Guest Blog: How to ‘slash’ your way to a top job

By Bethan James

Have you ever thought about “slashing?”  Before you ask, no, you haven’t accidently clicked through to a blog about horror movies! Slashing is actually one of the latest graduate career trends, and this post is your guide to the highs and lows of being a slasher.

So what exactly is a slasher? It’s someone who has two or more careers at once and describes the slash in their job title. “Blogger/journalist/freelance writer” is one example, but the possibilities are endless.

The idea was coined by Marci Alboher (a slasher herself) in her book One Person/Multiple Careers: A New Model for Work/Life (2007). In it, she describes ‘The Slasher Effect’, which is how multiple careers can be the answer to workplace boredom, work/life balance, and even job security. With over 20% of young people unemployed according to the Office for National Statistics, perhaps slashing is the way forward for graduates during these tough economic times in Wales?

I can definitely relate to Marci’s idea. After all, I’m a slasher myself. I graduated with an English and Philosophy degree in 2009, uncertain about what career I wanted in the future. So I decided to try out as many jobs as possible at the same time!

And here I am now, living in Cardiff with two main careers: one in the media, the other working at a charity for disabled children. I’ve had a variety of other jobs, ranging from an art gallery assistant to theatre performer and TV extra. To sum up my current slashes, I would describe myself as a PR/ freelance writer/charity worker. Slashing not only helps pay off my massive student debts, it also keeps me one step ahead in the increasingly competitive graduate job market.

But is slashing really the perfect answer to graduates’ career worries? Is it a realistic solution to Wales’s rising unemployment in the recession? Here’s my guide to the highs and lows of being a slasher:

PROS OF SLASHING

1)    Recession-proof yourself: Being a slasher has huge benefits during an economic crisis. Having multiple careers can protect you from falling into financial difficulty if you lose your job, because you always have something to fall back on. For example, one of my jobs has a short-term contract and it ends this year, but I don’t have to stress about how I’ll pay my rent because I have other work to tide me by while I job hunt.

2)     Get flexible: One of the best things about being a slasher is its flexibility. I’m free to choose what jobs I do and when.  Slashing is also a flexible career choice because of the variety it offers: how many graduates are able to do one career this week, and a different one the next?

3)    Enhance your CV: Slashing is the perfect way for graduates to pick up more skills and experience for their CV in a relatively short space of time. Also, from a practical point of view, having several careers at once means you’ll have a variety employers to choose from to act as referees for any future job applications you make.

4)    Keep boredom at bay: This career trend is ideal to keep jobs feeling fresh, and stop them becoming routine and repetitive. It’s exciting to think I never know what the next week will have in store for me— will I be on the set of a top TV show? Doing interviews for a magazine article? Or organising a photo shoot?

5)     Impress employers: Trust me, employers will be impressed if you show that you can handle doing several jobs at once. Before they’ve even read your CV in detail, they’ll already be assuming you must have excellent time management and organisation skills, and be a hard-working person.

CONS OF SLASHING

1)     It’s not realistic for everyone: It’s easy for me to sit here telling you how great it is to have lots of careers, but I appreciate that times are even tougher now in Wales than when I graduated. Just finding one job can be hard enough, let alone several.

2)     It can be harder to get career progression: The nature of slashing means it tends to be mostly temporary work. For example, my role at a charity for disabled children is funded by a fixed-term grant, so I’ll never get a promotion or pay rise however hard I work. Compare this to graduate schemes at big organisations, where the possibilities for career development can seem endless.

3)     Less free time: Slashing does make you flexible, but this can be a double-edged sword.  For people with a single full-time job, work typically ends around five o’clock, but for a slasher your next job can just be beginning then. I’ve worked some 75 hour weeks this year, and occasionally it can get in the way of your social life.

4)     Less financial certainty or security: I find it hard to budget as I can’t guarantee if or when extra money will be coming in. It can be an unreliable source of income if one of your slashes involves freelancing, such as being a blogger or speaker. It’s a career choice that doesn’t necessarily offer the same financial certainty of that elusive and much sought after full-time graduate job.

Overall though, I’d recommend slashing to anyone, despite the fact it’s not a quick fix or an easy ride. I never get bored by having an endless variety of careers to try out, and I’ve met so many interesting people along the way. As well impressing future employers by having a CV bursting with work experience and new skills, I feel buffered against the worst of the recession by having other jobs to fall back on. But don’t just take my word for it! Why not give slashing a try now?

WANT TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT SLASHING? HAVE A PEEK AT THESE:

  1.  If you want give slashing a try but don’t know where to begin, the GO Wales website is a great place to start.  GO Wales can help you find work experience through the work taster scheme, advertise paid work placements and a freelancer academy for those of you thinking of starting your own business.
  2. Check out this post on the Guardian Careers Blog to read about the rise of the slasher, and other graduates’ experiences of juggling multiple careers.
  3. Why not have a flick through the book that kicked off the trend. Have a look at fellow slasher Marci Alboher’s  One Person/Multiple Careers: A New Model for Work/Life Success (2007)