While a worthy partner benefits some multi-hyphenates, others depend on mentors to guide them in their second or third professions.
Published: 18th September 2022 05:00 AM | Last Updated: 17th September 2022 04:02 PM | A+A A-
Pooja Sriram Belur, 35, Corporate professional-author of children’s books “At my corporate job, I market my company, our products, and brand value across channels. My marketing skills help me push.
Every morning, he checks into his corporate job prepared to give it his best. As a full-stack developer, he has a lot of responsibilities on his young shoulders. Come evening, he shakes off his techie avatar and changes into a silver screen hero. The protagonist of this real-life story is Hyderabad-based Rag Mayur, 30, the lead engineer-actor. Those who have watched Cinema Bandi, the popular Telugu film on Netflix, would be familiar with his acting skills and chocolate-boy looks that have endeared him to many viewers. Despite being an OTT sensation, Mayur continues with his day job, cheekily stating, “I’m currently enjoying both these roles. I might drop one of them if it’s not fetching money,” This multi-hyphenate knows what he wants.
If necessity is the mother of invention, privilege is the father of reinvention. Hustling through multiple professional roles is the new normal that is changing the way people experience job satisfaction and expand their career horizons. In a world that has access to greater knowledge than before, this phenomenon has taken on new meaning. Call its proponents like Mayur ‘Multi-hyphenates’, ‘Slashies’, or ‘Portfolio Careerists’. They have one thing in common—the desire to break out of the proverbial box that seeks to define ‘what you do for a living’.
In 2019, the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed recorded that 320,500 people in the UK were working two or more jobs—the highest number ever recorded. A survey conducted by Microsoft in 2022 in the US stated that half of Gen Z—about 48 percent—has numerous side hustles. Data released by SkillJunkie in 2022 states that the freelance industry in India is estimated to grow to $30-$40 billion (Rs 30-40 crore) by 2025, with the number one reason being ‘freedom to choose the jobs they want’. The hustle culture has been legitimised, and jacks of all trades can now also be masters of many.
Meet the Multi-Hyphenates
Incontestably, the lockdown and enforced solitude contributed to the multi-hyphenate boom. Doctors became bakers and comedians. Ecologists branched out to art and activism. Dancers became actors and social media influencers. Earning, ego and Instagram contributed to building multi-faceted individuality. Take 36-year-old Tejshree Savara, a lawyer-professional dog trainer-philanthropist-art aficionado-entrepreneur.
After getting her law degree, she landed a job as an arts and antiquities lawyer at a prominent New Delhi firm. Her true passion, however, lay in championing the cause of those beings who lack a voice—animals, or more specifically dogs on the street or those who have been abandoned. Thus, was born the We Exist Foundation. After getting an international certification in canine training from an American university, Savara began to train both dogs and their owners.
Simultaneously, she embarked on a passion project by co-founding the Art Appreciation Society with partner 36-year-old Arjun Guleria, a PR professional-art aficionado. They conduct curated walkthroughs of art exhibits and workshops led by both art experts and artists, and share art-related news on their social media channels. Though juggling multiple roles isn’t easy, Savara enjoys every moment of it. She says, “Even on the most demanding days, I go to bed knowing that the next day will be a whole new day of learning, teaching and innovating.”
Savara is one of an increasing number of people who find fulfilment in diversification—a trend British author-speaker-novelist-coach-podcast host Emma Gannon refers to in her bestseller, The Multi-Hyphen Method. She describes multi-hyphenates as being “equal-opportunity descriptors, from the midwives making podcasts and doctors who are Instagram influencers, to the techies who moonlight as writers, artists and musicians.”
The term ‘multi-hyphenate’ dates back to the 1970s, and was primarily used to describe Hollywood artists who performed multiple roles such as singing, dancing and acting, or directors who would edit their films and also act in them. Now, the term has acquired a wider connotation. Gannon believes it is a cultural movement that arose as a reaction to the excessive industrialisation and standardisation of the division of labour, in the past few centuries.
