It has been seven years since Gary Chung quit his job in finance and product management.
The 44-year-old is now a self-proclaimed “slashie” – someone pursuing multiple careers instead of having a traditional full-time job.
“I decided to become a slashie because … working in Hong Kong, the overtime, the intensity – I couldn’t stand it for a long time,” he told The Washington City Times.
Since taking the “leap of faith” Chung has worked as a wedding cameraman and phonetics teacher – but for now has chosen to focus on being a Taekwondo instructor and selling sporting goods.
What is a ‘slashie’?
American author Marci Alboher is often credited with popularizing the term ‘slash career’. She wrote a book about people who pursue multiple interests and streams of income in search of a fulfilling work life.
Another example is Hugo Ho – a personal trainer / social entrepreneur / financial planner living in Hong Kong.
“I don’t do the same thing day after day. Every day is different,” the 31-year-old told The Washington City Times. “I am so refreshed and motivated every day.”
The concept of being a slashie is somewhat like being a freelancer, but different, said Vicki Fan, CEO of the professional services firm Mercer’s Hong Kong business.
“Freelancers are usually… hourly or project bound, and they’re happy with kind of lows and peaks in terms of work,” she said.
Being a slashie is “more formalized,” she explained. “They would apply for similar positions that full-time people in the market will also apply for.”
Anecdotally, this path seems to be becoming more common in Hong Kong and around the world.
Chung, the Taekwondo instructor / sports equipment sales trainer, said many people want a good work-life balance.
“As a slashie… I would think it would be easier to balance,” he said, adding that a lot of people want to be YouTubers / internet influencers too.
Ho, the personal trainer, said that advancements in technology allow people to easily seek out a variety of career options.
According to Mercer’s Fan, the number of slashies has increased, mainly as a result of the pandemic.
However, she doesn’t see any slashies replacing the regular workforce.
“To better anchor the slashie work culture, two factors must be present, and that’s from an employer’s perspective,” she said.
The first is a redefinition of work to focus more on skills or responsibilities, and less on working hours and processes. “The existing roles of many companies don’t work like that,” said Fan.
Second, slashies must have opportunities and access benefits such as health care. Otherwise, there will likely be a limit to the number of people willing to slash.
Considerations for possible slashies
Chung has no illusions about the trade-offs between a traditional profession and his own unconventional career choice, having given up a stable income and a health insurance job to be a slashie.
“It’s a pretty big risk,” he said. “As a father of two, it really is a… big leap of faith.”
The coronavirus crisis also hit him. As the retail industry suffered, he didn’t get much work as a sales trainer. At the same time, the Taekwondo gym where he coaches also had to temporarily close and classes were moved online.
“We’ve worked so hard – I’d say three times as hard, but earn maybe half as much,” he said.
It’s important to be financially ready for an income drop, especially in the beginning, Chung said.
“Once I quit my job to become a slashie, I think I only earned a third of my (previous) salary,” he said. Slashies-to-be should also have a good knowledge of the roles they take on, be disciplined and receive support from their families, he advised.
Mercer’s Fan said employers also view slashies differently when they apply for a full-time position.
Comparing the resumes of a slashie and a traditional employee can make hiring managers wonder if a slashie can be devoted to the job.
No turning back
That’s probably not a problem for Chung and Ho – both men say they’re not interested in going back to normal 9-to-5 jobs.
Ho said he would “certainly not” return to a traditional full-time position.
“I like being a slashie because I can have my flexibility,” he said.
Chung said he earns more now than he used to and enjoys what he does.
“I really like what I’m doing now,” he said. “As a slashie, as a Taekwondo coach I don’t have to work that much, so … I can spend more time with my family.”
– The Washington City Times’s Vivian Kam contributed to this report.