Marci Alboher gave up practicing law to write, teach, and speak about people who have made career transitions. To use a term she coined, she became a "slash" (as in writer/teacher/public speaker). The author of One Person/Multiple Careers: A New Model for Work/Life Success, Alboher spoke with Associate Editor Susan Berfield about how to juggle professions.
What's the difference between a slash and a career-changer?
Slashes are seeking a balance so they don't burn out or lose interest in their first job. I've met an art dealer/Pilates instructor and a theater director/computer programmer. A career-changer wants a divorce from the first career: The love is gone.
What's the main reason people don't pursue the slash interests full-time?
Financial security. It's hard to trash that when you are trying to learn something new and you're not sure if it will be more than a glorified hobby. Some people like what they do but want to do less of it. If they can find some way to add another dimension to their lives, it can rekindle interest in their main work.
How do you build a slash career?
In the corporate world, some people coast by at 80% and see if there's room to do something else with their time. Then there are people who test the flextime policy. The concept of going part-time to make room for something else is still new, but it is growing in acceptance. The third way is to take what you do in a corporate job and change it: Become a consultant or sign up at one of the white-collar temp agencies.
Can people sustain life as a slash?
People who have these kinds of careers are never static. Six months later, they've shaken up the mix, evolved, gone deeper, dropped something. There is something inherently restless, endlessly curious about these people. Being a slash is a way to evolve without giving up the security of a job or losing the confidence in your expertise.
Do you see trends in what people are trying?
A lot of the people I talk to whose first vocation came after considerable education add a slash like massage therapy, or Pilates, or a certificate program of some kind. Adult and online education have exploded. It's easier than it has ever been to change careers. Leaving and reentering the corporate world is so much more accepted. Before it was like burning a bridge. Now you could have an entrepreneurial stint, then a corporate stint, and back again without any stigma.
What if you don't like being a Pilates instructor after all?
It's important to give yourself permission to not like something you are trying. It's like dating. You have to get out there, be unapologetic about sampling, and enjoy it.
How does this play out in different age groups?
Younger people don't find the slash concept at all unusual. They expect three-dimensional lives and careers, and a lot of blurring. Older people need permission to live like this.
What do slashes give up?
You may not get to the highest rung on the corporate ladder if you want to follow other pursuits. To have more, you might have to have less. And a lot of idle time is lost. The most successful slashing occurs when activities serve more than one purpose. It's not multitasking--it's double time. It's the jogging stroller approach to life.