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ask a career coach

Ron Chapple

The question

I have a full-time job which covers a good portion of my financial needs but I've also got a second career that I work at part-time and would like to grow. This one is more of my passion and what I'd like to do more in the years ahead. I'm having a tough time, however, keeping it all together. Managing both can be tough. Every time I try to put the focus on one, the other seems to get in the way. Having two careers isn't easy! Any suggestions on how to keep on top of it all? I'm not willing to give up, either.

The answer

Having two careers at once is indeed an ambitious proposition and yet not that unusual these days. For some people, a second career may be about creating an additional income stream. For others, such as yourself, it's about a passion. Boomers, who are exploring new career frontiers, may take on a second career as part of their work-life transition strategy. Whichever the reason, having two careers at once has its challenges and its rewards.

First of all, you need to get focused and be clear on your goals. Being clear on what you want from your career and life at any given point will help you focus your plans and commitments to each career respectively. Your goals may likely shift over time so it's important to check in regularly and ask yourself if your priorities have changed.

You wrote that you would like to develop your second career in the years ahead – and that you are not willing to give up the first career. To clarify this further, consider these questions: What do you get from the second career that is of most value to you? Is fulfilment the main driver? What else – in both work and life – will be important to you as you develop this career? How willing are you to give up time in the first career? How about giving up more of your weekend and evening hours? Is this a transition period with the goal of making the second career full-time eventually or will you try to keep the two indefinitely? If the latter, what proportion of time and effort will each take within your career portfolio?

The answers you come up with for yourself may add important clarity to your planning.

Whatever you decide, you must get organized and manage your time. You will need to be masterful at efficiency, focus and purposeful action. Pay attention to short and long-term planning, day-to-day scheduling; prioritizing, delegating and learning to say no. Also, think about how to allocate your time between the two careers.

At the same time, you must balance your passion with a dose of reality. You will want to do it all. Your passion career, in particular, may inspire a lot of ideas and possibilities, and while your vision of possibilities may seem infinite – remember your resources of time and energy is not. If you are committed to holding both careers then this can continue to be a source of tension for you. You may feel like you aren't doing enough – in either area. You will need to make choices.

Your enthusiasm may create ambitions that may need to be occasionally right-sized to your part-time resources. Stretch yourself – yes, but know and respect your limits. Declare appropriate boundaries for what you can achieve and commit to within any particular time given your dual career focus. For example, when I started my coaching practice in 2003, I had another career that I was heavily involved in. I had to make the decision that I would not take appointments during evenings or weekends, otherwise I would be working 24/7 and would burn out. I recognized my tipping point where "more" would not necessarily be better – for my clients nor for myself.

It is imperative that you manage your mindset and fuel your well-being. You are stepping up to a big game. You will need the best of yourself to play it well. Do all you can to keep yourself physically and emotionally hearty and resilient. Don't let long hours cut into ample quality sleep, good nutrition and exercise. Invest in your relationships and meaningful pursuits outside of work for balance.

Keep a positive mindset by recognizing what you can do and are accomplishing instead of dwelling on what you can't get to – yet. Managing two careers is quite a feat – make sure you acknowledge your own success, tenacity and commitment along the way. Most importantly, keep learning, stay focused, have a plan, but leave some wiggle room to discover what's right for you.

Eileen Chadnick is a career coach and principal of Big Cheese Coaching in Toronto.

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