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This chapter is from the book

Adding Career Acts Ethically

Many people add career acts based on something they have been doing professionally, an extension of their current role, perhaps with another organization. This is common and logical because a current employment situation might have helped you increase your level of expertise and skills. Before discussing how to grow your ideal career generally, let's discuss the ethics of the noncompetition among your career acts—especially if your primary career act is working for an organization. Consider the following five rules for adding career acts ethically:

  1. Avoid conflicts of interest—Career acts should be, ideally, separate industries so you are not tempted to (or unintentionally) compete with your current employer, independent contracting, or freelancing activities. If your career acts are in the same industry, try the "newspaper test": If your career acts were on the front page of the newspaper, would you be embarrassed?
  2. Do not borrow time, knowledge, or materials—If it feels as though you are overstepping your bounds "borrowing" from one employer or client site in an effort to build a different career act, you probably are. This might be as seemingly innocuous as checking e-mail for one career act while billing or being paid by another—or it might be as blatant as taking supplies from one career act for use in another. Try the "manager or client test": Would you be comfortable telling your manager or client about your activity without any concern?
  3. Be sure you are not violating your contract—If you work for one employer or if you signed a contract as an independent contractor or freelancer, your career acts might be limited (usually with noncompete clauses). Even if you did not sign a contract when you began working, you should check in your organization's policy manual or, more difficult to learn, the expected implicit norms of the organization.
  4. Report income honestly—If you work for an employer in the United States, you will receive a W-2 form, including your income and some deductions, such as federal and state taxes and Social Security. If you work as an independent contractor, you should receive a 1099 form from each of your clients throughout the year. If you do not receive a 1099 from a given client or organization you should keep a record of income earned and expenses to accurately report your income for tax purposes (for example, if you receive less than $600 from an organization they do not need to generate a 1099 for you but you will still need to report the income). As an aside, if you do much work outside of traditional employment settings, I would also suggest you speak with a tax professional to be sure you are receiving all of the possible tax deductions.
  5. Do not poach clients—If you freelance and are employed in the same area where clients would be identical, you might experience a conflict of interest, which could be perceived as poaching clients. As before, try the "manager or client test": Would you be comfortable telling your manager about your conversations or work with clients without any concern that he or she would view them as a conflict of interest?
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