Balancing Multiple Careers

Whether it’s Sarah Jessica Parker launching a fragrance and clothing line in tandem with her acting career, or your friend who’s a computer guru and self-published cookbook author, “career slashing” has become an increasingly common practice.

The term refers to people who balance multiple careers, such as designer/DJ or mathematician/karate instructor. “Slashing” may simply sound like a fancy word for people who moonlight or pursue a hobby, but there are some differences.

While a new vocation may begin as a hobby, slashers tend to view all their pursuits as careers; and while those who moonlight might quietly take on a second job, career slashers are generally open about their multiple interests. They may even have a business card to prove it: The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article about the increased demand by career slashers for more than one business card so they can effectively promote their varied interests.

Slashers typically have a primary vocation, but they may pursue several other interests over the course of their working lives. For example, someone might be a copyeditor/aerobics instructor for a few years, and transition to a copyeditor/masseuse. As Marci Alboher, who coined the term, said in an interview with BusinessWeek, “Being a “slash” is a way to evolve without giving up the security of a job or losing the confidence in your expertise.”

How do you know if becoming a career slasher is for you? And how can you maintain a dual professional life without sacrificing the quality of your work in either realm? Following are some tips:

Know what you want. There’s a difference between a career slasher and someone who wants a career change. For example, if you dislike your job and have tried working in the same capacity for different companies, you probably need to explore a new career option. A slasher typically wants to keep his or her main job but add another professional dimension.

Know if it’s for you. If you excel at multitasking—you’re happiest and most effective when you’re juggling many projects—you may make a good slasher. A single career can feel limiting to those with this personality type.

Know how to transition. Fortunately for slashers, adding a new career doesn’t have to be complicated. A creative director who wants do voiceover work for broadcast spots might start by taking a weekend class, for example. If he finds he loves the work, he may see if it’s possible to move from his position as a full-time employee to a consultant to make room for his additional interest.

Indeed, a benefit of career slashing is being able to explore other careers while having the security of a job that you enjoy that pays your bills. Your added career can even add dimension to your original career: A designer working as a docent at a museum may find inspiration for new ad campaigns from the art around her.

Just beware of taking on too much: You don’t want the quality of your work to suffer in either capacity.

Know what it takes. Consider whether or not you’re in a place in your career where you can afford to slash. If you’re a junior graphic designer with just a year of work experience, now may not be the time to pursue other interests. You need become an expert in one field and prove your talents in that area before you explore another.

Perhaps it’s not surprising that some individuals have embraced a more entrepreneurial approach to work such as career slashing. After all, it’s already commonplace for people to have more than one career in a lifetime.

But slashing certainly won’t be the best choice for everyone. By assessing whether or not it’s an appropriate option for you, and making sure one pursuit doesn’t lower the quality of your work in another, your career will bloom instead of “burn.” 

The Creative Group is a specialized staffing service placing creative, advertising, marketing and web professionals on a project basis with a variety of firms.