I know what you might be thinking from the title, especially if you were a kid brought up in the nineties or noughties. A ‘slasher’ is not a code word for visiting the lavatory, a murderer, nor a nickname for an ex-con with a penchant for slitting car tires. No, rather now it’s a phenomenon sweeping the over-electronically stimulated millennial population. Gone are the days of a person having a singular profession: in our startup world, we ‘slash’.
Meet Olivia my friend from school, her work week does not look like the monotonous rat race that our parents’ generation had to suffer. Instead she can dot herself around London one day a city slicker, the next a hip startup worker. After a weekend of photographing weddings up and down the country, Monday and Friday she works for a Bank off Old Street sitting on their charity board. On Tuesday and Wednesday she is the social media whizz for a super cool startup based off Brick Lane. Then on those evenings after staring at screens and Google analytics, she gets in the nuddy to pose for life drawing classes in living rooms across the capital. That leaves Thursday. Thursday is her day of adventure, which might find her catching the chills in the sea off Suffolk or crouched by the fire at Soho Farmhouse, deep in conversation with a fellow slasher.
The world of the slasher is all too close to home for me. When I returned this year from studying in California I did not want to return to the Music business where I was working before my studies, so I decided to slash. It has its benefits, when I was finding my feet back in The Big Smoke and not wanting to tie myself down to the first job that came along. However, it does have its negatives: at parties the dreaded question would be uttered, “what do you do?” My mind would whizz: shall I say that I am the marketing manager for a men’s accessories company off Savile Row (which is true), or that I am a seller of fine whiskey or that I am providing social media services for various companies…. I pause… “I err – um”, I look him up and down and realize he is probably a lawyer or an accountant and would not really understand my way of life, I get nervous. Overcoming my nerves, I exclaim “I am a wheeler dealer,” I stutter and try to make my list of job titles sound interesting, but the kind-natured man looks slightly confused, smiles and says “how lovely” and moves on to a fellow uni mate, who has just finished her training contract at Linklaters. This has happened time and time again to me and unfortunately to my fellow slashers. Sometimes I do get a wistful look from a retired banker who secretly had wanted to be an Entrepreneur and he says “well done you, I wish I could have done that.”
Across the pond in LA however, the slasher, or rather the freelancer, is a more common phenomenon. We have all heard about Tom, the Server/Singer songwriter/ TV runner/Actor – you can spot them coming from a mile off, especially when you are ready to order from a menu at a fancy restaurant on Melrose Avenue and Tom the Server swaggers up, makes polite conversation and in the first three sentences asks “what you do?”, in the hope that if you are in the film or music biz he could audition for you whilst bringing you a plate of tuna tartar. It’s an accepted reality of Los Angeles, but not necessarily respected.
During these two months of working for various companies under various guises and interviewing for “normal jobs”, I ask myself: do we have to be that linear? Can it be possible for us millennials to fulfill our potential by doing lots of different things, which can be a respected life choice. We have come under such scrutiny as millennials, that to a red-brick university-educated, managing director of a blue-chip company, the slasher way of life could be seen as lazy… I would argue it is not. It is just different.
Companies bemoan the strict employment law, so what better way to get a slasher in twice a week on a consultancy agreement, raring to go as they are not stuck in the vortex of a monotonous desk job? The reality is that many of my friends are prematurely leaving their respectable banking jobs to enter into the startup world, excusing their move as a quarter-life crisis, where in fact we twenty-something’s just need a bit more variety. I wonder whether, if the blue chip companies were open to people working a few days a week (or God-forbid work from home), they would have a higher retention rate of their employees. Maybe in the future we will see slashers along the lines of a Banker at Morgan Stanley/Photographer/Fashion designer? I can almost hear the heart palpitations of the “what do you do?” man at the drinks party. A Banker slasher may not be an option, but I think for other industries, such as Marketing, Music, Fashion, Tech, Journalism and Events to name a few, this way of life could work.
The reality is, as I have said before, that we are living in a instantaneous overly-stimulated culture and an 8am-7pm job is not really cutting the mustard. Deloitte did a study last year which showed that a third of millennials wanted a freelance lifestyle; however, they did indicate that they thought the percentage would have been higher if 2016 had not been so turbulent politically.
However, if we are heading back into another 2008, as some economists are predicting, then the climate will be perfect for innovation and find slashers to roam. It is believed that after the 2008 crash, startups and freelancers rose by 70%. So, there may be a larger boom of us (whether we opt for it or not). While according to the press the world seems to be crumbling around us and we are headed back to 2008. All in all, I can say the future is bright for the slasher.