Slashie Life: Career Freedom or Burnout Waiting to Happen?

juggling time

Jess is living the slashie life. She lays out the pros and cons of having more than one job, with input from other slashies in the same boat.

When I was young and adults asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I usually rattled off several jobs. I couldn’t pick which thing I wanted to do the most, so I figured I’d do all of them. And, while I didn’t exactly end up as a musical theatre performer with a lucrative fiction deal and a side gig in professional horse-riding (good lord, that was exhausting just to type!) the notion of “I can do all the things” turned out to be somewhat more true than one might have expected.

Right now, my LinkedIn profile headline describes me as a “PhD Candidate / Freelance Writer / Fundraiser.” Welcome to the world of the Slashie, a particular breed of Millennial or Gen Z-er who, instead of simply having one job, might have two or three part time or freelance roles. Or a day-job and a side-hustle. Or, in my case, a day-job and a side-hustle and an ambitious graduate programme.

Slashies can commit deeply to more than one project

Two things you must understand about me is that I am easily distracted (terrible case of “ooh shiny!” syndrome) but also have an ability to commit deeply to several things at once. In this way, being a Slashie is brilliant. “Asking me to commit to just one thing professionally is a bit like asking me to only eat one food for the rest of my life,” my friend Kate explained. “There are way too many things I want to do to commit myself to just one.” I feel much the same. I have a number of passions and Slashie life allows me to indulge all of them. With such a variety of strings to my career bow, it is impossible to get bored.

Slashies find ways to avoid FOMO

#SlashieLife is a type of work culture that also helps to avoid another very Millennial phenomenon: FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). It’s harder to wonder “what if…?” in a world where you can do many different things simultaneously. “I loved dropping the idea that I had to just be one thing,” Josie told me.

Slashies can build on their future while consolidating the present

This type of work also enables me to do things I wouldn’t be able to do if I stuck strictly to one linear career path. A PhD in Creative Writing has been my dream for a decade, but combining it with a steady job is literally what makes it possible. A regular income also means I can focus on my writing outside of work without having to worry so much about paying the bills.

The catch? Being a slashie often isn’t a choice. It’s a necessity.

Unfortunately, we live in an economy where for some people, working in this way is a matter of necessity rather than choice. I am well aware that I am privileged in being able to easily make ends meet with my day job alone. Taking on side projects is a choice I’ve made to fulfil my passions and get me closer to my ultimate professional goals. I wish this were the case for all “Slashies.” Sadly, though, more and more people are having to work two or more jobs just to pay the bills. This is especially true for people whose main profession is in the arts – writers, performers, makers, musicians. These fields are tragically undervalued and making a living in them can seem almost impossible. “I’d love to do my art full time,” my friend Hannah told me. “But eating and paying the electric bill is more important.” This certainly paints a much less glamorous picture than the Actor/Model Slashie of Hollywood fame.

A potential downside of being a Slashie is that this type of “portfolio career” can come with the risk of being seen as a Jack of all trades, Master of none. “Being a Slashie hasn’t gotten me very far,” Lawrne told me on Twitter. “My last interview at a PR agency, they asked what was the one thing I wanted to do or the one thing I wanted to get better at. I couldn’t give an answer because I’m so used to doing everything!”

For me, the biggest problem with #SlashieLife is that there are always more exciting things I want to do than I have time for. A nice problem to have, in a certain light, as it seems unlikely I’ll run out of ideas any time soon. Last weekend I went to a publishing conference and while there, had a brilliant idea for a podcast. As I pondered if “Podcaster” would fit in my LinkedIn header, I texted my partner: “please tell me I do not have time to do this.” (He confirmed that I do not have time for this.) So that idea has been added to the metaphorical bookshelf titled “things I will do someday when I have more time.”

There’s also the issue of guilt whenever you’re not working. Down-time, for me, is usually laced with at least a tinge of “I really should be writing.” Our society has a problem with glamorising burnout and being perpetually busy and overworked. “I do worry that this Slashie culture insists on overwork and demands we push ourselves to our limits,” my friend James commented.

Ultimately, everyone has their own career goals and priorities. Working three jobs while building a business exemplifies financial freedom to one person, while someone else thinks it sounds like a fast-track to a nervous breakdown. You are the only person who can know what’s right for you. But before you push yourself to add yet another hustle to your already overstretched life, ask yourself if it is the best use of your time, energy and mental space.

I love being a PhD Candidate / Freelance Writer / Fundraiser, but it won’t be sustainable forever.

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