Everyone who knows me, knows that I am a work-a-holic. I hate this term, as it is associated with alcoholic (sometimes in more ways that just spelling) and it implies that you have an unhealthy addiction to your work. While I am sure that is the case with many people, some of us, myself included, have simply a passion for what we do, combined with a healthy work ethic. This should not be an object of ridicule, but something to be admired. Our tenacious quest to keep working on what inspires us is not a sickness, but a raison d’etre.
Many things inspire me and define the topics that I have studied in my career: technology, kids, pop culture and their individual and combined impacts on people. Other things have also driven me in my career, but are more abstract. They have had just as much, if not more of an impact on my career path: passion for seemingly everyday tasks, pride in a job well done, blind faith, loyalty.
I say all of this to lead to the point of my post – why I always have a part time job (and why when I don’t, I am not “all there”.)
Of course, not too long ago, the part time jobs were always overtly held to supplement income. As my income grew to manageable levels with my primary job, I would always quit the secondary job, thinking that it’s purpose was now mute. Strangely, though, I always found myself drawn to large volunteer projects or another part time job within a year of leaving the last. I finally realized that the part time job was less about the money for me, and more about the escape and release from the primary job.
For me, having a part time job acts as an external temperature check. I do not have kids or a house that I own, so outside of my friends, I like having something outside of my work to help me focus. Having a place to go where
the to-do list of my primary job is not in question helps me from getting too immersed in the primary job. I micro-manage less, carry less stress and am usually able to be more creative when I have that release.
There are other things that part time jobs offer me that I only discovered after really thinking about it. Of course, many of these can be achieved with hobbies and volunteering, but for now, I find the part time job is able to achieve all of them simulateously and easily:
– Perspective on the average person/consumer – too many times, working in an office, one looses sight of who the end consumer is. I make sure my part time jobs are always customer service related so I am always engaging with the public and being reminded who I am truly working for (especially with online community and marketing work). It’s like I am allowed to practice my participant observation techniques I learned in grad school on a weekly basis – and keep them sharp for when I need to use them for a job. I can also ask real people questions about their lives and make sure that I am not becoming too immersed in just my own life.
– Humility – Part time jobs come with part time pay. Once the pay became a mute point of why I was there,
I was able to take a look at my co-workers for whom the pay was not at all a mute point. This humility to never take for granted my successes is so powerful. It is also a reminder that I can survive, no matter what I am doing.
– Management techniques – I really love managing teams. It’s possibly because I was the oldest in my immediate and extended family and we were all raised rather communally. Regardless, anytime I can get a tip on how better help my team I will take it. I have had the GREAT fortune of working at some of the highest rated companies for employee satisfaction and I have taken mental notes of all of their proven tactics for success. My ability to lead and inspire is a direct function of the great part time managers I have had. That said, I have also worked for companies who did not care for their employees well being at all – or even worse – gave only lip service to their corporate values. Good or bad, the more lessons I can learn from these part time jobs, the better manager I become myself.
– Friendships – I love networking, but friends are better. I have made some of my best friends from my part time jobs. Maybe it’s the camaraderie born from doing the daily grind sorts of tasks together. Maybe it’s the novelty of realizing that even though your career paths are different, your personalities can still mesh. Whatever it is, this is one of the best benefits from part time jobs I have had, bar none.
Again, I love the extra fun money I make and the discounts on products I like to buy is never a bad thing. But I wanted to defend my choice of holding part time jobs once and for all, in a thoughtful and explained manner. Sure, my part time jobs have and will probably morph into more volunteer work in the future. But I cherish the time, lessons, sanity and friendships these jobs have afforded me over the years. If that makes me a work-a-holic, then I wear the moniker with pride.