Slashie Culture on the Rise
Another bestselling author Marci Alboher describes ‘the Slash Effect’ as the trend of people pursuing multiple careers to achieve the maximum benefits of their marketable talents, ensuring additional avenues of income, finding increasing fulfilment at the workplace, and escaping job insecurity and boredom in the long run. These ideals are exemplified in the career choices made by Bengaluru-based Pooja Sriram Belur, 35, a corporate professional-author of children’s books. She has been leading brand marketing, PR and social media for Chargebee, a unicorn in the SaaS space for two years—SaaS (Software as a Service) is a method of delivering apps online. The 13 years she spent working with startups and multinationals helped widen her horizons. Last year, Belur’s passion project took off when she published her first book. “I’ve been interested in writing since I was a child. Over time, I developed writing skills for different mediums, channels and formats. After becoming a mother, I spent a lot of time reading books with my son. I realised that I, too, have stories to tell. I wanted to share them with other children,” says the author of two children’s books.
Delhi-based Geetika Gulati, 37, runs her own boutique PR firm ZIVComms, and has been in the industry for over 14 years. During the pandemic, she diversified by launching a homegrown business Barni, which retails her mother’s homemade pickles, spices, concentrates and seasonal specials online. The PR professional-small business owner credits her passion for both vocations as the catalyst that keeps her going even when the going gets tough. Her outlook dovetails with that of Belur who adds, “My fields of work are different but interconnected in a way that makes juggling them easy. In my corporate avatar, I market my company, products and brand value across channels. My marketing skills help me push my books, and build a personal brand, which is appreciated even in the corporate world.”
Are You a Portfolio Careerist?
When assessing the commonality between people who juggle many careers, certain traits shine above others—an innate creativity, risk-taking proclivity and sincerity to pursue their passion. Multi-hyphenates are not people who drive Ubers in the evenings to fund their acting dreams, nor are they single mothers picking up shifts at restaurants to supplement secretarial jobs. Financial gain, or even survival, is not always the driving factor behind their multi-tasking. Slashing addresses their need for creative fulfilment. Hence, the largest number of multi-hyphenates today are people who have started their own ventures. Having a ‘Portfolio Career’ refers to the practice of using skills to make a living through freelance gigs, both for financial security and creative satisfaction. So, one can have a multi-portfolio career as a freelance writer, making and selling crafts or baked goods, and as a fitness trainer. There are other reasons for this, such as dissatisfaction with existing jobs, a desire to achieve fame, leaning towards diversifying skill sets, or the fear that their career may become redundant with technological and social progress.
Hyderabad-based Dr Mani Pavitra, 39, a serial entrepreneur-yoga practitioner-life coach, runs a convention centre in Madhapur called Poorna Konvention, an exclusive space for corporates and trainers. She is a partner in a Natural Birthing Centre Sanctum and Fortune Academy, a finance education company, and also operates Million Moms, a non-profit which helps mothers reclaim their bodies by making fitness a regular part of their lifestyle. Above these, she is an international speaker, corporate trainer and YouTuber. Being a coach and mentor was her natural career choice since her family and friends would seek her advice on many issues.
Yet, Dr Pavitra has stayed true to her qualifications as an orthodontist for many years. Building multiple businesses came later, but proved an enjoyable addition. She shares, “I don’t make time to do things. Time expands for me. I believe that I’m here to create an impact by leading the best possible life I can. I am also resilient; with changing times, I keep dropping ventures which I don’t feel connected to. It’s important for me to lead a life of passion, so I avoid anything that drains my energy.”
Time management and focus are essential to a Slashie’s success. Dr Chytra Anand, a 44-year-old entrepreneur-doctor-influencer-master trainer, lives in Bengaluru and juggles many roles since they are part of the same industry—beauty and wellness.
As CEO of the popular cosmetic chain Kosmoderma Clinics, founder of active intelligence skin care company SkinQ, trainer for aesthetic procedures and popular influencer on Instagram @IndianBeautyGuru, Dr Anand leverages meticulous planning and a regimented schedule to demarcate time for various roles in her calendar.
Partners are Your Best Friends
When juggling many passion projects, it is useful when one of them involves a partner. Take the case of Pia Desai, 41, a communications expert-coordinator of digital parenting peer support community-entrepreneur; Shivalli Jaggi Bhatia, 41, a fashion retailer-coordinator of digital parenting peer support community-entrepreneur; and Geet Nagi, 35, art consultant-events coordinator-entrepreneur. These three enterprising Delhi women have found success collaborating on specific ventures, while simultaneously spearheading their own businesses.
