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Career Column - Something on the side

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I have an architect friend who I admire for his passion about his work. After analyzing his career, I’ve decided his unwavering career enthusiasm can be largely attributed to his propensity to take on side projects. New possibilities are the best way to reinvigorate the work weary. The size and complexity of projects can vary and don’t necessarily need to be directly related to your industry. Committing to just one short side project a month is often all it takes to shake off career fatigue. Side gigs also provide supplemental income, strengthen resumes, and grow professional networks.

The greatest obstacle to overcome and successfully take on extra work is to stop thinking of it as “extra work.” Side projects shouldn’t be thought of as something in addition to your chosen career; they are integral to your career development. We tend to describe ourselves in terms of industries and titles, but these are broad and lump bearers together. It’s what we do on the side that sets us apart. Side projects are a great way to showcase adaptability and enthusiasm, in addition to new technical skills you may not have the opportunity to demonstrate in the course of your regular work. The trick is to choose projects you are excited about and that challenge you. Be careful to choose projects that can be easily managed along with other life demands. It’s easy to give up, when we become overwhelmed. A boneyard of unfinished projects will not impress anyone.

For the very busiest of us, a side project might be writing a brief article on occasion. A colleague has recently sparked my interest in blogging and freelance writing. At her behest to further research the matter, I’ve discovered a surprising number of ads requesting articles on every subject imaginable. If writing isn’t for you, share your passion by teaching a class. Many community centers and organizations pay instructors for courses designed to enrich the lives of community members. Find an organization that would benefit from your expertise, and pitch them a course idea. Once you begin taking on side projects, finding future project will become easier. Until then, you might check out the “gigs” section of craigslist and similar sites, but always be sure to exercise discretion and be on the lookout for scams. Many of the posts will offer payment for the work to be performed, while others will ask for volunteers. Don’t discount these projects; they may lead to something more fruitful. Even if you never earn any money directly, the added value to your resume will increase your earning potential.

Stephanie McWilliams is Director of Career Services at Charter College, Fife Campus. She can be reached at (253)252-4232 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).