Manilka Ediriweera describes the numerous benefits of multiple careers

In the past, people were intent on settling down and sticking to traditional career paths – generally a single career path. But this has changed and a significant generational difference is evident between millennials and older generations based on their mindsets about their future.

Millennials or gen Y are no longer settling for a single career path; instead they’re pursuing slash careers.

So what are slash careers?

The term ‘slash career’ was introduced by Marci Alboher in her book titled ‘One Person/Multiple Careers: The Original Guide to the Slash Career.’

A person who has a slash career pursues multiple careers simultaneously. For instance, an individual can be an accountant and an artist, or a personal trainer and a fashion blogger. And these multiple careers tend to be very different from one another in most instances.

Although this concept of multiple jobs existed in the past, it’s the millennials who have popularised it today.

Gen Y is breaking the norm, having embraced slash careers. Millennials are following unconventional career paths by engaging in other creative endeavours and they do so while having a full-time day job and simultaneously creating multiple income streams.

At present, slash careers are also referred to as ‘portfolio careers’ or ‘multi-hyphenate careers.’

Therefore, it comes as no surprise that most millennials aren’t afraid to try their hand at different jobs and professions because these digital natives are renowned for their ability to multitask.

In an organisational setting, hiring individuals with slash careers offers numerous benefits to employers as well. However, conventional bosses may have a negative opinion or attitude towards this concept and think less of the value brought by such employees to the company. This is based on the assumption that individuals who think of work only as a day job will not be as invested and focussed on their tasks.

Nonetheless, this is a misconception because people with slash careers are motivated, passionate, and hardworking, which means they’re committed to every task they undertake. Similarly, they also tend to have diversified skill sets making them well-rounded individuals who will be an asset to their employers. So hiring people with slash careers is beneficial to enterprises.

However, even though such careers are on the rise, some might not find the prospect of having a slash career attractive. For instance, the constant dedication, effort and time one needs to put into multiple jobs, the late nights, zero downtime and stress may make this an unattractive prospect.

Despite the difficulties associated with having a slash career, it offers benefits such as the ability to pursue both career advancement and personal satisfaction, develop a wide range of skills and talents – unlike the one talent formerly needed to create a path for success – the capacity to enjoy variety, and also use and fulfil all of one’s skill sets and interests.

Other reasons that motivate people to pursue slash careers include technological developments that have made it possible for individuals to be in multiple jobs at the same time. For instance, an individual who works as a personal trainer by day could work as a freelance graphic designer at night.

Slash careers are also attractive because many find the notion of being stuck in one job for the rest of their lives to be old-fashioned and boring, and this tends to trigger a sense of anxiety as well.

Multiple jobs present individuals with the capacity to engage in one job that provides a stable income and another to provide an additional source of income. It also offers a creative outlet and the possibility of engaging in a dream project. This concept provides a level of flexibility that’s absent in a traditional career path, which ties an individual to a single source of income and one employer. And there’s also a sense of work-life satisfaction achieved by balancing one’s passions rather than time.

For example, if an individual isn’t satisfied or feeling fulfilled with his or her day job, slash careers offer an opportunity to find work-life satisfaction in another area – be it spiritual, emotional, physical or even intellectual.

With the diverse and dynamic nature of the world today, it’s evident that the era of focussing on or simply pursuing a single career path is over. Sticking to a fixed identity has become a liability, making people vulnerable to the economic and personal changes that are taking place around them.

Therefore, it’s crucial to develop multiple identities that can be managed simultaneously. It will help people become more resilient in times of change and avoid being pigeonholed into one role for the rest of their lives.