Moonlighting Your Way to a New Career

By Paula Santonocito

You’re considering a new career, but you’re reluctant to immerse yourself full time. Why not test the waters first?

Following a Different Path

Changing careers can be tricky, especially for a single-minded woman. Unless you have the luxury of a large savings account, finances are a major consideration. The bills come every month and must be paid. It can be difficult enough to keep up with rising gasoline, heating oil, and food prices without upsetting the balance further by taking a chance on a new career.

Still, if you find yourself returning again and again to thoughts of working in another field, there’s probably a reason.

It could be that you just can’t shake your childhood dream, and you feel it is your true calling. Or, you might have recently discovered a new area that sparks a lot of interest. On the other hand, your motivation may be a long-time hobby that you realize has career potential.

Interest in an alternative career may be related, at least in part, to your current job. It could be you feel bored or underutilized in your present role.

Then again, it might have nothing at all to do with your current job. It could simply be time for a change.

Fortunately, change doesn’t have to be an all or nothing proposition. When at the proverbial fork in the road, it’s acceptable to go for a drive without committing to the journey.

Exploring Your Options

Today, there are many ways to explore a new career path, but one of the most popular is moonlighting because it allows for firsthand experience.

Basically, moonlighting involves working at another job, typically at night or on weekends, when you’re not working for your primary employer.

Because the potential exists for conflict of interest, be sure to check your employer’s policy with regard to moonlighting. Your company will be concerned about proprietary technology, trade secrets, its vendor and customer contacts, and other matters that have the potential to impact its business.

For example, if you’re a software developer for one firm, it’s unlikely that your company will find it acceptable for you to develop software for your own purposes or that of another organization. You’ve probably already signed a non-compete agreement to this effect. On the other hand, if you’re a software developer who wants to moonlight as a chef, it’s doubtful a company policy would prevent it.

Keep in mind that while moonlighting often involves a paying job, non-paying experience can also allow you to explore career options.

For example, if you’re considering a career in nursing or a patient care field, like medical imaging, you may want to first volunteer at a hospital or patient care facility to see how you respond to the environment. Likewise, a career working with young children may seem like it would be fun, but you might want to find out if you have the stamina and patience required by first volunteering to assist at a daycare or school.

Showing You the Way

When it comes to checking out a potential career, moonlighting can be, well, enlightening.

By the light of the moon (if indeed you work at night), you see whether a career is right for you.