Earnings and Yearnings: Meet the Slashers

Tool bag
Kat Bigelow and Claudia Stefezius
Choosing one path in life is often painful because it permanently cuts off other, equally attractive ones. But what if it were possible to follow two or more at a time, jumping back and forth and even building connecting routes along the way? That's the M.O. for "slashers"—people who are actively pursuing more than one career. Now that the economy has crashed and unemployment rates remain high, slashers, or those willing to start slashing, might in fact be in a uniquely strong position to weather the recession.

"When times are hard, having two vocations to rely on is incredibly handy," says Marci Alboher (journalist/author/ educator/speaker), who interviewed passionate people leading double lives for her book One Person/Multiple Careers. "It's like having a diversified portfolio." Slashing is a great transitional tool, too—a way to hang on to a steady job as you test the waters of another one. "I was a lawyer,"Alboher adds, "and I continued to work on legal projects while I got a freelance writing career established."

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A hustler personality might be best-suited to juggling jobs, since it requires marketing oneself in various ways and reaching different clients or customer bases. Organized types may have a leg up as well: Time management is a key concern for those balancingregular assignments with sporadic gigs.

Despite the challenges, the benefits of slashing are many. Dual-careerists get to use talents and express sides of themselves that might otherwise lie dormant. They also report surprising instances of synergy—where mastering a work task in one career helps them solve a problem in their other, seemingly unrelated, job.

Finally, spending a little less time on taxing, if satisfying, work can guard against burnout in both fields. "I can't believe how many people say that they love being a yoga teacher, or an accountant, or a chef," Alboher says, "but that they'd love it much more if they only had to do it 30 hours a week instead of 40 or more."

Dan Nainan

Computer Geek/Comedian

Nainan left his plum job as a senior Intel engineer a few years ago in order to pursue comedy more seriously. (In fact, he caught the comedy bug after getting big laughs for his impressions of the CEO!) But he still happily works as a computer consultant.

"Being a computer geek is invaluable to doing comedy. I can edit my own videos, create my own CDs and DVDs, design my own business cards, and, of course, reach my fans through social media," he says. "A lot of other comedians don't know how to do this stuff. I'm also at a significant advantage when it comes to negotiating prices and drawing up contracts." And Nainan is much more confident in his dealings with computer clients now that he regularly performs in front of thousands of people—and survives.

Maureen Crawford Hentz

Corporate Recruiter/Water Aerobics Instructor

Crawford Hentz runs the recruiting division for the largest lighting company in the United States, a position that involves complex and drawn-out processes. That's why it's a relief, after each 45-minute water aerobics class she teaches once or twice a week, to get immediate feedback from her students. "I love that I have one job where my voice and persuasive skills are my best asset and another where my kinesthetic skills are the ones I use most," she adds.

Crawford Hentz flexes her on-the-spot creativity muscles, though, during both gigs: "If an interview is going badly, you have to figure out if the candidate is having an off day or if it's actually a bad fit. If a water aerobics class routine is bombing, you have to switch up the steps right then in the water so that everyone can keep their flow going."

Mark McLaughlin

PR Coordinator/Horror Writer

McLaughlin spends dark and scary nights penning horror-genre books and stories (The Gossamer Eye and Monster Behind the Wheel are recent works). In the light of day he is the marketing and PR Coordinator for MANCOMM, a national compliance and workplace safety publisher.

"I like writing horror stories because they are about people fighting for their lives against impossible odds," he says. "My characters get into trouble, and I think up ways for them to get out of trouble. And I like promoting workplace safety because in doing so, I am actually helping to prevent workers from dying in horrible ways! My horror writing makes me more sympathetic to the plight of others."

Ann Castro

Investment Banker/Bird Trainer

Castro, who currently sells German equities to London institutional investors, has been evolving into a parrot expert since 2001, when she began writing books on the subject and practicing behavioral therapy on birds.

Her "selling and acting" side gets utilized on the trading desk, while her "teaching and observing side" gets full play with animals and their owners. "It's an excellent de-stressor," Castro says of her parrot practice. "My banking colleagues say it has changed my personality. I worked intensively with positive reinforcement with the animals, and apparently this carried across to my treatment of people." Having another vocation has made Castro less vulnerable to psychological adversity in her high-stakes day job. "My mind feels more sound," she says.

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