Trend for having secondary occupations grows as people step into the journalism industry
By Alaina Saint Amour
Were Dominique Armand to get ready for all his jobs at once, he’d be wearing a pair of blue scrubs with swim trunks over top, a whistle around his neck, and carrying a microphone and notepad to capture the latest scoop. If you haven’t guessed, Armand is a journalist—but also studying to become a nurse. Oh, and he’s a lifeguard, too.
Armand has worn many hats over the years, but his reporting one had been a childhood dream. Armand studied journalism at BCIT where he graduated from in 2009, and has contributed to multiple news agencies. His main gig was at CBC Radio, where he forecasted the weather and reported on sports in both French and English.
He worked at CBC for almost five years full-time before his position was cut to a casual schedule. It was at this point that journalism became his part-time gig.
Through all his careers, journalism has always stayed close to his heart as Armand continued to work part-time at CBC until January 2022, when he decided to take a break to focus on nursing studies. Even while in school, he’s kept up side jobs as a lifeguard and aquafit instructor for the City of Vancouver, where he works at least one shift per week.
Having side gigs and second jobs is nothing new, but it is a reality that has been gaining currency nationwide. The number of individuals holding multiple jobs in Canada has steadily risen over the last five years (2020 being an outlier, likely due to the COVID-19 pandemic). Statistics Canada reported in 2018 that 8.7 per cent of healthcare and social assistance workers have a second job—the occupational class most likely to hold multiple jobs, according to the agency.
Darren Dahl, a business professor at the University of British Columbia’s business school, says that the shift towards side gigs and entrepreneurship is driven in part by technology.
“It’s easier today than ever to create a side hustle. The reason is that the internet has provided awareness and access,” says Dahl.
For Armand, having a second job is nothing new. When he worked full-time at CBC, he was also managing a handful of other jobs, including doing autopsies at a morgue.
“At the same time that I was doing autopsies, I was doing the weather on the weekend and researching on the weekday evening,” Armand says, adding that some of his colleagues were uncomfortable with his ability to switch between jobs that required such different dispositions.
Coming from a family heavily involved in the healthcare sector, nursing would seem a logical career path. But Armand says he had his mind set on storytelling after graduating from highschool, so doing broadcasting and covering the weather was a passion he wanted to pursue.
“I always wanted to become a journalist,” says Armand. “But my mom was always like, ‘Oh, you should go into pharmacy and nursing.’ I didn’t want to do it [at the time].”
But as time went on and his role at CBC changed, so did Armand’s workday. He decided to enroll in school again to become a nurse, and is now set to graduate by the end of 2022.
Having pursued both passions, Armand has found unexpected intersections between nursing and journalism. He says not only has work as a journalist made him accustomed to taking notes quickly, but his communication with patients has been heavily influenced by his journalistic training to remain unbiased.
“First of all, a homeless person, a lawyer, or a doctor coming to the ER and as a nurse, there’s no difference,” says Armand. “As a journalist or as a nurse, it’s the same thing: you have to be non-judgmental.”
Unlike with Armand, the decision to enter journalism was not planned by Fred Lee—coming, instead, via a chance Christmas party encounter.
“The Vancouver Courier shared that they were looking for a columnist; a writer to cover community events,” says Lee, now UBC’s Director of Alumni Engagement. “And I may have had a few too many drinks, because at that moment I said, ‘Heck, I think I can do that job!’”
Lee was already working a full-time job at the University of British Columbia when he accepted his role as a columnist for the Courier. But being an extrovert and enjoying the arts, Lee took on this responsibility in stride despite his tight schedule.
He worked at UBC from 8:30 a.m. until late afternoon, and by 5 p.m. Lee would be out covering events. He would report on galas, art exhibitions, charity functions, grand openings, and many other events across Vancouver. Eventually, Lee was given the moniker “Man About Town” at the Courier.
Lee would also become a contributor for CBC Radio over the year, where he hosted a show called “Flavour of the Week,” all while holding down his job at UBC.
“So at the height of it, I was writing three columns a week [on] Sunday nights, and any other magazines I would be freelancing for,” says Lee. “On top of my job.”
Lee found connections between his two places of work that benefited each position. Networking between UBC alumni and those he met reporting came in handy, and he found that his journalism skills could be utilized at his UBC day job.
“[With] my media writing or my work at UBC, it’s very similar. It’s storytelling. It’s telling about all the great things that are happening, whether at the university or in the community,” says Lee.
After the local arts and events scene took a hit during the COVID-19 pandemic and the Vancouver Courier was shut down in 2020, Lee says he hasn’t had a permanent place to write his social column. But the break hasn’t slowed his passion for storytelling and sharing what Vancouver has to offer as a freelancer.
“It’s a nice pastime of mine, to be able to just sit in front of a laptop and just start writing. So yeah, I will continue to write as long as I have opportunities to,” says Lee.
Grabbing his scrubs and getting ready for his final exams, Armand isn’t anticipating giving up his work in journalism either. He’s planning to make his return to the industry once he finishes his nursing degree at the end of 2022.
Armand says he has already been approached by a colleague to write a column, and he is hopeful his reporting will come in a form that complements his skillset, perhaps healthcare reporting. And while Armand says he likely won’t obtain a full-time position within journalism, he thinks there is still a place for him in the industry as a part-time journalist.
“I was already approached to write an internal column about what we do in the lab,” says Armand. “It doesn’t mean necessarily I’m going to be on TV, but there’s still a lot I could do.”