In the late 21st century, numerous cultural career trends emerged in society, shaping the way we work and view the working day. Through shifts in generational behaviours, different demographic groups have been pushing notions of 24 hour working days, cultivating careers out of everyday hobbies and turning the art of work into a political commentary.
Therefore, as ideas of business, work and employment have begun to change, the concept of a ‘side hustle’ is rapidly becoming one of the most popular adoptions of the year.
For generations Y – Z, successful work and employment is something of an achievement, in a way that previous generations have never experienced. Historically for older members of society, a career was something automatic, with more than enough jobs to go around and family businesses securing employment across the country. Yet when it comes to employment, salaries are lower, positions are more competitive, standards of work are higher and desired skills are more niche than ever.
By contrast, a young person holding a successful and happy job at all is considered something of a rarity.
So where does a side hustle come into this? The side hustle is just a distraction from a full-time job, right?
The true significance of a side hustle is shown as a representation of how work is valued by young people. The very need for a second job, a second project, an additional source of income and an extra level of work and dedication summarises the lack of financial and emotional fulfilment a full-time job can provide for millennials in today’s professional environment.
The Aesthetic of A Side Hustle
For the millennial crowd, aesthetic is more than just an attractive outer layer; it’s a deal-breaker for business decisions. Branding, physical appeal and design arguably matter more in the modern business model than the product itself and should be a major part of sales and marketing for all businesses. The side hustle, by its very nature, can be any form of additional monetary income to a full time or part-time job – but the aesthetic connotations of it are what make it so appealing. Spending weekends in coffee shops, networking after hours, stealing moments in your lunch break to edit, update, develop and build your own passion project – it boasts a unique style that inevitably attracts the younger generation of workers.
But the aesthetic of 9-5 work is paling by comparison. The very mention of ‘office work’ to a millennial conjures up grey, dull and lifeless imagery to the brightly brand-focused generation and is often considered as more of a ‘means to an end’ than a fulfilling career opportunity.
The Economic Symbolism of a Side Hustle
The youngest generations grew up through a credit crunch. They were learning about business as the world’s economy was crumbling and they were taught to anticipate a future without financial stability. So they adapted. They adapted to minimum wages and university fees and unwavering debt. It was through this expectation that millennials began to source their own, untraditional methods of earning a living. As prices increased, the idea of surviving on one income alone appeared more impossible than ever, and so the side hustle became a necessity rather than a hobby. For some, yes, the side hustle is a passion project which boosts their personal funds, but for others, it’s a mandatory exercise.
This generation is working more hours than humanly possible and sacrificing socialising for sweating over laptops and learning more about business at 19 than their parents ever would have needed to. Therefore, without a doubt, the side hustle is a symbol of economic change for the worse.
The Corporate Rebellion of the Side Hustle
Over the past ten years, big corporate business models have struggled to reach younger audiences and demographics. From public ethics scandals to internal stories of structural mistreatment and abuse, corporations are facing an almost unconscious attempt at rebellion through the nature of the side hustle. Millennials are boycotting Starbucks in favour of independent organic coffee, they’re buying vintage and second-hand over luxury corporate clothing, and they want ethically sourced and culturally sound products. Corporate brands in cold business blocks and faceless pinstriped suits are rapidly losing their appeal for younger generations.
The side hustle offers up the most convincing evidence of this, as more and more individuals are opting to freelance, work remotely, start their own businesses and ‘go solo’ than work at a corporate brand. Even those who do work for these brands are igniting their own passion projects to boost themselves out of the corporate environment, using these positions as the stepping stone that previous generations would never have even imagined.
The Rising Potential
At its most basic form, the side hustle is a second job. But when you take into consideration the dedication, self-motivation, imagination and creativity being poured into this second job – it becomes something significantly bigger than that. The side hustle is evidence that the youngest generations have the potential to handle more than is expected of them. The route of school, university, job, marriage, children, and death is changing form and young people are proving to the world that they have more potential than anyone predicted.
These generations are working harder, broader, more imaginatively and more determinedly in spite of the restrictions years of tradition have placed on them and there’s nothing more demonstrative than that.
Whilst this generation might not be the next wave of corporate CEOs, they’re the youngest generation of entrepreneurs the world has ever seen and that should never be underestimated.
The side hustle is a beautiful, surprising and significant evolution of work in 2018 and I hope the world is ready to embrace it.