A conversation with Marci Alboher
Author of One Person/Multiple Careers: A New Model for Work/Life Success
Why did you write this book?
In 2001, I wrote an article for The New York Times about two people with dual careers – Angela Williams, a lawyer/Baptist minister and Rashid Silvera, a fashion model/high school teacher. After the article an, I started noticing this “slash effect” everywhere – from celebrities Bono, rock star/activist, to my childhood best friend, Carrie, an art dealer/Pilates instructor. These careers seemed to carry a lot of cachet, and the “slashes” seemed to be a very satisfied crowd. I sensed something was bubbling in the world of work and I wanted to learn more about it.
So, how does this slash concept relate to your own career?
When I stopped practicing law to become a freelance journalist, my identity as a lawyer completely shaped the type of writer I became. Even though I no longer practiced, I found most of my stories in the legal world and introducing myself as a lawyer/journalist won me instant credibility with the editors and high-powered types I interviewed for my articles. Before long, I added another slash to my identity by becoming a teacher/coach to aspiring writers. This coupling of writer/teacher/coach, and eventually speaker, fit nicely together. Though my collection of slashes is not as unlikely as something like “teacher/fashion model,” I felt like I was part of a little movement of workers who had gotten smart to the idea you’re your identity doesn’t have to be confined to one label.
Would you say there’s a prototypical slash personality?
There are certainly a few common characteristics – entrepreneurial, creative, open-to-change, curious, and comfortable with beginnings, to name a few.
Are there any common slash models or is every case different?
While the options are limitless, there are definitely patterns. Some combinations are so common that people already think about them as an integrated career: the actor/director or the teacher/writer for example. Another common path is a starter career that evolves into a related career, like a lawyer/literary agent or athlete/sports commentator. But the slashes who get the most notice are those with incongruous combinations, like Robert Childs, a psychoanalyst/violin maker. Of course, anyone who works while actively raising children is living a slash life.
Is there any data to support your hunch that slashing is becoming more prevalent?
My definition of slashing is very elastic, encompassing those who pursue two full-blown careers, working parents, entrepreneurs or free agents with multiple income streams, and even dedicated volunteers, activists or philanthropists. So, it’s impossible to paint an accurate numeric picture. But a smattering of data from the December 2006 Bureau of Labor Statistics report* and the Census 2005 American Community Survey** points to huge swaths of the population well-poised to live slash lives or already doing so:
- One in 19 Americans in the workforce, 7.7 million people, have multiple jobs*
- One in 28 Americans, 4.8 milion, work from home**
- One in 14 Americans, 10.7 million, are self-employed*
- One in 6 Americans in the workforce, 25 million, are over the age of 55, part of a wave rejecting retirement to reduce working hours and make time for a side career or a neglected passion*
- One in 3 Americans, 45 million, are working parents**+
* http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.toc.htm; “one in _” calculated by dividing data by total number of Americans employed, 146 million
** http://www.census.gov/acs/www; “one in_” calculated by dividing data by total number of employed persons 16 and over, 133 million
+ Datum: “parents with children under 18 where all parents in family (both or single) are working”
What are the various ways you use the term “slash”?
As a noun, slash refers to a person with multiple careers (She’s such a slash!): as an adjective, it describes a career or life with many facets (He’s really living the slash life.); and as a verb, it means to live a life with multiple strands (The more people slash, the more unusual it will seem to have a career with a single focus.) Some of my favorite usages play with the word as a compound or root to build upon. (“That’s a very slash-friendly policy.” “That bakery/dress shop is quite slashy.) I reject slasher or slashor, which refer to pick-axe wielders in a horror flick.
Who’s the ideal reader for your book?
Audiences I expect to be interested include: recent graduates figuring out how to make sense of the decade of drift that often constitutes the early stages of a career; artists or entrepreneurs looking for a money gig that is satisfying and flexible; those considering a mid-career reinvention; anyone looking for creative solutions to balancing working and family; and older people who aren’t interested in retiring.