Gen Z is redefining “side” and “hustle”

Do you have a side hustle? If so, you may be part of a growing movement, especially in Gen Z. In a recent installment in the Washington Post’s Future of Work series, Danielle Abril interviewed young workers who are attending college or holding down full-time jobs while also launching online ventures. Gen Zers are digital natives. Many can remember the 2008 financial crisis and the economic instability of the COVID pandemic, and they’re looking for ways to augment their income or accelerate their career advancement. Because the barriers to entry online tend to be low, it’s easy to get started. Abril quoted Aaron McDaniel, adjunct professor of entrepreneurship and innovation at the University of California at Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. “Now you can easily spin something up. Platforms … help you take a creative outlet and make money.”

One of Abril’s interesting observations is that the grind of holding multiple jobs contradicts the stereotype of Gen Z as unmotivated. In fact, some of the entrepreneurs Abril interviewed cautioned would-be imitators about the challenges of a work week that often runs past 60 hours. Another of Abril’s striking findings is that some entrepreneurs consider their “side hustles” more permanent than their 9-to-5s, even if they have stable, high-paying jobs. Because workers today tend to change jobs and careers frequently, their roles can seem ephemeral. One person Abril interviewed earns six figures as a data analyst and intends to keep working in a corporate environment. When she described her future, however, she didn’t identify as a data analyst. Instead, Abril quoted, “My [personal] brand is what’s going to be with me my whole life.”

As a Colby student curious about starting your own venture, you have at least two advantages. The Halloran Lab for Entrepreneurship is an on-campus resource where would-be founders can connect with one another and resident experts. At the same time, the Mule Network includes hundreds of active entrepreneurs eager to pay it forward, and DavisConnects has put together tip sheets to help you get started today.

[Not a regular Washington Post reader? Keeping abreast of career-related news is a good practice, especially for interviews! Remember that students, staff, and faculty have access through the Colby Libraries.]

By Damon Yarnell
Damon Yarnell Dean of Student and Global Advancement