Is Moonlighting in your future?

Last week I was asked to make a guest appearance on a radio show based out of New York. In addition to me, there was a second guest who had recently started her own business while remaining fulltime with her current employer.

The other guest bought a franchise to start her life as an entrepreneur. Together with her husband, she had created a new enterprise locally in New York and New Jersey while continuing with her existing job and role in corporate America. A senior IT exec by training, she decided to do something that was more in sync with her personal passions, which in her case had to do with a love of animals. She’d taken a big step from being concerned about the day to day issues of software development and requirements.

My role on the show was to talk about what causes someone to want to move into a new job and leave an existing relationship which so far has been (at least from all appearances) satisfactory. Additionally, I was asked to provide some ideas about how one could to do so while remaining at their current job.

In my experience, moonlighting is a lot more prevalent than most employers understand. It seems that there are a lot of part time entrepreneurs out there working at businesses and start-ups without the knowledge of their supervisors or the HR Department.

In most cases, people moonlight because they realize it’s going to take some time to develop an income stream sufficient to pay their bills. So they keep doing what their doing “full time” while they get their own business up to speed so they can quit their existing job.

What are the key reasons for people moonlighting?

  • They don’t trust their employer. The specter of a layoff or being outsourced is a real concern.

  • They want to take more control over their own fortune and success. Most self employed people report greater feelings of satisfaction.

  • They feel underemployed. And there’s a difference between job enlargement and job enrichment. It’s not all about just piling on more work.

  • They want to do something which is more aligned with their own personal values and passions.

  • It can be an excellent way to move into a new life with minimal risk.

Are you a prospective moonlighter? Are there a few working on your team right now?

I was asked during the interview if someone should disclose to their full time employer when they have a moonlighting job. The answer is clear – it depends.

In the case of the woman above, she had a husband who could run her franchise without any loss of productivity to her employer company. In that case, she should tell her boss about it. It wasn’t going to impact her ability to perform her fulltime role, and full disclosure is always a good thing when it won’t be used against you. On the other hand, if your moonlighting venture is going to take time away from the place that is paying for your full time and attention; then it may not be your best idea to let the employer know about your side business. They’ll probably tell you to cease and desist. And although they may not have the legal justification to mandate it; companies can take steps to ensure that you get the message and discontinue.

Either way, it’s important to recall that the computer you are using, the email system you are communicating through and the other tools of the trade are probably all their property. Your employer can check what you are doing at anytime.