Consider superman: A diligent newspaper reporter by day, he was also a superhero. On call around the clock for global world-saving duty, he had quite a balancing act.
And remember the Henleys, that comical West Indian family on TV’s In Living Color?? For them, two jobs at any one time was appallingly too few.
Now meet William Thompson. He’s an entrepreneur. And a commercial airline pilot. And a lawyer (and husband and father). Simultaneously. Actively. Enthusiastically. On a day-to-day basis, Thompson makes Superman and the Henleys look almost lazy, especially since, unlike them, Thompson is real.
While everyone thought the Henleys were hysterical back in 1990, today their gung-ho approach to diversified employment makes serious sense. It also requires a serious commitment. Contract workers have multiple employers, but no loyalties. Moonlighters take a second job as a temporary fix to a financial problem. Hobbyists pursue their passions, but generally not for pay. “Parallel careerists,” as they are now called, have a long-term commitment to more than one career. It’s an ultrademanding endeavor, and yet the superman — and superwoman — phenomenon is thriving, according to employment experts. There are four major reasons for the resurgence of what is really an old-time career strategy, especially for African Americans.
The first is, not surprisingly, downsizing. Never before has the wisdom behind not putting all of your eggs in one basket been so obvious. The second is about transitioning from one career to another with minimal risk. Your mother’s advice to never leave one job before you have another is taken to the next level when you simply work at both.
Reason No. 3 is preparation for retirement, which more and more people are beginning sooner than they expected. And, finally, many pursue a second career for therapeutic reasons: to fill free time, broaden skills or fulfill personal goals or dreams they would have otherwise deferred.
While there are no precise numbers, the trend is strong enough to have spawned some new terminology. Experts describe those who undertake parallel careers as developing “simul-talents” and dual professional profiles while — let us not forget — collecting multiple paychecks.
But typically, it’s not the money that drives parallel careerists. More often, it’s the determination to literally be all they can be. (Even a couple of BLACK ENTERPRISE editors manage other full-time careers — one as a teacher, another as a flight attendant.) Make no mistake, however: working two jobs isn’t easy. It demands high levels of energy, organization and enthusiasm; strong time — and stress-management skills; and the ability to negotiate potential conflicts between parallel careers (see sidebar, “Five Steps to Successful Parallel Careers”). Last but not least, it requires some sacrifice of social, vacation, and family time, not to mention plain old free time.
CB Bowman, president and CEO of Career Strategies Inc. in New York, insists that despite the challenges, it’s worthwhile. “Parallel careering is more than a trend,” says Bowman, who keeps five jobs afloat herself. “It’s a realization that this is what you have to do to secure true independence and control over your