Why Moonlighting Will Hurt Your Career
April 14, 2016

Why Moonlighting Will Hurt Your Career

by Brian de Haaff

I always try to work hard, create something meaningful, and be rewarded for it. I know that you and many others do as well. So, that is why I am actively involved in talking with good people about Aha! I want to connect with those people. Interviewing new Aha!s who want to join our team takes a lot of time, but it is one of the most satisfying parts of my job.

But lately we are seeing an interesting phenomena among the resumes — emails like this one from Mary (name changed):

Hi Brian! — I lead marketing at a local company, but I am really interested in bringing in some leads for your company as sort of a side gig. I’m not suggesting a monthly commitment or anything of that nature. You and I could agree on a fair price for every new lead that I bring and I will give you first dibs exclusively, of course. Let me know what you think!

You may wonder, “Well, what is wrong with earning an extra buck on the side?”

Let me clarify — this article is not about a person who is struggling to make ends meet and takes on an evening or weekend job to earn extra income. It is honorable to work an extra job when you are putting yourself through school or have family depending on you. Many people do and should be celebrated for their sacrifice and commitment. The email that we received above is about something totally different.

I am talking about well-paid professionals who already have a day job, yet moonlight at a similar job or use an asset from their day job on the side, unbeknownst to their primary employer. They likely know it is unethical because most try to keep it a secret. Yet they do it anyway, and it is usually for the money. Show me the cash.

If you are considering this idea, you will do yourself and your main employer a disservice. Here is why moonlighting is a bad move for everyone concerned.

Divides loyalty If you are a full-time employee, your employer is expecting your best effort. But how can you realistically deliver on that commitment if you are moonlighting at another job? You are no longer devoted to your primary employer’s goals 100 percent, and you probably will not be able to hide that fact for very long. The quality of your work will likely suffer — and others will notice that you seem a bit distracted.

Breaches trust Trust is paramount in the workplace; your employer and coworkers are counting on you to be upfront and honest in your work. Moonlighting not only breaks that trust but will make others wonder what else you might be hiding. It also calls into question your willingness to protect company secrets and customer relationships.

Jeopardizes career When your secret eventually comes out, you may wind up getting fired for it. Moonlighting likely breaks any employment contract that you might have signed when you were hired. And your decision can also damage your future career prospects (you are bound to raise a few eyebrows when you try to explain it to potential employers).

I understand the value of earning a few extra dollars. But when you moonlight, you cheat your employer and the rest of the team out of your best work. That trust is difficult to rebuild once it is gone. Ask yourself — is it really worth it?

Remember — your integrity is worth much more than any extra money you might earn by moonlighting. Don’t wreck a good thing — invest your time, talents, and energy in the job that you have, and steer far away from selling your services elsewhere.

What do you think of moonlighting?

Brian de Haaff

Brian de Haaff

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product development software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability and The Startup Adventure newsletter. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the journey of pursuing a meaningful life.

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