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Why Millennial 'Side Hustles' Can Benefit Your Mental Health

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Many experts agree that millennials differ from previous generations for a variety of reasons: in general we are more tolerant and less prejudicial, tend to have more optimistic views about the future and our expectations, respond better to more flexible scenarios at respective workplaces, score higher on self-esteem and positive self-views and also value our own happiness and work-life balance over corporate loyalty. Some of these characteristics are highly frowned upon by employers from previous generations, causing them to perceive millennials as “entitled,” “narcissistic” and “lazy.” But, as with everything in life, there are two parts to this story.

Let’s explore a brief recap on the existing generations, and how the term (and relevance of) “work-life balance” has shifted throughout the years. According to Psychology Today, when we analyze Baby Boomers, for example, we can learn they have very traditional values: they tend to follow rules, put work life as the highest of priorities, respond better to structured workplaces and firmly believe in corporate loyalty. Generation X, are typically characterized by pursuing their careers prior to “settling down.” This was the first generation to show some interest towards work-life balance, and their general worldview is based on change.  Millennials have redefined the workplace, often have a need to “want it all,” are driven for success, but are often clumsy regarding interpersonal skills — this due to the overload of technological stimulation. Last, but not least, we are getting to know Generation Z, the most digitally adept generation of all: they don’t know a world without technology, are even more driven than previous generations to finding independent success, but also have a very short attention span and low tolerance for frustration.

It’s important to look back (and forward) on what this means for the workplace, but more importantly, what this means for the current and future generation’s mental health. We are noticing that as generations continue to move forward, the traditional “workplace rules” and the feeling to be a part of a bigger corporation for financial safety, has been losing its power over the feeling of “being your own boss.” Now, what does this mean in a bigger spectrum? A variety of things may happen — on both sides of this coin. For corporations, this may mean they will need to create a more flexible workplace, putting their focus on results rather than time spent in the office. But, what does this mean for millennials?

The psychology of millennials explored previously has given us some insight as to what many millennials value: happiness, self-worth, self-esteem, flexibility and recognition. The reality is the perception that 9 to 5 jobs can offer all of these things is diminishing as we move forward. But, what about financial security? These traditional structured jobs that millennials are resenting more and more each day, are oftentimes the only ones that can offer a stable financial security — something which has increased importance as we grow older.

That being said, what if there were a way to conserve your financial stability, while also feeling a sense of wholeness and purpose? What if instead of blaming the businesses that provide this financial structure, millennials learn to take responsibility for their own sense of purpose? What if there were a way to do both? Well, there just might be an answer to these questions.

The benefits of side hustles (a name coined by millennials, but practiced by previous generations as “second jobs”) are much more than just a financial cushion. They offer an opportunity to enjoy something you do, something you’re passionate about, without the pressure of relying on it as your total income. The added bonus of these jobs as a mental health asset is something that has been rarely analyzed, as mentioned by Baab-Muguira in her article found in Quartz. In fact, she also mentions, “failing to participate in the trend (side-hustles) might even lead one to a millennial identity crisis.”  An identity crisis often experienced by many as they struggle to find meaning and that “spark” in a job that offers a sense of fulfillment. Something many of us millennials struggle with nowadays is finding the perfect work-life balance, only to disappoint ourselves as we understand there’s no such thing as a perfect balance to begin with.

As mental health professionals, we often look at crisis as an opportunity to grow and learn. An opportunity to discover and put a name to that spark. A spark that, if discovered, can bring that extra sense of motivation and value into the regular workplace. According to the Harvard Business Review, “independent [and] remote workers are more productive, satisfied and engaged than their office-bound colleagues.” What if a side-hustle brings the sense of purpose and passion that was missing, and allows you to be a better employee at your full-time job? What if you learn how to mix both business and pleasure and learn to get the best of both worlds?

As far as flexible side hustles, there’s a wide range of possibilities. Almost as vast as your imagination allows you to go. I’ve seen small run-at-home bakeries and catering businesses, photography enthusiasts, freelance writers (as yours truly), second hand luxury clothes curators, yoga instructors, soap and skincare alchemists, flea market hustlers and so much more. It all depends on what makes you happy and what strikes a chord with your sense of purpose. It is possible that we might be onto something here, a pathway to be able to blend the best of what all previous generations have been trying to show us. All we have to do is be open to the possibility and agree to take responsibility to make it happen. If we are able to do this, we might be able to improve our millennials’ mental health reality and tap into their full creative potential.

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Thinkstock photo via Alter_photo.

Originally published: July 31, 2017
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