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Monica Nucciarone
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Career Strategies for the 21st Century

By: Monica Nucciarone

In this short essay, Monica Nucciarone (who knows first hand what it means to be a "moonlighter") discusses the increasing trend towards moonlighting and how portfolios figure into this particular career lifestyle.

According to the Current Population Survey in 1980, 4.7 million people held two or more jobs. In 1995, the survey reflected 7.9 million people as multiple job holders. Why the great increase? Are these people in need of more than one job?

To most people the term "moonlighting" means working an additional part-time job at night while holding a regular full-time job by day. The natural assumption has been that the day job does not earn the individual enough income to make ends meet. An additional job at night is a necessity to survive. However, moonlighting has taken on new meaning as people adapt to the new realities in the world of work.


There are always those who work additional jobs to meet financial responsibilities. If you're thinking that women must be the majority who hold multiple jobs due to the economic inequalities between men and women, think again. In 1995, of the 7.9 million people working more than one job, 4.3 million were men, and 3.6 million were women. So what are the advantages to working more than one job?

Likewise, these multiple job holders now are no longer limited to high school graduates in low-pay jobs. The 1995 survey revealed that one-third of all multiple job holders have bachelor's degrees or higher. In the survey from 1995, those people whose occupations require more education and training are more likely to hold an additional job in the same occupational group. The group with the most multiple job holders are professional specialty occupations, followed by administrative support, and service occupations.

Susan Houseman, a labor economist and professor at Harvard, states that "current data fails to account for the growing number of Americans who hold two part-time jobs, or a full-time and a part-time job." She says these individuals are usually counted as full-timers, working a total of more than 35 hours. Clearly the impact of part time workers has been understated.

This trend shows no decline. The future appears headed in an "moonlighting direction." In a 1997 article about temporary and part time workers, U.S. News and World Report states that "more firms now restrict the number of full-time employees to a small core and include temps, part-timers, and independent contractors (the jargon is 'contingent workers') in their strategic planning." In the same article, the Conference Board, a business research group, reported that only 12 percent of companies surveyed in 1990 used contingent workers for at least 10 percent of their workforce. However, by the year 2000, 35 percent are expected to do so.


We speak of surfing the net, now that same metaphor applies to careers. Fortune magazine reported in 1997 that job surfing is on the rise. This is where individuals will work in one company long enough to gain necessary skills and competence and move on to another, more profitable position elsewhere.

Employers adapt to this new reality by using computers at the front end employee hiring. There are now several web sites on the Internet devoted to posting job openings. Electronic scanning of resumes are now replacing a human doing the prescreening. And hiring temporary or contractual employees as well as part-time workers is a bigger practice today than it was decades ago.


In this competitive market employers seek applicants with experience. This does not bode well for graduates. However, the transition from school to work can become less painful if a student moonlights (or interns) and acquires experience while at school.

Mary Juarez, 43, divorced mother of three, works two part-time jobs, and at the same time attends school for a bachelor's degree. According to Mary, she works these two jobs as a means for enough income, but also to acquire additional skills and work experience in her career field. Mary says, "The full-time job market is very competitive, especially for those of us who are in fields that usually require a bachelor's degree for the better money." As a student, Mary represents those individuals who know that education alone is not going to make them competitive enough. As the old saying goes, "There is no substitute for experience."

Susan Passalacqua, Associate Director of California State University at Fullerton's Adult Reentry and Women's Center works with students who come to her struggling and needing advice. As a former undergraduate herself, Susan discusses the fact that "it's far better to have two part-time jobs because you can be more flexible with your hours to meet the demands of your schedule as a student." She adds, "You can also be more creative to investigate other financial ventures, such as a home-based business on the side."

With all the technology and all the education, many people are still out of work or find it hard to compete with so many others for those full-time jobs. Working two part-time jobs for awhile in similar career fields may be the answer to gain the experience and skills necessary for the competitive edge.


Today's workers are no longer tethered to a single job or work site. As a result, the words "labor pool" now describes a more fluid, constantly changing job force. People have less security as we move into an era of occupational vagabonding or constant job change. What then is the best way to prepare for this constant change? How can we keep track of the various experiences and market your skills in the constant search for work.

Occupational vagabonds must be able to record their story as they move across the desert sands of labor. Like the old story teller they must be prepared to describe what they have done in the language of the employer. One approach is to use a constantly updated resume. Constructed almost as a work journal out of this, the future job seeker would extract pertinent information from past jobs which applies to the new job interview situation.

Martin Kimeldorf has taken this notion and adapted it to the time-honored career portfolio. He borrows the portfolio concept from the ultimate occupational vagabonds: artists and designers. In his book Portfolio Power, Kimeldorf tries to help people get past the notion of thinking about where they work now, because the "now" is a limited concept. Rather, they must think about constantly working in new places.

The practical question then becomes how does a worker market his or her skills in a work place defined by movement and skill portability? In his book Portfolio Power, Kimeldorf describes how to use portfolios to keep track of your career experiences and goals. He also illustrates how to use the portfolio as an effective marketing tool during the job search and job interview. Kimeldorf encourages occupational vagabonds to archive examples of skills and achievements learned on the job or while in school. Then you use the portfolio to showcase your skills at interviews.

Examples of the types of things a portfolio would include are a work evaluation, a sample from a created data base or spreadsheet, fliers or brochures designed, letters of reference, certificates and awards. Once showcased, it can present quite a professional impression of the kinds of skills and qualifications necessary to be a competitive candidate.

So, whether a part-time student with little work experience, or a full-time professional wanting more from their career, holding more than one job may be the key to unlock a wide array of new occupational opportunities. Along with those new experiences are the tools to graduate to higher levels of learning and earning. And a portfolio can be just the thing to exhibit all of the talents and skills you possess and an employer wants.

About the Author:
Monica Nucciarone is an Educational Advisor and Occupational Specialist for Pierce College, a community college in Washington State. Monica has five years experience in helping college students become prepared for the workforce. She teaches a Job Search Strategies class, which includes topics of resume writing, interview skills, and employment portfolios. Monica holds a Masters in Counseling degree from California State University, Fullerton.


  Monica Nucciarone,  
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