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Rise of the portfolio career: 2 in 3 young professionals have a ‘side hustle’

Two thirds of professionals under the age of 24yrs claim to have a ‘side hustle’ – with 74% stating it is ‘too risky’ to focus on just having one job as they may have done pre-pandemic.

Two thirds of professionals under the age of 24yrs claim to have a ‘side hustle’ – with 74% stating it is ‘too risky’ to focus on just having one job as they may have done pre-pandemic.

In a poll – of 6,000 white-collar professionals – undertaken by recruitment consultancy Robert Walters; 54% of young professionals expressed a desire for a ‘portfolio career’ – the concept of monetising your skills in several ways and having multiple income sources, rather than a single job at one company.

In fact, 53% of young workers have stated that flexible hours and a hybrid working environment is a must when looking for a job – otherwise it will impact their side-hustle.

Toby Fowlston – CEO of Robert Walters, comments:

“Our survey has found that side-hustles are a priority for young professionals but for too long side-jobs have been considered a ‘dirty secret’ by employers.

“However, I don’t believe this is the right approach. Portfolio careers have long been a go-to for highly experienced professionals who use their knowledge and offer consultancy, training, or advisory services when near or post-retirement.

“If viewed through a different lens, a side hustle or portfolio career for a junior professional showcase’s entrepreneurialism, initiative, innovative thinking, and great project management skills. All characteristics which should be championed by employers.

“For those concerned about employees being distracted it’s worth noting that 70% of Gen Z professionals state that their employer does meet their career expectations, the highest out of any other age cohort. A side hustle does not necessarily mean that an employee is not interested in progressing within their primary job.”

Anxiety rife for young workers

According to the Robert Walters survey of 6,000 professionals, it is 18–24-year-olds (Gen Z) who reported feeling twice as anxious as their more experienced colleagues in the past 18 months around job security, pay, relationships at work, and their mental well-being.

Over past 18 months, COVID-19 has left me feeling anxious / nervous about the following in relation to work:
 18-2455-74
Job Security57%33%
Pay59%27%
Relationship with Manager48%21%
Relationship with Team49%25%
Mental Health & Wellbeing66%36%

Young professionals living pay cheque to pay cheque

When looking into the pay of young professionals, we can see that almost a third of 18–24-year-olds are on a salary band of £16 – £21k. With the largest proportion (25%) being on salaries of £21 – £28K.

For those young professionals that are earning around £28,000 – after tax, national insurance, and student loan repayments – take home can be in the region of £1,800 per month.

When we consider the current cost of living (see chart below), figures show that this cohort of young workers are unable to financially live by themselves – whilst also saving money for the future and investing in a pension for their retirement.

The inability for employers to keep increasing salaries in-line with inflation or cost of living means that the young professionals situation is only worsening, leading them to looking for additional sources of income.

Toby Fowlston adds: “The traditional values of employees holding one job and being bound by moonlighting clauses in their employment contracts needs to be addressed. Employers need to be flexible, and leaders must be empathetic that – for some – a side hustle is not just a passion-project but a necessity.

“I would encourage businesses to have an open mind about their employees’ extra-curricular activities – encouraging them to bring that level of initiative and entrepreneurialism to the workplace.

“Don’t underestimate what value a side-hustle can bring to the day job i.e., a financial advisor having a huge TikTok presence – these skills can be utilised in their day job and become of great value to the company.

“Offer a platform – whether it is allowing them to sell cakes or crafts in the office lobby, host a lunchtime yoga session, or the ability to promote what they do on the intranet or internal notice boards.

“Of course, all of the above needs to be balanced against a strong day-to-day performance at work, offering these opportunities is a privilege that needs to be provided as a result of good employee performance in their day job.”

Cost of Living for a Single Person household per month (source: Wise, Aug 2022)
 LondonManchester
One bed apartment (outside city centre)£1,309£650
Living expenses (excluding rent)£919£728
Total cost of living£2,228£1,378

Beth Harries, Team Support at Robert Walters, started her online shop, with her friend, in lockdown as a fashion passion project and since then earns up to £3k per month – in addition to her fulltime salary. She shares her thoughts on why she has undertaken a side-hustle:

“If I had to summarise it; the primary reason I have the side-hustle that I do is because of my genuine interest and love for vintage, preloved, and designer fashion. Running my online shop on Depop – Faar Collective – feels more like ‘fun’ or a hobby, rather than ‘work!’ The fact that I run the business alongside one of my best friends also makes the side hustle experience much more enjoyable and rewarding.

“The second reason is simply to enhance my skillsets. Marketing & Communications has long been a field that I want to go into, and so I feel having a side-hustle is a great way to build my portfolio of skills and contacts – and is the perfect way to show initiative and personal discipline, whilst also displaying the possession of a range of other transferrable skills.

“Lastly and one that has crept up on me in the last year is the fact that my side-hustle has proven to be a great way to earn an additional income alongside my full-time salary. In the past, this additional income has given me the freedom to be able to save and spend money that I wouldn’t ordinarily have, whilst now the income is helping to diminish any financial pressures that I anticipate may be coming my way.”

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