How second careers start

Does your demanding job leave no time for you? Pursue your interests—or a second career—while still getting ahead at the office.

How second careers start

Pursue other career interests while getting ahead.

So you've got it all—great job, great office, great perks. You're thrilled, right? Not exactly. Your flabby stomach, weak social life, and unwritten screenplay could be nagging signs of dissatisfaction.

Welcome to reality, where you're more likely to spot a live dinosaur than a 9-to-5 job. Today, work and its myriad demands can leave you feeling completely overwhelmed, with nary a moment to focus on you—the you who used to have hobbies, friends, and—gasp!—a life.

But it doesn't have to be this way. If you are someone who has always dreamed of running a marathon, writing a novel, or sharpening your culinary skills, there are ways to pursue such interests—or even a second career—while still getting ahead at the office.

Finding the time

While it's not easy to find extra time, it is possible. Marci Alboher, author of One Person/Multiple Careers: A New Model for Work/Life Success, knows a thing or two about juggling multiple careers. Before becoming an author, journalist, and speaking/writer coach, Alboher was a lawyer. Her advice:

  • Cultivate double-duty activities: "For example, if you are interested in photography but have no time to practice because you're always at work, see if there is a way to do some photography on the job by offering to be the official photographer at a work event."
  • Creative vacations: "When you finally get a vacation, rather than kick back at the beach, consider taking an intensive class or working with a career coach."
  • Be a slacker:  "Many of us give 115 percent at work. What's the worst thing if you just gave 100 percent for a while to make room for more things in your life?"

No more excuses

You can always find an excuse for not taking action.

  • Remove "if only" from your vocabulary. For example, stop thinking, "If only I didn't have that deadline, I could really focus on my painting," or, "If only my client wasn't so demanding, I could start thinking about that novel I've wanted to write."
  • Skip the blame game. It is not your boss's job to make time for you to tend to your hydrangeas or get to that yoga class. Take responsibility—you have more control than you think.  
  • Set and stick to personal deadlines.  

You can unplug

It's true—smartphones and other gadgets can feel like human GPS tracking systems. But perhaps that's more self-imposed rather than work-imposed. If you've become that person who can't stop staring at your handheld device, chances are you're doing it to yourself.

  • Turn your device off on the weekends, unless absolutely necessary.
  • Once you leave the office, check your device only once before going to bed.
  • Whatever you do—don't sleep with your phone under your pillow.
  • Remind yourself often that working during your personal time robs you of time to engage in other interests, and ultimately enhance your fulfillment.

[Saira Rao wrote her debut novel, Chambermaid (Grove Press), while simultaneously working as an associate at a large New York City law firm.]