Updated: Sep 6
I was reading My Name is Elmo the other day to my daughter and there’s a point where Elmo draws a picture and invites the reader to turn the page to see it. He then says,
“Maybe Elmo will be a firefighter and an artist when he grows up.”
I love that part because Elmo doesn’t feel the need to confine himself to one identity or occupation. It also reminds me of the terms slash effect or slash careers. If you haven’t heard those terms before, it’s where you state or write the different things you are or do.
For instance, my friend, Christina Minaki, is an advocate/writer/activist/researcher and educator. She identifies with multiple roles and all her roles makes a difference in the disability field. Some people use commas instead of slashes but it’s the same idea. For more examples, just look at different profiles on LinkedIn and you will see the slash effect in effect. :)
Our job or career roles can become our sole identity; however, some people use the slash effect (again this can take various forms) to describe their passions and interests e.g., a foodie, adventure lover, etc.
Some people think the slash career effect was born when millennials entered the job market. Yes, technological advancement helped create more opportunities to have multiple careers or businesses and showcase it, however, if you look at history there have been people who had and/or labelled their various roles before this advancement. For instance, Madame C.J. Walker and William Blake, they both had multiple roles.
For some people one career role is good for them and they prefer it, for others that’s not the case. Times have changed so it’s not a stigma to change jobs or careers after a few years. Some employers prefer it. It shows you are desired as talent and have knowledge and insight from your different experiences to bring to the table.
Yes, staying in one job or career over the years can hone your skills e.g., mastery of cooking as a chef or a craftsperson, however, there are upsides to having multiple work roles. It can provide better work-fulfillment if you prefer variety. You have a backup in case one of your roles falls through or economic conditions change. It can be used to negotiate work with employers, and it can take the pressure of pursuing your passion in one career.
Having multiple roles doesn’t necessarily mean multi-tasking. There’s much research to that say it’s counterproductive although a Yale study found that when people perceived they were multitasking (not actually) they did better in their performance.
Speaking of staying in one career over the years, a friend of mine was worried about going from sales to being a tattoo artist. She wondered how people would perceive her drastically switching careers after twenty years. I said it most likely wouldn’t happen overnight and that the people who are close to you would most likely know about your journey as it unfolded.
We then discussed identities and having multiple work identities as we grow and evolve (some stay hence the slash effect, some go). It was my recent conversation with her and a client of mine, that inspired me to write this blog.
My client went from being a midwife to a flight attendant. Something that was best for her mental health and lifestyle preferences. She struggled with her new identity as a flight attendant having been a midwife for years. I said her new role didn’t erase her experience and identity as a midwife, she could be both. I know she didn’t lose her midwife skills when she became a flight attendant.
To slash or not to slash your work and interest roles is a personal decision and there are pro and con arguments for each. Just know it’s okay to have and identify with more than one role and it’s okay to stick with one. This is your path, and you can be as fluid or focused as you want to be.
Ps. If you're going through a career transition and would like support, please contact me to see if I can help.