Hiring? Why Side Hustles Make For Better Job Candidates

Side hustles are everywhere. That scarf you bought on Etsy may have been knitted by an engineer. Your Uber driver may also teach high school down the street. The “gig economy” is so impactful right now that NPR named it one of the biggest buzzwords of 2016.

Despite all that attention, side hustles can leave hiring managers a little fuzzy about the relevance of these extra “gigs.” And as you sift through applications, you’re likely to find hybrid professionals who invest in their careers while pursuing side projects.

When you come across one of these examples, what is the takeaway? Does a side hustle mean an applicant is less serious about their 9-5 job? Will they be less likely to commit to the work? We don’t think so. In fact, we think candidates with side hustles are likely to be better at their jobs.

To explain why, we're taking a deep dive into the relevance of side hustles to the recruitment process, with tangible examples from Boston professionals.

So, What’s a Side Hustle?

A side hustle is a passion project or part-time job that someone pursues outside of their 9-5. This gig may put a person’s job skills to another use, or it could require a completely different set of characteristics and experiences.

Side gigs are as diverse as moonlighting as an Airbnb host or 3D-printing custom Star Wars miniatures. Anything you can think of, you can turn into a side hustle. The common denominator between these different activities is that each project contributes something to the lives of professionals that they just don’t get in their day job.

Although some people start their side gigs with the intention of turning them into full-time jobs, lots of career professionals do it just because they love it. These folks are motivated by their passion for the work — and sometimes, the extra income, too.

Three Examples of Career Professionals with Side Hustles

The best news about side hustles is there’s no right way to do it. Professionals can choose the right gig and level of commitment without becoming overwhelmed by extra demands on their time. Ideally, these activities bring a sense of meaning (and extra skills) that rub off on a day job.

To give you a better sense of how this symbiotic relationship works, we highlighted three outstanding Boston professionals who are committed to their careers — and adventures outside of their day jobs:

Maxwell Kaplan, CPA | Auditor at the MBTA

At first glance, Max Kaplan seems like a traditional CPA. He works as an auditor at the MBTA with 10 years in the industry under his belt. Based on his chosen career, you would never guess that Kaplan also runs Boston-based events newsletter FOMO Rx.

Kaplan’s side business creates a curated social calendar for up-and-coming professionals in Boston. By signing up for his newsletter, you get a weekly dose of top events in Boston delivered to your inbox.

Although this side hustle couldn’t be more different than his day job, they both serve the local Boston community Kaplan knows and loves. Professionals who are interested in breaking out of their day-to-day should consider taking on something completely different like Kaplan. These new experiences may bring a fresh perspective to the professional grind.

Anne Tucci | VP of Customer Success at Mavrck

Not all side hustles are for-profit endeavors. Some professionals choose to dedicate their spare time to meaningful volunteer projects that enhance their lives — and their skillsets. Anne Tucci begins her day working as the VP of Customer Success at Mavrck, where she manages her team and helps grow this thriving startup.

Tucci balances her time at Mavrck with volunteer work at two organizations close to her heart: Boston Ballet and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. She draws on her love of the arts as an Executive VP at the Boston Ballet Volunteer Association and as a member of the Ballet’s Young Partners Council. A dancer by training, Tucci immerses herself in the ballet world while managing a rigorous career in the startup world.

Tucci not only dedicates her time to Boston Ballet; she also trains and runs as part of Brigham and Women’s Stepping Strong Marathon Team. After finishing the Boston Marathon in 2013 — and a subsequent accident that left her seriously injured — Tucci was determined to run again to raise funds for innovative trauma care and research at the hospital.

Tucci summarizes her work-life balance: “I'm usually doing one of these three things — at Mavrck, Boston Ballet, or training for the marathon — if I'm not sleeping.” Professionals who want to cultivate a deep sense of meaning can benefit from setting aside time to give back to their communities.

Jay Acunzo | “Unthinkable” 

Jay Acunzo is a force to be reckoned with in the Boston startup community. For three years, he was VP of Platform for the stage-seed VC firm NextView Ventures. In his day job, Acunzo led content production while helping the company’s 55+ startups hone their go-to-market strategies. Now he’s become their Creative in Residence while he focuses on two side hustles that have become full-time gigs.

These days, Acunzo travels the country as a keynote speaker, inspiring marketers and tech leaders with his no-nonsense approach to breaking convention. The same ethos drives his award-winning podcast "Unthinkable," where Acunzo overturns assumptions about the marketing world.

Although Acunzo’s day job was distinct from his two side hustles, each piece of the puzzle built on his passion for marketing to real people and transcending cookie-cutter ideas. Professionals who adore their chosen career should think about creating a dynamic side gig (or two) that cultivates their skills and presence in the industry. Who knows - it may become a long-term career move!

Why Hiring Managers Should Look for Candidates with Side Hustles

Professionals like Kaplan, Tucci and Acunzo all have one thing in common. By investing in meaningful activities outside of work, they exhibit initiative, creativity, motivation, and a willingness to take on more responsibility.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that side activities contribute to a better work-life balance. As Kevan Lee at Buffer writes: 

We work hard so we can spend more, and the more we spend, the harder we work. Side projects and creative hobbies help stop this cycle and nurture a more creative and fulfilling version of down time.

This sense of greater purpose can often translate directly to the workplace. In fact, research indicates that creative hobbies can have a positive impact on job performance when compared to passive activities like watching TV or playing video games.

Tucci, for example, draws on the lessons from her post-injury marathon training on a daily basis:

The marathon and my injury are usually on my mind most days, but I find that I draw on the experience a lot as a source of strength — as a reminder of what it means to be part of something so much bigger. It guides me when professional life is a little more difficult or when I’m like ‘What is the meaning behind what I’m doing?’

Because these professionals willingly take on challenges outside of work, they can also draw on a deeper reservoir of internal strength when facing setbacks on the job. Quite simply, they’re dynamic in their roles, adapting and overcoming situations to reach the best possible outcome.

Although the “hobbies and interests” portion of an applicant’s resume is at the very bottom, give it a deeper look. By assessing a candidate’s side hustles and volunteer projects, you can gain key insights into the individual. More so than any job description or award, these activities give you a glimpse into someone’s character, tipping the scales toward a better hire.