Thursday, February 22, 2024

The rise of the Gen Z side hustle

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A future hallmark

In the new world of work, there are signs that employers are already becoming more accepting of employee side hustles. “Before the pandemic, workers were less open and willing to talk about anything that could potentially divert energy away from their full-time job, even childcare,” says Meyer Grelli. “But now, businesses are more empathetic and receptive to the deeper needs and wants of their workers – and that includes passion projects.” 

Not only could side hustles serve as a retention tool for employers, they can also enable employees to accrue experience and deepen skill sets that are invested straight back into their day job. “A young worker now will have a long career in which they’ll expect to evolve and side hustle,” says Meyer Grelli. “It falls on employers to figure out how to incorporate that into their own growth, rather than avoid or stifle that.” 

In her full-time role, West has recently been promoted as a Gen Z engagement executive – a point of contact for clients looking to reach Gen Z audiences – due in part to her personal brand and freelance work. She believes that side hustles will become more commonplace – and increasingly welcomed by employers. 

“We’re a multifaceted generation: my boyfriend is an accountant and has a sneaker page on Instagram; a friend works in nursing but does photography,” adds West. “Employers that embrace this means they’ll have young workers able to bring their authentic selves to work every day, while providing more skills and clout to the business.”

When done right, a side hustle can be fulfilling, providing workers a variety of experiences, skill sets and sources of income that heighten their career achievements. The caveat is that it could lead to overworking – but West says her 50-hour workweeks are worth it. “I’m passionate about my side hustles so it feels more like fun than ‘work’. Plus, I know it will benefit my future, so I’m willing to put the work in.”

As more of Gen Z enter the workforce, side hustles are likely to become more normalised – and perhaps will one day be a workplace expectation.

“There has been a fundamental shift in what a career looks like since the pandemic, particularly among younger workers,” says Frankum. “What motivates and drives young workers is often doing multiple things, being more purposeful in the workplace and continuing to learn – all of which can be achieved through a side hustle.”

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