Understanding Parallel Careers and Their Consequences

Understanding Parallel Careers and Their Consequences

Parallel careers. Are you familiar with the term? Maybe or maybe not but it is quite common to hear people say they work two or more jobs. Is that what holding parallel careers is? What is it not? Are there consequences?

The concept of having parallel careers refers to having multiple professional careers at the same time. It means working in more than one occupation, simultaneously. The careers may or may not be in the same field and the person in question may be in the position of an employer or an employee. Having a parallel career is different from working two part-time jobs (one primary and the other secondary) to support yourself or having a side hustle. When an individual merely works multiple jobs, he could, for instance, work as security personnel in Company A during the day and at Company B during the night. Or a doctor working at two hospitals. He is just doing the same thing at different places to support himself. This is not the same with parallel careers. Parallel careers all have distinct roles and demand different duties and responsibilities. As the term suggests, the careers are parallel – equally distant from one another at all points. The roles even when they are in the same field, are not similar. Having a parallel career is also different from changing careers because it does not require renouncing the primary career, rather, combining other fields of interest with it. When a person is running parallel careers, he takes every profession seriously. None is a pastime. However, a hobby like singing and acting can become a career if someone decides to take it to the professional level.


Parallel careers are also called slash careers because all the professions combined require time, dedication, and devotion. Managing parallel careers require that all the careers are given attention and none are treated as inferior. A person who has chosen to manage parallel careers is exceedingly variable and ready to get the training, education, skills, and certifications needed to pursue his interests.

What kind of combinations are common for people slashing careers? Any combination you can think of, from regular nine to fivers who are entrepreneurs and own businesses, to teachers who are into real estate, doctors who work in hospitals and also in the corporate firms, lawyers or people who work in law firms but are also musicians or actors.

Why do employees hold parallel careers? Many people are scared of being laid off if they stick with one career and have thus diversified and followed other paths that create employment opportunities for them. Slashing careers becomes a way of ensuring job security and avoiding work insecurity. It becomes a backup plan in case one occupation fails. It could also be a ploy to successfully change careers, to ease from one career to the next. Others do it for financial reasons. It could also be a plan for the future when one of the careers is a retirement plan, something to do when they leave the corporate world. Some people have said that it is a way to put their skills to good use instead of letting them get rusty. The careers they combine will help them develop their skills and learn more especially when their primary place of employment does not require the use of those skills. For some others, it is a way to engage in all fields that draw their interest. For these, having multiple careers is a way of living life to the full and enjoying it, a means to follow their passion and pacify their curiosity and interests. All these reasons sound legit but are there consequences?


Holding down one job in a career field is difficult, not to talk of two or more in different fields. Here are some of the disadvantages parallel career holders have identified:

  • It Can Lead to a Decrease in Employee Loyalty: Try as hard as they may in distributing loyalty between the occupations, it can be hard to make it equal. At a point, one or more of the occupations may suffer, especially the primary job. If you are an employee having parallel careers, it may reduce your dedication to your employer and your tasks and responsibilities in the workplace.
  • It Could be Risky: Although some employers promote parallel careers and nurture diversity a good number of employers do not willingly hire people who combine careers. In some workplaces, it is outrightly forbidden to be employed somewhere else because it is clearly stated in the terms and agreement of employment as a conflict of interest. These employers are concerned that having more than one career could make an employee lose concentration or use the organization’s time to work elsewhere. They are also concerned that after the time and resources spent in hiring an employee, he could leave because of his parallel career. Therefore, when an employer who is explicitly against parallel careers finds out that an employee is flouting the rules, he may take an action like relieving the person of his duties. If the other occupation(s) this employee holds is not able to provide for him financially and take care of his needs, he may be left hanging and without a solid source of income.
  • It is Stressful: The burden of managing multiple careers could make it difficult for some to strike a balance between their occupations and their personal life. While trying to attend to the needs of each career and ensuring that they don’t overlap, a parallel career holder can feel time-pressed. The pressure of managing two or more careers could lead to burnout, bad health, or an unhealthy work-life balance.
  • Challenge in Effectively Managing all the Careers: For a parallel career holder, choosing which tasks to attend to and when can be a big decision. They could have their clients and personal meetings to attend and schedule and also have compulsory meetings and tasks to attend to in another place of employment.


Final Thoughts

Parallel careers have their shortcomings, both on the part of organizations and the individual. However, it is not all negative. It has its advantages and as we have seen from this article, parallel career holders have some strong reasons for managing multiple jobs. Some employers hire and support parallel career holders because they are talented at management, flexible, and have an extensive skill set that can benefit an organization.

However, if you have multiple careers, do not do it to the disadvantage of your health or of any of your employers. Endeavor to strike a balance and maintain a healthy work-life balance.


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