pack, a Texas Country Music concert. Maybe you’re saving for a wedding, or your kids’ college fund. It’s always nice to have a little side income – sometimes it prevents you from leaving a job you enjoy for a higher paying job you’ll hate.
I hope you’re doing work you really enjoy, but the statistics dictate that you’d be in the minority. Even if you absolutely love you’re job chances are you have outside interests that don’t overlap with your job duties. What’s the harm in keeping yourself fresh by maintaining a wide variety of interests outside your job, bonus points for earning some spare change. Maybe it’s a cover rock band at the local dive on weekends, maybe it’s writing copy, and maybe it’s babysitting.
Whatever you do, do it because you enjoy it and it supplements your life in such a way that it makes you a more complete person. Typically, those people are high performers at work. There’s a stat somewhere that confirms this, I’m sure of it!
To be fair, Thursday I’ll examine the drawbacks and negative connotation surrounding side jobs.
I know many of you write books, host tweetchats, consult, coach, etc. on the side. How have side projects impacted your career? Enhanced what you do in your day job? What kinds of concerns have your employers expressed? If you don’t do side projects, what’s prevented you? If you work in a big company (Bank of America, Proctor & Gamble, etc.), what’s their stance on outside projects?
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The Case for Side Projects –> http://bit.ly/70R4Al