February 22, 2007
The one person/many lives effect; Author has firsthand knowledge of multi-label phenomenon.
By JAMES A. FUSSELL
First there were yuppies (young urban professionals), then DINKs (double income, no kids).
Now there are slashes.
What’s a slash? You might be one and not even know it, said New York lawyer/author/writing coach Marci Alboher, who invented the term.
Are you a saleswoman-slash-mother? A businessman-slash-Little League coach?
It’s a good bet you, like millions of other multi-faceted Americans, now need more than one label to fully define yourself. That, said Alboher, 40, is a “slash,” a trend she describes in her new book, One Person, Multiple Careers: How the Slash Effect Can Work for You. The book comes out Friday.
Recently we asked Alboher, who speaks today in Kansas City, about her book.
Q. So what’s this slash business all about, and why is it happening?
A. It’s a phenomenon that’s sweeping the workforce today. It’s about people wanting to lead more multifaceted lives, and it’s happening for a lot of reasons. There’s no longer any such thing as corporate security. We are also a nation that is rampant with career change, (and) we’re delaying marriage and families, which means the time you spend laying the early foundation of a career is longer than it has ever been. So, for example, when you have a bunch of mothers who have a baby after working for a while, they have a career that’s a very significant part of their identity when they layer parent into the mix.
Why are you such an expert on this “slash effect”?
I’m a living example of the phenomenon. I’ve built a following as a lawyer/journalist/speaker/educator and writing coach. I’ve been counseling my students and my clients on how to live this way. I’ve also talked to more than 65 people who are leading some sort of a slash life.
Can you give us some examples of “slashes” you write about in the book?
Sure. There’s Rashid Silvera, who’s a high school teacher/fashion model from Westchester, N.Y. He’s been on the cover of GQ magazine and worked steadily for more than 20 years. When you talk to Rashid, he talks about how the modeling might have gone to his head if he didn’t have the kids to keep him grounded. Then there’s Angela Williams, a corporate lawyer/Baptist minister in Chicago. She’s one of the people who inspired me to write the book. Robert Childs in Boston is a violin maker/psychotherapist. Then we have Carrie Lane in New York. She’s an art consultant and a Pilates instructor.
Isn’t this just multi-tasking?
No. Most of the people I celebrate are people who accelerated and decelerated different pursuits over various times. And I negotiated a flexible schedule from an employer in order to pursue another career interest.
Most people have trouble managing one career. Doesn’t all this slash business just make it more complicated?
The most surprising thing I learned by writing this book is that while people with slashes may experience workplace stress, they tend to say that the difficult times are far outweighed by the fact that they have written the rules of their own working lives. Slash careers provide variety, multiple income streams, and a tonic against the burnout so common in those who pursue one endeavor exclusively.
How’d you get the idea for the book?
In 2001 I wrote an article for the New York Times about two people with unusual careers. (It) got a lot of attention, and soon people started contacting me to tell me about various slashes in their careers. Before long I started noticing this slash effect everywhere, from celebrities like Bono, the rock star/activist, to my childhood friend, Carrie, an art dealer/Pilates instructor. … I sensed something was bubbling in the world of work, and I wanted to learn more about it.
Can you have too many slashes?
You can be many things, but you can’t be intensely pursuing many things at the same time. You’re going to burn out. I wouldn’t recommend going to medical school at the same time you’re trying to be a new parent.
Who’s the book intended for?
Anybody who is wondering “Is there more to life?” or “Is this all there is?”
What message do you want people to take away from your book?
That it’s never too late to explore something new, and life can be more interesting when you go down multiple paths at once.