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Does your career need a side gig?

by Brought to you by ACS Careers
October 6, 2019 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 97, Issue 39


Illustration of a person juggling many tasks.
Credit: Shutterstock
What's your side hustle?

Many people now have a side hustle: an activity that provides a second source of income, as well as an outlet for a different side of their personality. Whether it’s tutoring or selling handmade bowls, each class of side gig will have its own advantages and disadvantages.

Creating. While science has many creative aspects, many scientists need more of an artistic outlet. Maybe you express your creativity through photography, woodworking, pottery, or textile arts. The rise of online marketplaces such as eBay, Etsy, and others makes it easy to sell your handiwork and at least offset some of the costs of your materials. However, it does mean that you need to be willing to part with your product and to take criticism from the public. You can either make what you want and see if it sells or take custom orders.

Socializing. Maybe your day job is spent at the lab bench and doesn’t involve a lot of interaction with others. A side job working as a docent at a science museum, coaching a sports team, or conducting science demos for youth organizations can be a great way to share your love of science (or sport) and get some human contact.

Educating. Most graduate students are also teaching assistants at some point—an institutionally supported side hustle. If you enjoy teaching, you could be an adjunct instructor at a local institution or provide private tutoring to high school or college students. Either way, you will learn the material, but being an adjunct requires commitment to a fixed schedule, while tutoring is often more flexible. Another option would be to teach your native language or home-country culture at a community college.

Consulting. Maybe you’re a senior chemist thinking about downshifting your career. Starting a consulting business on the side can be a great way to build up your clientele, reputation, and expertise over an extended period.

Learning. Maybe you want to improve your business skills, but that’s not possible in your current job. A side hustle doing direct sales of a product you believe in can provide a great education in marketing, customer service, and competition.

Earning. If you just need extra income, you can join an existing platform as part of the gig economy. Register as a Lyft or Uber driver, rent out an extra room through Airbnb, or run errands through TaskRabbit.

Caveats. No matter what type of side hustle you are considering, do your due diligence before committing. First, make sure it is allowed by your current employer and will not interfere with your responsibilities there. Then, thoroughly research considerations such as financial arrangements, insurance, obligations, and expectations, and talk to people who are currently doing that side hustle. Review all the applicable regulations, commitments, and investments (time or money). Decide if your endeavor is going to be a hobby or a business; each has different tax implications.

In the end, the money, satisfaction, and skills that you acquire from the side gig should exceed what you’d get if you spent that time doing something else.

Get involved in the discussion. The ACS Career Tips column is published the first week of every month in C&EN. Post your comments, follow the discussion, and suggest topics for future columns in the Career Development section of the ACS Network (


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