Jeannette Y. Wick, RPH, MBA, FASCP
A trend that is not often discussed, moonlighting, can enhance pharmacists' skill sets--and boost their incomes.
When we hear about someone who “moonlights,” we often think of tired, cash-strapped workers who take on menial part-time jobs to make ends meet. Most Americans envision moonlighters as young, poorly educated people struggling to pay bills.1
In fact, the opposite is true (see Table). Most data indicate that approximately 13% of pharmacists moonlight.2
Motivations for moonlighting vary as much as the moonlighters themselves. Many people moonlight to supplement their salaries or pursue money-making hobbies. Other reasons include job insecurity at the worker’s primary position or a desire for financial security from multiple income streams. Some simply have time on their hands and take a job to alleviate boredom. Moonlighting pharmacists are motivated to expand their skills in a different health care setting, try a new career path, or position themselves as a good candidate when a full-time position opens at a competitive workplace. Many pharmacists find second jobs when a colleague asks if they can cover a few weekend or evening shifts. Others take second jobs for benefits such as insurance, store discounts, or library access.4-6
With more pharmacists competing for fewer jobs in today’s market, some pharmacy schools are emphasizing entrepreneurship. New graduates with innovative ideas—and older pharmacists who desire career change—may start businesses while continuing to work. Dubbed “moonpreneurs,” they freelance, consult, or simply provide new services or products on a part-time basis until their own business grows.7,8
The Priority: Your Full-Time Job
Looking for a second, part-time job may seem like a simple decision, but it requires planning. You owe your primary employer— the organization at which you work full-time or work the most hours—some consideration and loyalty.4
Your primary employer may have moonlighting policies.9
Some employers prohibit “outside employment”; others may allow it with supervisory approval. Employers are most concerned about 2 things: conflict of interest and your continuing productivity in their workplace.4,9
Typical moonlighting policies specify that the second position’s hours cannot conflict or interfere with your regular job, and that you may not use your primary employer’s time or property for the second job. Your employer may require a performance level at or above a certain mark as measured by your annual performance review to allow moonlighting. If you signed confidentiality or noncompete agreements, you may be prohibited from working for your primary employer’s competitors, clients, or vendors. The policy may specify that you can moonlight while on annual or vacation leave but not while on sick leave. You may also have to provide information about your outside jobs.9
Be warned if you are considering taking on a second job. Moonlighting can be a grind. If you’re already busy, you’ll be even busier—and probably more tired— if you add part-time work. Moonlighters work an average of 12 hours a week.5,6
You will have to eliminate some extracurricular activities, and time with loved ones may decrease.10
From the start, identify your reasons for taking a second job. If they are financial, determine how much extra money you want to earn each month, and plan to work only as many hours as needed to reach your goal. Designating your extra income for specific projects, like paying off a credit card or filling a child’s college fund, can help you appreciate progress. It can also determine when to quit.
Beware of 1 significant pitfall: if you work just a few hours at your second job, the federal taxes withheld each week may be insufficient, even if you select zero exemptions on your W-2. You may end the year owing a significant amount of money. If you calculate your approximate tax liability from the additional income, you can ask your employer to withhold additional taxes. If you freelance or consult, be sure to file estimated and self-employment taxes quarterly.10,11
If you have other drivers for moonlighting, be sure to define SMART goals— specific, measurable, achievable, realistic,
and time-limited. These specific goals are particularly important if you are a “moonpreneur.” As your own supervisor, you’ll need discipline.7
Stress, Boredom, Fatigue
What’s your physical and mental capacity? You’ll need to know because stress, boredom, and fatigue are risks. If your day job is an on-your-feet, stressful pressure cooker, you may want to consider a less taxing position. Many pharmacist moonlighters seek jobs in new fields.10
When seeking additional work, clinical and dispensing pharmacists often forget that they have broad skill sets. Identifying your transferrable skills (see Sidebar) can help you focus your search.12
Without time management skills, burnout is probable. Determine how many hours you’ll work in a typical month and block them on a calendar. Note all your required activities, including time for relaxation,10
and see how they fit. Have a friend or significant other review and comment on your plan.4
Consider geography, too. Finding positions close to each other and to your home reduces commuting stress.
Many moonlighters remain mum about their second jobs while working at their primary jobs.10
Some coworkers resent colleagues who pursue outside employment, and think moonlighters divide their loyalties, cannot pull their own weight due to fatigue, or commit errors frequently. 4
If these are accurate assessments, it’s time to quit. Evaluate carefully before quitting your “day job” but remember that the second position may inspire a new career passion.
Moonlighting Pharmacists: Where Are They?
With 13% of pharmacists moonlighting, you probably know or work with a moonlighter—that is, if you aren’t a moonlighter yourself! Where are pharmacists most likely to moonlight?
• At their old jobs. Some pharmacists, after finding a new full-time position, stay as part-time or PRN employees at the place they are “leaving.” This works well for the pharmacist and the employer. The pharmacist can work at a place where he or she knows the work routine and policies, and the employer doesn’t have the expense of recruitment and training. Often, retirees stay at their old jobs on a part-time basis to maintain their skills.
• At places where they hope to work in the future. Moonlighting, either for pay or in a volunteer status, lets pharmacists “get their foot in the door” at workplaces that have competitive hiring processes or rare vacancies. By working at the desired workplace, they can showcase their skills and learn the workplace’s policies and work practices. They may decide that they don’t like the workplace as much as they thought they would, or they may make working there a strong priority.
• In the community. Many communities need pharmacists either as volunteers or part-time employees in their small but crucial programs. Some examples include emergency responder, hospice, childhood vaccination, and visiting nurse programs. The benefit of working in these programs is often the specialized training that the community provides for free.
• In their start-up business. Pharmacists who hope to establish their own pharmacy-based or wildly different businesses often hold a fulltime day job until they establish a robust income stream. Some examples are pharmacists who aspire to political careers; write for the medical literature or pharmaceutical industry; or have creative arts businesses on the side. Once they achieve success in their part-time work, they can leave their anchor job.
Ms. Wick is a visiting professor at the University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy and a freelance writer from Virginia.
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