By Debbie Yong
Times are tough and taking on a second job may seem like a reasonable way to add to your income.
But before you sign on that second, or third, dotted line, check with your main employer first about its rules on taking on multiple jobs.
Moonlighting, or taking on extra jobs on top of full-time employment, is generally frowned upon by employers and the penalties for doing so without company approval may be as severe as getting the sack, say human resource experts.
'With additional responsibilities and less time to rest, the individual may be pressured and unable to perform his regular job well,' said Ms Eunice Chia, a market research manager at executive search firm PeopleSearch.
But the bigger concern to most employers, said Mr Dhirendra Shantilal, senior vice-president (Asia-Pacific) of human resource firm Kelly Services, is the direct competition and possible conflict of interest should their employees be found working for a competitor after office hours.
This is especially so for industries such as information technology, where employers insist that they have the rights to your intellectual property, he added.
It is best to check with your employer and to secure its approval in writing before taking on a second job, said Mr Paul Heng of Next Career Consulting Group.
Should such moonlighting work experience be listed on one's resume when applying for a new job?
Mr Heng said that only a person's main job should be included on resumes.
But Mr Shantilal disagreed.
'Some moonlight to kick-start a career change by gaining experience in a new career field before making the full switch, or to explore entrepreneurial opportunities, or simply because they enjoy the second job,' he said.
In such cases, job seekers should be upfront with prospective employers, highlighting the skills gained from the moonlighting stints that will benefit the organisation.
He said: 'Most prospective employers are more understanding towards candidates with valid reasons.'
The job seeker should also clarify that the additional jobs were done with the full knowledge of the regular employer, added Mr Josh Goh, The GMP Group's senior manager of corporate services.
And with more companies going on a shorter work week in the current downturn, employers may be more forgiving of those who moonlight.
'They understand that lower-paid staff could be affected by the pay cuts that usually come with the shorter work week,' Mr Goh said.
It would generally reflect more poorly on a moonlighter who is an executive, compared to a lower-level staff who is taking on a second job.
'While the employer could understand the rationale for lower-paid staff to take on a second job to make ends meet, it will be difficult for them to see it from an executive's perspective, as an executive is usually better-paid.'
This article was first published in The Straits Times.