Yes, It's Possible to Have a Side Hustle and Excel in College

January 29, 2020

For most dancers, knowing how to hustle isn’t just a good skill to have, it’s a necessity. Today’s college students aren’t waiting until graduation to start this rise-and-grind lifestyle. Even working jobs in restaurants or retail can help dancers develop skills that they can apply to their careers. Many are opting to take on part-time jobs while they’re still in school to build their resumés, earn extra cash and learn how to juggle it all.

4 Tips for Making It Work

1. Know your priorities
. If your goal is to be a dancer, make sure your side work isn’t encroaching on your dream, says Lana Carroll Heylock, associate professor of dance at the Linda Berry Stein College of Fine Arts at Jacksonville University. If your shifts frequently interfere with rehearsals or make you too exhausted to wake up for class, it’s time to take stock of your priorities. To give your best in your studies, you might want to search for something with a flexible schedule that doesn’t put too much strain on your body.

2. Communicate.
Is having a job a financial necessity? Tell your professors. Will you need to miss a rehearsal because no one could cover your shift? Tell your professors. Keeping faculty looped in on your situation helps prevent frustration and unneeded stress.

3. Be willing to sacrifice.
Know that you might have to work on the weekend while your friends are headed to the beach, or give up being in a friend’s senior piece to accommodate your work schedule.

4. Look within the dance industry.
Heylock encourages her students to look for opportunities within the dance field so their time outside of school can be spent developing skills that can easily translate to their career. Consider becoming certified in yoga or Pilates, learning how to write grants or performing in outside gigs, like as a guest artist in a local studio’s Nutcracker. Not only will these jobs put extra money in your pocket, but they’ll also make you more versatile in the dance industry.

Everyday I’m Hustlin’

Meet two dancers with swoon-worthy side gigs.

José Gabriel Baez: Modeling

In September 2018, Montclair State University senior José Gabriel Baez landed his first modeling job presenting for LIFEWTR at New York Fashion Week. Not long after, Baez booked a beauty campaign as a dancer and then was also asked to model for it.

His advice: Having a good relationship with your professors is crucial. “If they understand what you’re doing, it’s more likely they’re going to be okay with it,” he says.

Nateli Ruiz: Backup dancing for Mariah Carey

While studying dance at Jacksonville University, Nateli Ruiz picked up all kinds of jobs, from teaching at local studios to working at Express in order to support herself. But in 2010, she landed the gig of her dreams: dancing backup for Mariah Carey in the Disney Parks Christmas Day Parade. For a week, she carpooled back and forth from Jacksonville to Orlando daily for rehearsals, led by Debbie Allen. But Ruiz says the experience of working with Allen, networking and cultivating new skills made it worth it—and helped pave the road for her postgraduation success as a dancer.

Her advice: “You’re going to have to go through these different obstacles and make these sacrifices in order to see the fruits of your labor,” she says.