When someone asks Roger Fierro "What do you do?" -- which he knows is shorthand for "Where do you work?" -- he laughs. Then he says, "I do everything."
Mr. Fierro, who is 26, has four jobs: working as a bilingual-curriculum specialist for the textbook publisher Pearson; handling estate sales and online marketing for a store that sells vintage items; setting up an online store for a custom piñata maker; and developing reality-show ideas for a production company. So far this month, he's made about $1,800.
Whereas most 9-to-5ers have some kind of structure in their lives, each workday can be wildly different for him. On a recent day, he worked on and off from 7 a.m. to midnight, making business calls, working on the piñata store's Web site and visiting the vintage store, among other things. (To maintain his sanity, he made sure to schedule some "me" time from 2 to 4 and 6 to 8.)
"I have eight million things going on," said Mr. Fierro, who lives in the West Town area of Chicago. "It's exhausting. Sometimes I just want to take a nap."
Some portions of the population -- especially young, creative types like actors, artists and musicians -- have always held multiple jobs to pay the bills. But people from all kinds of fields are now drawing income from several streams. Mr. Fierro, for one, has a degree in international studies and Latin American studies at the University of Chicago.
Some of these workers are patching together jobs out of choice. They may find full-time office work unfulfilling and are testing to see whether they can be their own boss. Certainly, the Internet has made working from home and trying out new businesses easier than ever.
But in many cases, necessity is driving the trend. "Young college graduates working multiple jobs is a natural consequence of a bad labor market and having, on average, $20,000 worth of student loans to pay off," said Carl E. Van Horn, director of the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers.
"There are two types of people in this position: the graduate who can't get a full-time job, and the person whose income isn't sufficient to meet their expenses," he said. "The only cure for young people in this position is an economic recovery of robust proportions."