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Vietnam Today

Spreading their wings

Released at: 06:02, 09/07/2014

Spreading their wings

Many have taken advantage of free time in their first job to take on extra work or even go into business.

by Le Diem

No longer does Ms Ngoc Hoa have idle moments at her government job, like she used to. Her new, second job as an online fashion shop owner keeps her busy nearly all day. There are many like Ms Hoa, who find they have the time to take on extra work while at the same time keeping their original job.

Diversified tasks

Eight hours at the office every day is too much for the job Ms Hoa has. Despite having so little to do she is expected to be at the office during working hours. So, to put her time to better use, the 28-year-old decided to open a small online business. “It’s an appropriate second job for someone like me, because I have a computer and internet connection at the office so I can do my job and take care the shop,” she said.   

In a similar situation, Mr Minh Phong, a computer engineer with a local publishing house, said that his work is flexible and busy some days but not others. A normal day is about four or five hours, and he spends his free time seeking contract work from other companies. “I can’t leave my office during working hours, even when I have nothing to do,” he said. “So finding other projects to work on helps me to not only escape the boredom of having nothing to do but also allows me to earn more money.”

Earning extra income is the main purpose of many other officers who take on a second job. With the economy as it is, many people have had to accept a lower salary to keep their jobs. Yet inflation creeps up, which together with higher petrol prices puts many in a difficult position. 

Hunger drives the wolf out of the woods, Mr Huy Hoang said in explaining his recent foray into the world of coffee shops. Working for a State-owned construction corporation, he and his colleagues have too few projects to work on because of the frozen real estate market. Their salary is less, and sometimes they go unpaid for several months at a time. “It would be the same even if I found another job in the industry,” the 42-year-old engineer said. “There are not many other jobs available anyway, and I can’t start a new profession as this stage of my life. So I’ve been waiting for the market to recover.” But he can’t wait on an empty stomach, so he and some of his colleagues invested in the café. 

Like Mr Hoang, Ms Dieu Ngan’s income has gone down over the last two years, because the bank where she works cut down on bonuses to staff. Aware of demand among housewives for seafood, she now takes advantage of growing up in the coastal province of Quang Ninh and has become a seafood supplier in Hanoi, to supplement her salary as a bank teller. “I didn’t plan to go into business initially,” she said. “I only started selling seafood to some colleagues to help them out. But then I thought, if I’m ordering this much why not take the opportunity to increase my income?”

Different people have chosen different second jobs, including the sale of fashion, cosmetics, food and drinks, specialities, handicrafts, air tickets, and mobile phone cards. Selling seasonal products like moon cakes or flowers and wine for Tet are also common.

Because of the economic woes many companies have downsized their operations, which create possibilities for people looking for part-time work to do so on an outsourcing basis, including translations, tax reports, website design, technical drawing for building projects, or surveys on consumption habits and demand.

Pros and cons

With these extra jobs many officers can increase their incomes even in tough times. It also gives them the chance to enrich their knowledge in other fields and have a new and interesting experience. Mr Hoang, for example, had to learn the coffee business after investing in the cafe, reading about different coffee and how to make different drinks, and also studying customer service.

Most also said it has given them the chance to learn marketing skills and how to identify potential customers. “I realise now that marketing is the key to success,” said Ms Ngan. “If your product is good but only a few people know about it, you’ll soon go out of business. The more people that know about your product, the more opportunities you will have to make a sale.” Initially she only focused on her colleagues and friends and then word of mouth. She also took advantage of her job as a bank teller to tell customers about her business.

But not all officers are successful with their second job, and many have lost money after going into business. Seeing demand for flowers at Tet, Mr Quang Trung, a television cameraman, began growing and selling Narcissus flowers. But he knew little about them before starting out, and the flowers bloomed much earlier in the warm weather before Tet and he lost his investment.

It’s not just losing money that meets efforts to find a second way to earn a living. Mr Hoang admits to being exhausted and stressed since opening his café. After finishing his normal job at the office, he’s at the café until 11pm. He’s had many sleepless nights juggling two jobs. Mr Phong has also had to work overnight on many occasions to complete the contract work he’s taken on, so he can establish a reputation. He used to play tennis or sometimes travel before, but not so much these days.

The hours they spend working two jobs also impacts on their relationships with family and friends. Ms Hoa said that luck came her way in starting the business but deserted her in love. After spending so much time delivering clothes and not hanging out with her boyfriend, he left her and found someone else. Mr Hoang, meanwhile, was shocked when his three-year-old daughter asked him whether he still loved her, because it had been so long since he read her a fairy tale before she went to sleep.

On top of everything else, working a second job also puts at risk their first job. Both Ms Hoa and Ms Ngan were threatened with the sack after their bosses found out that they’d taken on extra work.

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