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Hedge Your Bets Against a Layoff with a Second Full Time Job
Being "overemployed" isn't for everyone, but I have had clients use it to stunt the blow of layoffs, debt, and inflation. Maybe it could help you too.
It was early in the world of pandemic remote work, and Business Insider had an article on being “overemployed,” as in having two (or sometimes more) full-time remote jobs at the same time. The founder of the Overemployed movement Isaac tells his story on his site, essentially that being passed up for promotion sent him looking for other work, and once he got that new job, he decided to work two jobs at the same time. Not only did it help him reach his financial goals faster, but it also helped him hedge his bets against a potential future layoff.
I found the story interesting and passed it on to a former client and a few friends. I enjoyed how the founder encouraged folks to develop a healthier relationship to work. This is essentially my life’s work! I also thought that such stories would send BI readers into a frenzy and send everyone back to the office. After about a month or so, one of my friends reached out to me and said, “I’d like to try this overemployed thing. Think you can help me?” Why, indeed I thought I could. I read the blog posts on Isaac’s site, whatever articles I could find on the subject, made some resume and LinkedIn adjustments, and we went to town.
And it worked! And has worked for the individual for well over a year now. Since then, I’ve helped a dozen folks pursue then manage overemployment. Read on to see if it’s the right fit for you.
So what is overemployment, exactly?
Overemployment is working two or more full time remote jobs at the same time. Think of it as similar to “moonlighting” (great show by the way, have you seen it?), which was having work outside your normal 9 to 5 gig. Overemployment is the same, except you’re working these two jobs at the same exact hours in the day.
That’s gotta be illegal, right?
No, it’s not illegal. It is a contract violation for most employment contracts and could and probably would result in getting fired if one or both of your employers found out (and that has definitely happened to people). It also can get complicated tax wise and with your social security, and one of the benefits of Isaac’s Discord community is being able to have those conversations with other folks who are doing the same thing. (I am not a lawyer.)
It’s kind of ethically murky, isn’t it?
I don’t think so, but let’s work through some ideas around it. From 1979 to 2020, net productivity rose 61.8%, while the hourly pay of typical workers grew far slower—increasing only 17.5% over four decades (after adjusting for inflation). You’re getting more done – far more done – but making less. Where is that money going? In a new study, two researchers Price and Edwards calculated that economic inequality in the United States grew $47 trillion from 1975 through 2018. Folks worked harder and got more done, and that money avalanched up to the richest 1%.
Wow, okay, that’s a lot, but the government gave us a lot of money when the COVID-19 pandemic started. Clearly, we cut into that $47 trillion number, right?
No. No, we did not. In fact, the pandemic resulted in the greatest wealth transfer from lower to upper class in history. The World Inequality Report produced by a network of social scientists estimated that billionaires this year collectively own 3.5% of global household wealth, up from slightly above 2% at the start of the pandemic in early 2020.
What about logistics? Is it hard to work two jobs at the same time?
For the most part, my clients work one job for several months in a row, get the lay of the land, the politics, the personalities, and the people understood before they pursue a second full-time job or what you might call a J2. I think it would be difficult to do that with two places at once. But once you have an understanding of the players and what’s expected of you, it’s much easier to navigate.
Why do you think this helps with layoffs?
Sadly, unemployment does not cover enough for a person to live on, let alone a family. Not everyone is eligible for unemployment either. Combined with severance, if you’re lucky enough to get severance, you might have a few months at best before you would be rather screwed. And if you need your COBRA insurance, you’ve got even less time to get new employment. Whereas if you’re working two full-time jobs at once, you’re still going to be able to maintain your standard of living and take care of your family without the terror.
Who do you recommend this for?
I think being overemployed is worth considering if you’ve done substantial work to separate your identity from your work. If you’re interested in moving to a commerce mode, rather than a capitalist mode, and you’ve started to examine your conditioning, this could work well for you. If you aren’t interested in doing those things or can’t or don’t want to, definitely don’t try this because you will hate yourself and turn yourself into HR. It won’t be worth the effort of getting a second job. And it’s fine if it’s not a fit for you; I couldn’t do it either. #CatholicGuilt follows you everywhere.
I also think this is worth considering if you’re worried about being laid off and want to prep for it, but also don’t want to lose the severance you would get from your current job and be ineligible for unemployment at the new job. I’ve seen that happen, and it sucks.
If you’re interested in pursuing this as an option for yourself and could use a coach for getting the J2 and navigating the interplay of your jobs, check out ways to work with me here.