Slashies & The Rise of Portfolio Careers
In the last few months, subsets of the workforce are embracing ‘side hustles’ and looking at becoming full-time slashies.
The recent “working from home” norm forced Hong Kongers to change their traditional mindset on work, finance and work/life balance. Whilst this has been well documented, the rise of the slashie has been equally prominent and is becoming a key culture within the Hong Kong employment sector. A slashie, for those who don’t know, is someone who essentially undertakes multiple jobs/projects/roles instead of choosing one, fixed career path. I, myself, am a slashie; I just didn’t know it until recently.
Western cultures, most of which have robust and dynamic self-employment frameworks, have long had slashies. The startup culture has only accelerated this trend as individuals contemplate getting their hands into as many pots as possible. Historically, financial reasons would be the key driver to having more than one job. With COVID-19, there has been a dramatic shift in this mindset where people not only want the financial benefits of a portfolio career but also desire the omnific and imaginative side to having multiple roles. In Hong Kong, in the last few months, subsets of the workforce are now embracing these “side hustles” and looking at becoming full time slashies.
Companies like Upwork and Freelancer.com have seen a dramatic increase in their user base since May 2020. More significantly, they have more profiles registered as multi-hyphenate than ever before. To give an example, one user described himself as as “engineer/blogger/chef/graphic designer and dog walker”. I wish I was as versatile and multi-talented! On the surface the slashie label and the associated behaviour could be just another fad but is it actually leading to something more prevalent? Is this new wave of portfolio careers actually the future of employment and of the modern employee?
Bringing this back to Hong Kong, I think the challenges financially and socially brought about by COVID-19 have caused Hong Kongers to rethink their career approach. I see this in my coaching circle where individuals believe the pursuit of their own business design (ideas that excite them) is more fulfilling in the long term and more realistic to achieve in the short term, given the career status quo that COVID-19 has created. As cost of living still remains high, you can’t really criticise slashies for trying every means necessary to make ends meet. The fact that many are trying to convert their serendipitous ideas into scalable business opportunities should be applauded no matter how crazy they sound initially.
It is clear that the pre-COVID corporate career model will have to evolve in line with new work standards and society’s view on what constitutes success. Could we potentially be seeing the one, long, traditional career model being usurped but the multi-role, diversified employment that the slashies have brought about? In the short term the move towards portfolio careers seems inevitable for some; as Hong Kong tries to scale up its digital infrastructure and become a stronger, regional fintech hub. Perhaps it is time we all became slashies!