Nine-to-five? So five minutes ago. The modern career woman is all about flexibility and following her passions, says Phoebe Watt.
Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor… it’s a schoolyard chant that has delighted children for more than 300 years. Like most nursery rhymes, however, its lyrics haven’t exactly stood the test of time. Ever since the 17th century, when the first incarnation of the rhyme appeared in print, its subjects have been understood to be four separate individuals. But let’s be honest. If it had been written today, it would be describing one person, and he or she would also be running multiple social media accounts and flipping property on the side.
Welcome to the new dawn of the ‘portfolio career’. You might be more familiar with the phrase ‘career slashie’ — as in ‘waiter slash actor’, or ‘sales assistant slash model’. It was a once-pejorative moniker, born of an era when it was presumed that we all had one dream job in mind and every bit of extra work was merely to pay the bills.
Nowadays, with diversification being the new specialisation and the career canvas the new career ladder, having multiple jobs and income streams is considered the smart way to do business, and far from signifying commitment problems, it’s an approach that, according to careers experts, points to a strong work ethic.
“Generation slashie want more,” says Sarah Liu, the Kiwi founder of Australian job-sharing hub Gemini3, which connects organisations with people looking for flexible work opportunities. “So they’re out there creating careers — often at the highest professional level — that reflect their expertise, passions and sense of purpose. It’s not about a lack of discipline.”
Greta van der Star
With increasingly diverse skill sets to bring to the table, as well as (theoretically) more passion for what they do than the traditional nine-to-five worker, the modern-day slashie, according to Sarah, is an asset to any workplace. But are employers catching on? Multi-talented Auckland-based creative Greta van der Star says yes.
With a degree in photography and experience working in wardrobe, Greta currently works as a freelance photographer for fashion, beauty and lifestyle brands and as a food and homewares stylist. She says her styling experience informs her photography and vice-versa.
“I know what kind of backdrop will work best and I understand how a particular fabric might read on camera,” she says. “And I think my clients find it useful that we can establish a strong, overall vision that will be carried across the whole project.”
It’s all about synergy and adaptability for Greta Van der Star, whose photography informs her styling work.
For Greta, the best thing about being a slashie is getting to work with so many other creatives — two favourite collaborators being shirt-maker Sherie Muijs and Penny Sage designer Kate Megaw, for each of whom she has shot a number of lookbooks and campaigns. Another upside is that one job frequently opens the door to another, whether it be commercial work or a personal project, like The Periodic Journal.
Launched in 2014, the Journal is a seasonally released publication which Greta and fellow-slashies Yasmine Ganley and Natasha Mead created to celebrate the work of local artisans. More recently, Greta has teamed up with another talented friend, Bailey Meredith, to produce organic sleepwear label General Sleep. With the pair’s first collection dropping in February, it’s set to be a busy 2017 for Greta, but she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It can be challenging juggling so many balls at once, but having creative endeavours on the side gives you energy and keeps you motivated,” she says.
Someone who knows this all too well is Leeann Yare — interior designer, writer, boutique owner… and international airline pilot? “I have been flying since I was 16 years old,” says Leeann. “When I left school I had to decide between fashion design, architecture and flying. In the end the decision was pretty easy — after just one flight I was hooked.”
For more than two decades now, Leeann has dedicated herself to a career in aviation. She never wrote off her more creative career aspirations, however, always certain that somewhere down the line “the right opportunities would come along”. It’s a passive statement that doesn’t do justice to Leeann’s initiative and enterprise. Around 15 years ago she started styling and writing about interiors as a hobby.
Leeann is a high-flyer in every sense thanks to her adventurously slashie career.
She’s since contributed to top interiors magazines both in New Zealand and overseas, and four years ago, opened an interiors store, Collected, in Auckland’s Newmarket shopping precinct. “All of this balances nicely around my flying job as it’s flexible and can be done when it suits me,” she explains. “And I love to shop, so the international travel is a huge bonus.”
Despite the vast differences between her vocations, Leeann says their fundamental similarities make it easy for her to switch between roles. “A pilot requires good time management and attention to detail, and needs to have leadership, team work, problem-solving and organisational skills — all things that come into play when styling a photoshoot and writing to meet a deadline.”
As for what makes a good slashie, Leeann believes taking on voluntary projects “that give you great experience and add skills to your portfolio” is key. This would explain why her list of extra-curriculars reads like a full-time job.
As an executive of the Eden Rugby Club, she manages its social media and organises an annual junior rugby clinic for more than 400 players. In 2016 she also project-managed the creation of a fundraising cookbook for her children’s school, which involved styling and editing every page.
“They say if you want something done give it to a busy person,” she laughs. “I think that statement is bang on.”
Photographer slash writer slash director slash actor Florence Noble would agree. When we spoke in November, Florence had just finished directing and acting in a TV commercial, which she’d also helped to write, for Long White Vodka.
This was in between brainstorming for a web-series, playing a small role in a TV mini-series, and spending a week in Madrid shooting campaign stills for probiotic brand Actimel. “My only time off that month was spent on a plane,” she says. “But I loved it.”
No stranger to an intense and varied workload, the self-taught photographer attended art school in Brighton, England, before moving to France for a year to learn French. A number of work experience stints followed — first at British Vogue, then at a sound engineering company, then an advertising agency where she was hired as a junior creative.
Florence Noble has found a career equilibrium after working in fields as diverse as acting, comedy, advertising and sound engineering.
Shortly after this appointment, she was transferred to the agency’s office in Johannesburg, then to Auckland where she slogged it out for six months until the company restructured and she was made redundant. It didn’t feel like the end of the world, she says.
“I took my redundancy as an opportunity to try something else.”
A 12-week film course gave her the skills to test out various production roles across a handful of jobs within the film industry, as well as compile a number of sketches and put together a comedy show pilot. This pilot would later catch the attention of a group of Australian filmmakers with whom she would collaborate on the Emmy-award winning show, #7dayslater.
Meanwhile, she began assisting photographers and contacting magazines for freelance work. “I had a background in writing so I’d pitch story ideas and do the photographs as well,” she says.
Florence is the ultimate slashie, with experience both in front and behind the camera.
The ultimate multi-tasker, Florence also worked as a promoter for Auckland club night ‘Teenage Kicks’, and in 2014 she made a short film, Things Are Going Really Well, which was screened at the Melbourne International Film Festival the following year.
Today, Florence spends much of her time directing TV commercials for Auckland advertising agency Eight. Her previous experience both behind and in front of the camera regularly comes in handy. “I’m definitely a better director because of my acting and stills photography experience, if only because I’ve gotten to see how heaps of other directors work,” she explains. And as far as her acting career is concerned, being a slashie also has its advantages. “It reduces the pressure of auditioning,” she says. “I’m never relying on that one in 500 chance of getting the role.”
The downside of having multiple jobs is the added admin. It can also be challenging, she says, never knowing what the near-future holds, but she loves the variety — especially now that she’s learned to outsource certain tasks. “You need a good agent, and a good accountant that gets where you’re at. The busier I’ve become the more I’ve valued hiring others to help me. You can’t do everything on your own — you have to look after yourself.”
Would-be slashies, take note. Sailing and soldiering? Totally doable. And with a few tinkering skills, you could have yourself a lucrative side-hustle. As for your tailoring — let someone else take care of it. Your body, mind, and wardrobe will thank you.