Dual employment: Where the new age IT career is headed?

Lately, there has been an increasing trend of employees taking up a paid consultant position while being part of another organization full-time. This has become so common that it’s currently found as a norm. This is greatly changing the work culture and could shape the future of employment in this industry. We will be discussing this and some of my first-hand experiences and my take on it.

What is it?

So, what is this dual employment ?.

This is the rising trend where a full-time employee of one organization with niche skills ( or any skill on demand ) actively takes up a second source of income by means of consulting with a different organization with the intention of utilizing the off-hours and weekends.

How did this trend start?

This is not actually a novel concept or trend. It has been there for a pretty long time where people with specific skills used to consult for other organizations. Some of them were full-time consultants who effectively divided their time between the jobs and a small part of them were doing consultation after work hours. Some of the reasons for this trend and the current popularising could be summarized as below:

  1. Already existing consultation practices where people with knowledge of specific systems ( say Oracle, SAP, SalesForce ) were actively consulting outside of the full-time job for earning extra money.
  2. Underpaid work conditions in the IT industries of India and other countries where the cost of living in a tech city is high but the payment is not up to the skill.
  3. There are a plethora of sites that offer part-time and freelancing work that connects the employees to employers.
  4. Due to the high cost of a full-time resource with a specialized skill, small organizations tend to offer consultation on an hourly basis as it’s more affordable to them for smaller projects.
  5. The recent upsurge is due to the Covid-19 lockdown that has provided the employees with a better work-life balance as there is no travel involved.
  6. Employees who started from a free-lancer profile with the connections.

Impact

Let’s see how a dual employment scenario can affect the life and career of an employee.

The Positives

  1. Extra income
    This is the single most significant reason for the majority of employees to do external consultation. For some, this could give an extra breather for survival, and for others, it could be just an additional income that they could invest or use to improve their lifestyle.
  2. Extra skills and exposure
    Many take up a consultation as an avenue for acquiring new skills and also break from the dullness of the day job if it’s uninteresting ( or that it doesn’t require much skill based on your knowledge). The employee also gets recognition and connection to the consulting organization and could even end up getting an offer from them.
  3. Break from routine
    There are some who consults on things that are not related to their career at all ( maybe like teaching a life skill, music, or any other hobbies you are good at ). This is considered as an escape from a tiring day.

The Negatives

  1. Affecting the performance of full-time job
    This is a major concern if you are new to this consultation and taking up a consultation without communicating proper availability and timelines could make this seep into your day job and affect the performance there. If the consultation project is reaching a critical release level and you are supporting it solely, you may have the pressure from there and may end up taking it up during the day job as well. This can get noticed in your current organization.
  2. Work-life balance goes for a toss
    Even if you have an 8-hour strict job ( that barely happens in IT !! ), once you take up a consultation, it will demand at least 2 to 3 hours every day and maybe on the weekends as well. This can easily derail your life balance if you are not someone who knows how to manage stress ( and the clients !! ). Moreover, your consultation could be an extension of what you do on the day job, and repeating the same thing in a different form could also be more tiring. Working on weekends could also make you end up like a zombie in the office on Monday where you will be feeling zero energy thus affecting your creativity.
  3. Split commitment and quality of work
    A consultation requires you to split your commitment on a daily basis ( if you take up consulting on a daily basis ). You will sub-consciously plan time and estimate for the full-time job with consideration to the tasks that are in the consultation or leaving some room or buffer for it. Also, when you are doing the same thing without any break, your overall creativity can be affected and all these things can be noticed by someone who can measure your productivity. This could end up with a bad reputation in the organization.
  4. Not in the resume
    You won’t be able to put the parallel consultation in a resume ( unless you are a full-time consultant or is having a similar agreement with all the organizations ). Some organizations may consider the parallel consultation as a deterrent for quality work and may not consider the resume itself. So consultation can fetch you money and some extra skills in your field, but it’s not something you can boast about on a resume.

Where is it headed?

This is a rising trend and if you take anyone with skill and some 4+ years experience, they will be doing some kind of consultation. Some may be working only for some days and others only during the weekends. This can come as a concern to the employers when it affects the productivity of the employees.

There could also be some adverse effects to the industry as a whole when this becomes a norm. As the consultants are readily available, more and more small organizations may start employing them on an hourly basis as that is cost-effective. These organizations may continue on this model and can effectively reduce the full-time workforce. This may not affect the experienced employees, but reduce the opportunities for freshers as skilled consultants are cheaply available for the task at hand.

Also, need to note that in many cases, dual employment is a breach of contract between employee and employer. More so when the consultation is with a competing organization. So some organizations may come hard on these practices and handle this legally when they find that dual employment is practiced.

When this becomes widely common, there is even a chance that the organizations will consider all these factors while deciding the industry standard salary as well as the general employee availability. IT industry is very unpredictable largely flexible. Time only can tell how this will pan out to be for the employee and organizations.

Balancing it all

I am personally someone who engages with consultants who follow these dual employments. I have seen some of them struggling with timelines and others who handle it very gracefully and professionally.

If at all you need to take up dual employment, maybe due to the reasons of a current underpaid full-time job or other circumstances where you don’t breach any contracts, I suggest following the below points for a manageable balance. Some of these points I took from my own experience engaging with seasoned consultants.

  1. Do read up on your current employment contract and ensure that you are not breaching any clauses that can affect your career. This is very important. Remember, a full-time job with a reputed organization is more stable than some extra money from the consultation.
  2. Make sure that you take up the work that does not demand too much energy. If it’s something unrelated to your day job ( like a hobby teaching or something ), it may actually rejuvenate you.
  3. Be clear to the consulting firm about your availability and flexibility beforehand. Ensure that the delivery time-lines do not affect the full-time job in any way and that you will be able to prioritize the full-time job if it requires more attention.
  4. No matter what, make sure to take a day off for winding down and also spending time with family and kids.
  5. If it reaches a level of invading into your daily job, make a choice. Don’t become a bad employee and a lousy consultant at the same time. Remember that, you cannot put your consultant experience in a resume ( unless you are a full-time consultant ) along with your day job. At the moment, it will be considered a threat by the prospective employer. So, the consultant job can only get you money, the experience of it can only be taken as personal.
  6. Never ever take up anything that is directly competing with your full-time organization as it can land you in legal trouble for IP theft and other things.
  7. If you are trying to keep up with technology by doing something other than work, it’s better to take up a personal side project and work on it. You will have the flexibility and also the freedom to use what you want. Finally, this could also be advertised in your resume as an added advantage.

Footnotes

As I specified in multiple instances, how you spend your free time is your decision and completely up to you. But need to consider the effects of the same on yourself, your career, and your family. Personal life and professional work are already two major commitments and need to be very careful when you bring more into the equation and still have it balanced.

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