Blog - Opportunities Missed by Higher Ed Professionals by Not Having a Side Hustle
This post continues our series The Smart Scholar by Ramon Goings.

A little over two weeks ago I posted a tweet that stated, “Every professor should have a side hustle that generates income. Our skills are so valuable and, in many ways, command more 💰 outside of academia.” To my surprise the tweet gained a lot of attention and was viewed over 400,000 times. That Tweet generated some positive dialogue as many understand the reality of working in higher education. However, there was also a lot of vitriol for my Tweet.

Nevertheless, it did spark an important conversation about how, as higher education professionals, we should begin to think about how and why we can leverage our skillset outside of our normal job. In this post I want to expand on my Tweet and provide three opportunities missed by higher education professionals by not having a side hustle. And before sharing my thoughts, I do want to explain that when I state side hustle, I am not necessarily suggesting a second job as many suggested on my Tweet, but some form of business that has no income ceiling and you have complete control over.

The Ability to Have Options

I am a firm believer that having options is always an important endeavor. As a result, I think that having a side hustle allows higher education professionals to have options that do not just depend on one job. As author entrepreneur Nehemiah Davis often expresses in his talks, “Having one source of income is too close to none and puts you at risk.”

Unfortunately, we saw this quote play out as college campuses shut down in March 2020. Many higher education professionals took pay cuts, furloughs, and were even permanently laid off. Imagine if you had no other source of income. How would this impact your family?

Having a side hustle gives you the option to focus on your business. For instance, during my Done Dissertation Office Hours Show I interviewed doctoral student and entrepreneur Cheryl Lau who helps coaches in any industry create a side business that allows them to generate full-time income on part-time hours. 

While I certainly understand that each of us works at institutions with various policies regarding outside work, it is to our advantage to think about what we could do as a side hustle should something ever happen to our higher education positions.

Increasing Your Impact and Income

As higher education professionals, many of our goals are centered on impacting the lives of students on our campuses. However, in many of the conversations that I have with colleagues, the impact and reach that we want to have sometimes exceeds the monetary resources available to us. I am not suggesting that money is the only way to be impactful, but I have heard from a number of individuals who want to give generously to their alma maters and other organizations that they care most about, but their higher education salary alone, given their other life responsibilities, does not allow them to make the impact that they want.

Sadly, if you look at job advertisements in higher education many (not all) of the compensation packages do not align with the work and education experience that are required of candidates. As a result, because salaries continue to be cut and responsibilities are increasing for many, having a side hustle provides an opportunity to generate income that can be used to impact higher education institutions and our communities in ways that just our salaries alone cannot.

Building Your Own Vision

As higher education professionals we work within systems and institutions. While we are working to make these systems better, we did not create them, so our ability to change them is limited. However, one of the opportunities missed from not having a side hustle is that you don’t have the opportunity to build your own vision. One of the most gratifying aspects of a side hustle is that you can build a business that suits your needs, allows you to be fulfilled in whatever way you would like (e.g., spiritually, monetarily, etc.), and you have complete control over the processes your business uses and the outcomes (and profit).

One thing that I do want to make clear as many individuals commented on my Tweet: there is a need for higher education institutions to adequately pay professionals for their skillset. However, while we are doing the work to change institutions, I think there is also an opportunity to build our own visions in addition to the work we do to build the vision of our institutions.

What are your thoughts about building a side hustle? I’d love to engage in conversation with you on Twitter!

Any opinions, findings, and conclusion or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of Interfolio.