Meet Jim. He’s an avid video game player, TV consumer, and internet surfer. He works his unfulfilling day job, pays his bills, and has a relatively stable life. He looks forward to the weekend, dreads mondays, and grabs the occasional pint with friends during the week. He’s interested in watching sports, but not playing them, never having excelled in any particular area. One day, Jim’s company has found a way to eliminate his “stable” job from their equation as they try to remain competitive. What is Jim to do?
To contrast Jim, let’s look at Karen. Karen also has an unfulfilling job, but in her spare time, she loves playing video games. She reviews, explains, and critiques the games she likes by uploading YouTube vidoes. She also watches TV avidly and writes fan fiction using the characters from the shows she watches. On the internet, she watches videos on how to make better YouTube videos, and how to optimize her videos to expand her viewership. Karen is also let go from her unfulfilling job.
Who is in the better situation, and why?
I think it’s clear that Karen is the better of the two. Sure, they’re both equally unemployed, but she’s been side-hustling – the activity formerly known as moonlighting. She hasn’t been paid very much, if at all, for her side efforts, but she has developed valuable skills along the way. Maybe even a following.
Both Jim and Karen have parallel hobbies at their root. The primary difference is that one took an active role, while the other was passive. Having tried both routes, I’ve found that pure consumption tends to come with depression, while purpose and satisfaction spring from producing something and improving one’s abilities. (For more on this particular topic, I suggest looking up Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.)
Despite Jim and Karen’s similarity, the quality of time spent on their endeavours was vastly different. Karen learned how to record, edit, and produce videos, as well as how to appear on camera. She developed her ability to write, particularly fiction, by borrowing beloved characters she was already familiar with. In addition, she also spent her time online thinking about how to improve in her skills.
Hobbies and Hustles
The difference between a passive hobby and a passionate side-hustle is that the latter is something you push yourself to constantly improve in, producing valuable products or skills over time. As Cal Newport said in his book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You, passion is rare. It is not something you stumble upon and instantly recognize. It is something that you endure criticism and pain for, which brings us to the root of the word passion: to suffer.
The case I’m making here is that practicing and working to improve at something – anything – in a conscious way is better than simply relaxing, and passively consuming the efforts of others. Even simply reviewing the things you consume can allow you to practice structuring your ideas. That in itself is a worthwhile endeavour.
The Future of Resumes
Gary V, a social media expert, forecasted in his book Crush it that the resumes of today will be a thing of the past. Our ability to get the attention of employers and talent scouts will be from our online presence alone. Our personal brand is the most important thing to us right now, regardless of our profession. We need to find a way to make it stand out, especially while we’re still employed.
If our employment falls out from under us, the person with the better network and social presence can tweet that they’re a free agent, then maybe a business developer or talent scout will offer them a position. It’s a long shot, but between Jim and Karen, who is more likely to pull off this stunt?
“But side-hustles can be expensive!” people protest, “They don’t pay enough!”
There are plenty of free ways to start. The perk you get from the side-hustle might be something other than money. The benefit could be self-expression, cutting your teeth at a skill, or simply putting yourself out there to meet like-minded individuals.
To drive home the point, this article on linkedin claims that 85% of jobs are filled through networking. One guy even went so far as to make a bot that applied to thousands of jobs to no avail. One thing he did learn was that cover letters are largely ignored until the company’s keyword filter has chosen you, if you’re so lucky.
Ultimately, it’s up to us, the “lazy, entitled” generation to figure out how to navigate these stormy seas of employment, carving out a career for ourselves. The previous generation sure as hell isn’t going to do it for us.
Flow – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (1990)
So Good They Can’t Ignore You – Cal Newport (2012)
Crush it – Gary Vaynerchuk (2009) (His website)