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Mariana Plata
Mariana Plata

Why Are So Many Millennials Pursuing Side Hustles?

The benefits of side hustles are so much more than just boosting your finances.

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It seems like everyone has an opinion about millennials these days. Whether it's that they are self-centered and entitled, or that they can't afford a house because of all the money spent on avocado toast. (Yes, apparently those two are mutually exclusive.)

Whatever your opinion may be about millennials, it is undeniable that they are a force to be reckoned with. Experts agree that they tend to be more tolerant and less prejudicial when compared to previous generations. They are also known for responding better to more flexible scenarios and value their own happiness and work-life balance over corporate loyalty.

Millennials have redefined the workplace, and their trend to pursue "side-hustles" has been quickly catching on among 20-somethings. But, what exactly is a side hustle? And why are there so many millennials pursuing them nowadays?

Side hustles and the psychology of millennials

According to Merriam-Webster, "hustle" comes from the Dutch word husselen, meaning "to shake." The term gained popularity in the 1920s and was often used to refer to the action of "ripping off" or "fleecing" others. Over the years, it took a different connotation and was then used as an attempt to make money.

Following this definition, a side hustle refers to the ability to make money on the side. The difference between this and an old-fashioned second job is one key aspect that makes it so attractive to millennials: flexibility. When pursuing a side hustle, a person has the complete autonomy to decide when and how to work on it.

A recent survey from Bankrate shows that up to 28 percent of millennials between the ages of 18 and 26 are pursuing some kind of side-hustle. And, while the time they devote to their side hustle may vary, these findings shine a light on millennial habits. More importantly, they shine a light on millennials' behaviors and mental health.

Millennials and their mental health

One of the things that characterize millennials is their tendency to feel frustrated. As mentioned earlier, it's a generation that tends to think about their own happiness when applying for a job. Which also helps explain why companies struggle so much to retain millennials. They are constantly in the hunt for that spark. To find something in their job that leaves them feeling utterly fulfilled. But, how are these expectations affecting millennials' mental health?

Studies show that, when compared to previous generations, millennials are at high risk to experience depression. Simon Sinek, ethnographer and author, explains that millennials are more often dissatisfied and frustrated due to their technology dependency. According to Sinek, millennials are constantly on the lookout for the next big thing in their career. It's a generation that is uncomfortable with delayed gratification, which is why there's an increased trend to go from one job to the next.

This is why it makes sense that side hustles are so appealing to millennials. They offer a great opportunity to enjoy a passion, which might not be used at a regular 9-to-5 job, without the pressure of relying on it as a total income. It provides the freedom to pursue a passion, without having to compromise their financial stability. So, more than money, side hustles offer an opportunity to assist with millennials' mental health.

Why side hustles help toward mental health prevention

The added bonus of these jobs as a mental health asset is something that has been rarely analyzed, as mentioned by Baab-Muguira in her article found in Quartz. In fact, she also mentions, "failing to participate in the trend (side-hustles) might even lead one to a millennial identity crisis." An identity crisis often experienced by many as they struggle to find meaning and that "spark" in a job that offers a sense of fulfillment.

Crisis offers an opportunity to discover a spark. A spark that millennials aren't being held accountable to find within themselves. It offers an alternative other than putting the blame on the workplace or on the boss when we feel dissatisfied with our jobs. Side hustles offer an opportunity to reclaim this responsibility and take control of our own happiness.

As far as flexible side hustles, there’s a wide range of possibilities. Almost as vast as your imagination allows you to go. Whether it's a small run-at-home bakery or a catering business. Or if you're a photography enthusiast or freelance writer (as yours truly). Perhaps you are a second-hand luxury clothes curator or yoga instructors. Or even a soap and skincare alchemist. It all depends on what makes you happy and what strikes a chord with your sense of purpose.

The benefits of a side hustle are so much more than just offering a financial cushion. It allows millennials to tap into their full creative potential and act preventively towards securing their mental health. When in doubt, hustle!

An original version of this article was published for The Mighty.

About the Author
Mariana Plata

Mariana Plata is a psychologist, educator, and mental health writer based in Panama.

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