Does the slash career bring more control, or less?
A slash career usually allows people to follow more than one career path. Can this allow us to better follow our passions?
Creating a career path in today’s uncertain and ambiguous economic times is less straightforward than it was for our parents. Back in the day they left college, got a job, maybe made a few upward moves and everything was hunky dory. But today, the linear career is being replaced by a number of different options. Stephen Toft in his post “The future of Work is Human” suggests that one of the expectations around the future of work was that “Companies will consist of a small core of employees and a large cloud of temporary and contract workers.” But pundits also suggested that the gender pay gap would be closed by 2020 and we all know how that is working out.
Shift in working patterns
But there is no doubt there is a shift. In response to the recession, we saw the emergence of the Portfolio Careers, which is having a series of jobs, one after the other usually for a short period of time. Historically this was called job hopping and considered to be a sure sign of fecklessness. We then saw what I called Cluster Careers with even further diversification, to include multiple, activities in seemingly unrelated fields possibly in rotation. Here, there tends to be one main revenue source and another side hustle. I know “Pete the Feet” a marine engineer, who is also a chiropodist.
Today the Slash Career is emerging in a much more concrete way than before.
What is a Slash Career?
The phrase was originally coined in the book One Person/Multiple Careers: The Original Guide to the Slash Careers, by Marci Alboher. People with slash careers are those making multiple income streams, simultaneously, from different careers. Sometimes they are connected by transferable skills. There are also different strands of the same function which loosely connect them. For others they are ways of monetizing different interests. The key thing is that they are all equally important to the Slash Careerist.
A Slash Career initially was associated with artistic or creative careers. Very often it was challenging to get a break into the career of choice and salaries were low. It was common place to find: writer/ waiter, actor/ gardener, painter/ dog walker. What it really meant was a main career or passion, plus a side hustle which paid the bills. The side gig could be easily pushed to one side to pursue the main passion. Now we might see:
- Recruiter / Career Coach / Trainer
- Chef / Food Writer / Photographer
- Brand Evangelist / Vlogger / Content Marketer
- Events Manager / Yoga Teacher / Candidate Sourcer
- Lobbyist / Painter / Translator
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Background to the Slash Career
1. Disappearance of linear careers
Slash careers are becoming more mainstream across the board for a number of reasons. Having a non-linear career at one time wasn’t part of employment thinking. Employers even penalised non-linear careers in their recruitment processes. Today organisations are looking for increased agility and flexibility in terms of employment models, so that is starting to change. Going forward, employers will hire freelancers, temps, part-timers, remote workers, flex and project managers o people on fixed-term contracts. Truthfully hiring processes are not showing the same degree of agility, so we need considerable progress there. People with slash careers tell me don’t feel they are taken as seriously as a full-time specialist and say that bias exists favouring those with a more linear background.
It can also still mean a lack of financial security, both long and short-term for the employee. I know a mix; some who prefer to work this way and others who would prefer the security of a linear career.
2. The possibility to manage different passions
We tell people to find their passion when they are looking for a job. But what if you have multiple passions and interests? For many, pursuing a linear career can be frustrating if they are not able to tap into all their talents. Very often doing something as a hobby may not be enough. Natasha is a Brussels based lobbyist and public affairs specialist, but with a strong artistic side and excellent linguistic skills speaking 5 languages fluently. She is reaching a point where she wants to shift from a portfolio career to a slash career and is looking for ways to do that. She hopes to reach a point where she can devote the same amount of time and energy to all activities, now that they are also equal revenue generators.
3. Control of work/life balance
With a slash career, many people who feel unfulfilled in the daily grind of corporate life can re-orientate their energies towards achieving greater balance. The issue isn’t always about the idea of hours worked, it’s about the notion of control. Pauline a Paris based HR Consultant / NLP practitioner / Hypnotherapist told 3Plus: “I had a very stressful commute and long hours. My day would start at 0500 and sometimes I wouldn’t be back in the house until 2100, or even later. I felt out of control. I looked at moving into the centre of Paris, but property prices are high. My kids are settled in school. I decided I needed a change to my lifestyle, personally and professionally. The switch to a slash career gave me flexibility to manage my own time. I probably work the same hours, but I feel I could change it if I wanted to. Perhaps it’s about empowerment.”
A slash career suits those who are multi-talented, as well as having multiple passions. And herein lies the rub. Very often people are passionate about something, but not good enough to make it into a revenue generator. So part of the analysis is assessing not just your skill level but your financial situation as accurately as possible.
Building a slash career
Growing a slash career takes time. Quite often they kick off in response to circumstances, either personal or external. They are frequently related to remote or virtual working. They can also be about monetizing a hobby and paying it forward. Not-for- profit or charity work is also a popular option. My observations are that there are some people who genuinely want a slash career. But for others it’s forced on them by organisational and economic shifts. You also have to make sure you must have the right personality to handle both the financial uncertainty and frequently working on your own. Many people like the idea of it, but in practice it is a little different. Building a personal advisory board is a good step to put support in place.
It also requires recruiters and hiring managers to make the same leap. Not sure how that is working out either.
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