Probably the most frequent question I get asked - when I am explaining the TipStart journey to people - is how and why I balance my work at the Foreign Office, with my work on TipStart. The easy answer is: COVID and living in Iraq reduced how much time I had for ‘fun’ extracurricular activities…but here is the long answer:
I love my job. I’ve been able to travel around the world and do amazing things. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t days when I wish I was doing something else. I think everyone gets the odd career niggle every so often. Would I enjoy something else more? Am I better suited to different work? Am I still being challenged? These niggles and distractions can pile up and the overall impact is we do our jobs less well. We are spending more and more time and energy worrying about our career, rather than doing a good job and enjoying it for what it is.
But there are also plenty of people who are doing a full time job that they know isn’t right for them. Most of our TipStarters are still at university, but enough have left and found those sky-high barriers have forced them into an office job they hate, or the hospitality sector. Often those ‘temporary’ jobs can last for years.
Enter the side hustle.
A side hustle is an experience into which you can inject energy and hope and exercise frustration and stress. But to really get a return here, I think you have to care about what your side hustle is doing. The possibilities are almost endless. You could volunteer at a food bank, door knock for a political party, help out at a family-run restaurant near where you live. You could also start a company. When the clock strikes 5 and you want to throw your work-provided laptop at the wall, instead, you can sharply turn your attention to that different thing you are doing next and that you’re going to do better. It’s amazing how quickly the day’s frustrations dissipate.
I chose to start a company. It wasn’t the first time I’d been on this kind of journey. I’d helped a friend launch her company a few years earlier, but this felt different. I was motivated to do it because of what was happening in the world around me - this sense of context-centred purpose has been a powerful motivator throughout.
But a side hustle can also be about forging a new pathway in your career. The need for income forces many of us to make early career choices that do not reflect our preferences. And indeed, individuals from non-privileged backgrounds feel this pressure more than those who have a financial safety net to rely upon. A side hustle, if well managed, can be a way of gaining new skills, experience and connections, without losing the income-generating role you rely upon.
Increasingly, universities are offering their undergraduate and postgraduate programmes on a part-time basis. Some have even gone as far as to make the entire process virtual, allowing for learning at times that suit users. Formal learning and education are powerful but expensive side hustles. You can also learn a huge amount from a different bit of work experience. I recently got the opportunity, because of TipStart, to travel to a startup conference in Tallinn, Estonia. I’d never been to Eastern Europe and it was a truly brilliant experience. At the conference, so many of the insights and stories were new to me or challenged a preconception I held. So sure, I am not paid by TipStart, but that doesn’t mean I am not enjoying a benefit because of it.
TipStart is a great side hustle for me. And maybe one day it will be my full time job. But it can also be a side hustle for you. Our programme and app make starting this new experience easy. And whether you want to use TipStart to further your career ambitions, or to help someone else do that, we make sure that all of our users gain a benefit that will improve the quality of their professional lives more broadly.