Connect the Dots of Your Career Path

Eight years ago, I custom-crafted a business card wallet for myself. I needed to make my own design because I had three different business cards that each needed their own pocket—one for my crafting business, one for the nonprofit where I worked by day, and one for the quilting guild that I started on the weekends. Then I became a coach as well, and I felt like my brain and my wallet were about to explode.

I felt like something was wrong with me—I was fragmented and couldn't pick just one thing to pursue. Why couldn't I just commit to a path? I was "clocking in and out" of each role and felt like I was four different people instead of one whole, cohesive human being.

And then I came across the concept of a Slasher—someone who creates their own custom combination of careers—and I realized that I'm not alone.

Have you ever met someone who is a financial analyst/ceramics artist?

A nurse/yoga instructor/jewelry designer?

A speaker/author/consultant?

They're all slashers. And whether you know it or not, you are, too. (After all, you’re an ambitious, interesting, and interested woman!)

Your slashes can be made up of:

  • A job that pays you with a paycheck

  • A personal passion, hobby, or side business

  • An identity such as a mother, caregiver, son, etc.

  • A volunteer position through which you give back to the community

The are several upsides to being a slasher:

  1. You get to create your own custom career path.

  2. You get to express your multiple interests and identities.

  3. You're deeply curious, always interested in learning new skills and growing.

  4. You can share skills and contacts between your various careers.

In today's career landscape, this is the safer path—rather than putting all of your eggs in one basket (a single role or industry), you're highly adaptable with many skill sets to fall back on.

Single-track careers are a relic of the past. In the modern job economy, we want our work to be an expression of who we are and our purpose in the world. And since we contain multitudes, there is no single job that will allow us to fully express ourselves.

Sometimes millennials get credited (blamed?) for bringing the "gig economy" into fashion, for piecing together a little of this and a little of that. Certainly, those of us who entered the working world around the Great Recession had to live into a new definition of what it means to have job security. But actually, being a slasher is a very old idea—think Leonardo da Vinci.

Slashers are sometimes called Renaissance women, polymaths, multipotentialites, scanners, or multipods. None of these words sums up the concept sufficiently for me. Slashers is the closest I've come, but I don't like the walls that slashes put between/each/career.

Instead, I envision a series of dots, each one comprising one of your careers. They expand and contract as different roles continually shift in your life. They overlap in places.

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And most importantly: there is a thread that connects the dots—a you-ness that runs through it all. There is always continuity, since each of your dots is an expression of who you are. Sometimes it just requires some creative thinking to make the connections.

For all the upsides that come with being a slasher, there are certainly some challenges as well. The biggest ones: feeling fragmented, unsure of how all the pieces add up to a cohesive whole, and explaining yourself clearly to others. If you've ever felt a cold sweat break out when someone asked you, "What do you do?" you know what I mean.

But, by discovering the connections between your dots, you'll also regain a sense of wholeness, integrity, and purpose.

To dig deeper into your dots, and uncover the thread that runs through all you do, click here to download Carole Ann’s workbook.

Carole Ann Penney, Strategic Career Coach & Founder of Penney Leadership, develops mission-driven leaders who are ready to take the next steps in their career development. She is a member of The Lady Project’s Board of Directors and mentors emerging female leaders through Brown University's Women's Launch Pad Program. When she is not coaching, she’s developing the most important emerging leader in her life—her three-year-old daughter, Avery Jean. Connect with her at: LinkedIn, Instagram.