On a recent binge of “Married at First Sight” on Discovery+ (don’t judge me, it’s a pandemic), I found myself captivated by Season 11’s Bennett Kirschner.
Besides the fact that he regularly wears a puke green dress to bed, I was intrigued by his 9-to-5 — or should I say 95 — jobs. A king of hyphens, the New Orleans resident managed to run a theater company, drive a pedicab, build a tiny home, perform in a band, be a freelance writer and more. My reality TV session (hey, count that as another job for Kirschner!) got me thinking: How common is rejecting full-time jobs in favor of taking on various gigs at once?
Turns out, it’s increasingly common. In fact, there’s even an entirely new professional social network devoted to it, Polywork, and its research indicates the trend is just getting started.
Three-quarters of the Americans between the ages of 21 and 41 that they polled say they do up to 10 types of professional work concurrently. With more than half of the respondents saying they crave a more exciting professional life, only 35 percent of respondents plan to stick to a single job for the course of their careers.
So, what’s it take to pull off polywork? Here, some who are juggling a veritable Barnum & Bailey work-life share their stories and tips for success.
This 28-year-old entrepreneur is the co-founder and managing director of startup consulting agency JJ Studio. We’re a bit dizzy from all of the other jobs she currently holds, but they include real estate investor, house flipper, securities investor, angel investor and executive MBA student.
She attributes her polywork chops to her time at Uber, where up until 18 months ago she was holding the roles of head of central operations, general manager of Chicago, head of sales, head of HR and program manager. “I lost my job at Uber due to the pandemic and had the opportunity to reinvent myself,” she said.
She loves the fact that she is now able “to diversify away any risks, always find something exciting to do and find synergies between all the things I work on, leading to an overall far more happy and balanced life.”
She employs five virtual assistants and attributes her success to her excellent delegation skills. “It’s impossible to do it all yourself if you’re doing multiple jobs,” she said.
This 42-year-old native New Yorker now resides in San Jose, Calif., where he spearheads product design at Netflix. In addition, Morris moonlights as a podcaster, an investor, a DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) advocate, an adviser and more. Currently, he has five different income sources and up to 20 opportunities in motion.
In college, Morris managed to drive cars at the airport, work in a bagel shop, cut hair and help build Web sites, so it hasn’t been much of a leap to become the Silicon Valley Morris of All Trades.
Polyworking keeps Morris ticking because “it means I’m not putting all my eggs in one basket and can maximize the opportunities that come my way.”
He encourages inspiring multi-careerists to consider: “I would rather try these different opportunities as I’m fortunate to have them, and I know they will not always be there, so I want to be able to say I tried, and it worked, or it didn’t.”
Dipping your toes into an experience that isn’t a good fit can be valuable, since you can rule it out from your career path before you get too entrenched.
For this 47-year-old Upper East Sider, her hybrid career is well suited for her multitude of interests, and keeping her eggs in multiple baskets has been something she’s done since she started working.
In addition to being the CEO and founder of her own PR firm, she’s also a keynote speaker, a podcaster and an author.
And as if that’s not enough, in the fall, she’ll be enrolling at Pepperdine University Graduate School to pursue a master’s degree in psychology, mainly for use in her writing and keynoting, but she also aspires to open a small practice to treat clients as another act.
Why does she loves wearing so many hats?
“You are always enriched,” she said. “You have a variety of financial sources and often the fields and positions can be fruitful to one another.”She finds downtime on a consistent basis to be “boring,” and though she concedes it to be necessary, simply prefers “to be productive with [her] time.”
To stay on top of her A-game, Barnett stresses the importance of always staying super organized. “Focus on deadlines — those tasks are most important — and figure out which of the positions is the most lucrative (for me, that’s my p.r. firm) and that is where your emphasis should always remain.”
She also predicts that in the wake of the pandemic, this kind of career provides more security than traditional full-time work. But, she cautions the polywork-curious to add one task at a time.
“Make sure you have those responsibilities under control before you add on more jobs,” she said. “The last thing you want is to burn out or, worse yet, fail, so take it one bite at a time.”
A 28-year-old Brooklynite, whose 9-to-5 job is managing e-commerce businesses with a focus on marketing and sales growth, Connelly said that “working multiple jobs is ingrained in the culture here in NYC. Whether by necessity or by choice, most people here are real hustlers chasing their dreams. I work multiple jobs because I truly enjoy working — creating and/or growing businesses.”
Connelly is also the co-founder of Stellar Villa, a custom pet portrait and wall art brand. On top of this, he also does digital marketing on the side. You may think the young entrepreneur is exhausted, but it’s all smiles for him.
“By working many jobs across multiple fields and industries, I believe you learn so much more than if you just worked a single job,” he said, noting that things you learn from one position may be relevant skills you can apply toward succeeding at another one.
“You can never have too much knowledge.”