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Meet the office ‘slasher’

The slasher generation has arrived. We’re not talking about a figure from a horror movie, but the person who has a whole string of job titles like musician/teacher/script writer.

Typically Gen Y, these trendsetters are reshaping careers and organisations.

Demographer Bernard Salt says you can see Generation Slashie everywhere. A lawyer might run a blog or be working on a movie script. A market research expert might be putting in time as a film producer. A graphic designer might be running a bar, says Salt.

The average baby boomer was married by 21, had their first child at 23, and by their 25th birthday were locked into a mortgage which meant they needed the security of a stable job, he says.

“Whereas you remove all that – Gen Y aren’t getting married early, they don’t have kids or a mortgage, they’re educated and confident and do what they want for 10 years before settling down so they’ll trial this, they’ll trial that,’’ Salt says.

“It’s created this perfect climate where slashies are burgeoning left, right and centre. Only recently has this been seen as something desirable. Baby boomers are about loyalty. People used to be embarrassed by the fact they hadn’t settled for something or someone whereas today it’s seen as being ‘out there’, being connected. Being a slashie speaks to the zeitgeist of Gen Y, and it’s completely the reverse of how people thought in the 1960s.”

It is not limited to one generation. As I point out here, the shift to service industries and the fading – if not the end – of the concept of retirement is changing work patterns at the other end of the age scale. But Gen Y are making an art of it.

The Guardian’s David Lurie says Gen Y is the fastest growing segment of workers since the Great Recession of 2007.

“And since then, the slasher is on the rise. While traditionally we have all been expected to put in our 40 hours per week (plus the other 40 of unpaid overtime!) into a single career, the recession has led many individuals to take on multiple roles as a form of safe-keeping their own incomes . . . This approach might appeal to anyone who has ever been made redundant. When our entire income comes from a single position, it only takes one redundancy programme to drop us from comfort into terror.

“Compare that to the slasher with her multiple sources of income: if she loses a job it doesn’t matter: she still has five more. There is even better news, as it may be easier to recover from redundancy as a slasher. Not only does the slasher not need to hunt for a new full time permanent role, instead satisfying themselves with a part-time or contract one, he also has a stronger and wider skillset that is reinforced by strong time management and organisation skills. After all, to balance multiple jobs you require excellent self-motivation and exceptional planning ability.”

The fascinating part is how this is likely to change organisations in 10 years time when the boomers have either died, moved on or been replaced.

Writing in Management Issues, James Kerr says organisations will look very different in 2020 when Gen Y is starting to take over.  “Generation Y employees are very comfortable with a more integrated professional and personal life as long as working schedules are flexible. To this end, operating models of the future will need to contemplate and weave the freelance and contract working arrangements preferred by Millenials, into the way work is performed.”

As a result, he says, we are more likely to see more people working for many companies, slashing their careers into different organisations as companies create cultures to accommodate this.

Leon Gettler

This article first appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald

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