Hong Kong slashies reject traditional jobs to pursue multiple careers
It has been seven years since Gary Chung left his position in finance and product management.
The 44-year-old is now a self-proclaimed “slashie” – someone who pursues multiple careers instead of a traditional full-time job.
“I decided to be a slashie because… working in Hong Kong, the overtime, the intensity – I couldn’t take it for long enough,” he told CNBC.
Since taking the ‘leap of faith’, Chung has worked as a wedding cameraman and phonetics teacher – but for now he has chosen to focus on being a taekwondo instructor and a teacher. sports product sales coach.
American author Marci Alboher is widely credited with popularizing the term “slash career”. She has written a book about people who pursue multiple interests and sources of income in search of a fulfilling professional life.
Another example is Hugo Ho – a personal trainer / social entrepreneur / financial planner who lives in Hong Kong.
“I don’t do the same thing day after day. Every day is different,” the 31-year-old told CNBC. “I am so refreshed and motivated every day.”
The concept of being a slashie is a bit similar to that of a freelance writer – but different, said Vicki Fan, CEO of professional services firm Mercer in Hong Kong.
“Freelancers tend to be… hour-based or project-based, and they’re happy with the kinds of dips and peaks in terms of work,” she said.
Being a slashie is “more formal,” she explained. “They would apply for similar positions that full-time people in the market would also apply for.
For the record, this path seems more and more common in Hong Kong and around the world.
Chung, the taekwondo instructor / sports goods sales coach, said many people want a good work-life balance.
“As a slashie… I think that would be easier to balance,” he said, adding that a lot of people also want to be YouTubers / Internet influencers.
Ho, the personal trainer, said advancements in technology made it easy for people to seek out different career opportunities.
According to Mercer Fan, there has been an increase in the number of slashies, especially due to the pandemic.
However, she doesn’t see slashies replacing traditional labor.
“For the slashie work culture to be more integrated, two catalysts need to be in place, and that’s from an employer’s point of view,” 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,” Fan said.
Second, slashies must have opportunities and have access to benefits such as healthcare. Otherwise, there will likely be a cap on how many people are ready to be slashies.
Chung has no illusions about the trade-offs between a traditional profession and his own unconventional career choice, having given up on a stable income and a job with health insurance to be a slashie.
“It’s a pretty significant risk,” he said. “As a father of two, it really is a… great leap of faith.”
The coronavirus crisis also hit him. With retail businesses overdue, he didn’t have much work as a sales trainer. At the same time, the Taekwondo gymnasium where he trains has also had to temporarily close and classes have been moved online.
“We worked so hard – I’d say three times as much, but win maybe half as much,” he said.
It’s important to be financially prepared for a drop in income, especially early on, Chung said.
“Once I quit my job to become a slashie, I think I was only making a third of my (previous) salary,” he said. Future slashies should also have a good knowledge of the roles they take on, be disciplined and have the support of their families, he advised.
Mercer’s Fan said employers may also see slashies differently if they apply for a full-time position.
When comparing the CVs of a slashie and a traditional employee, hiring managers may wonder if a slashie can be dedicated to the job.
This is unlikely to be a concern for Chung and Ho – both men say they are not interested in returning to regular 9-5 jobs.
Ho said he would “definitely not” return to a traditional full-time role.
“I like being a slashie because I can have my flexibility,” he said.
Chung said he was earning more now than before and enjoyed what he was doing.
“I really like what I’m doing now,” he said. “As a slashie, as a taekwondo coach, I don’t have to work as much, so … I can spend more time with my family.”
– CNBC’s Yolande Chee contributed to this report.