Desai runs Comma Consulting, a communications consultancy as well as Mommy A-Z, a digital group that helps parents navigate the early years of their children’s lives. She also owns Kidpreneurs Inc, a platform that aids skill building in children by imparting knowledge about entrepreneurship. Jaggi Bhatia is her partner in two of these verticals, and Nagi in one. While Bhatia also runs her retail business Pink Soda Exports LLP and the readymade clothing label Pink Soda Edit, Nagi organises large-scale shopping exhibitions under the label, The Sorbet Soiree, around the country and runs an art consultancy practice advising clients to invest in art for personal or professional purposes.
All three agree on the value of having a partner. Desai says it helps to have someone to bounce ideas off. Bhatia shares that it makes multitasking easier as responsibilities can be distributed. Nagi highlights the importance of working with the right partner, one who understands and respects the other’s roles.
Thirty-six-year-old Gayatri Reddy Bhatia from Hyderabad, who moved to Delhi after marriage, echoes their sentiment. A journalist-entrepreneur, her most recent move was to co-found e-commerce fashion portal Sverve with her friend Shikha Kajaria, 43, a philanthropist-entrepreneur. The owner of the erstwhile Deccan Chargers IPL team credits the success of their venture to an open and communicative relationship with her partner. Reddy Bhatia jests, “I take every opportunity that comes my way. Apart from perhaps performing a surgery, I can learn everything else.”
While a worthy partner benefits some multi-hyphenates, others depend on mentors to guide them in their second or third professions. Vietnam-based Anupama Jha, 43, a corporate professional-Indian classical dancer, had been drawn to Kathak all her life. The pandemic proved useful to this expat, who pursued her passion through online classes. Under the guidance of mentor and guru Shovana Narayan, Jha learned to perform on stage, and flew to Delhi in August to perform before an audience. “Dedication to your craft is the key element if you want to do well in divergent fields,” she says.
A Place of Privilege
Last year, Paris Hilton Instagrammed a video series called ‘What Do You Do For A Living?, which went viral. She was shot leaning on her BMW Roadster. Her bio reads CEO-entrepreneur-artist-DJ-model-actress-singer-humanitarian-activist-artist-investor-boss babe’. Hilton is an example of a Slashie from a privileged class monetising creative freedom, but is multi-hyphenation a one-size-fits-all?
The entitled millennial culture ties in with reports of ‘The Great Resignation’, where the western world seems to have decided en masse to pursue numerous side hustles instead of keeping a steady job. The peculiarities and concerns in the Indian context are different, however. A large section of the underprivileged population pursue multiple jobs simply to make ends meet. It is not a matter of choice or something they necessarily derive pleasure from.
The multi-hyphenation syndrome, however, shows that this trend, though seemingly widespread in certain circles, is at a nascent stage. Where does it go from here? Is multi-hyphenation or the pursuit of being a ‘Slashie’ really going to define the future of work? Savara’s sage advice will guide aspirants who are navigating such choppy, even though exciting, waters. She says, “While it is important to give each role we choose to take on our best, it is equally important to have the courage to recognise when it is time to let go of a role and maintain a balance.” Amen to that.
Life on the Hyphen
✥ You can pursue what you love
✥ You never feel bored due to the variety on offer
✥ Higher earning potential
✥ No worries about finding the ‘perfect’ job
✥ Work-life balance is easier to pursue
✥ No job security
✥ No steady stream of work
✥ Difficulty in assessing and paying taxes
✥ Societal stigma against living the ‘gig lifestyle’
✥ Hard to return to a stable job scenario
A survey conducted across the Asia Pacific region, by PERSOLKELLY in 2020 stated that only 1 in 3 temporary contract workers are happy, compared to those in permanent roles and executive positions
*** The 2019 LinkedIn Global Talent Trends report found a 78 percent increase since 2016 in job posts on the portal that cited “work flexibility”
*** In 2019, the Association of Independent Professionals and Self-Employed stated 320,500 self-employed people in the UK were working two or more jobs, the highest so far
*** A survey conducted by Microsoft in 2022 in the US stated that about 48 percent of Gen Z has numerous side hustles
*** Data released by SkillJunkie in 2022 states that the freelance industry in India is estimated to grow to $30-$40 billion by 2025, with the number one reason being ‘freedom to choose the jobs they want’
*** Tejshree Savara, 36
Lawyer-dog trainer-art aficionado-philanthropist-entrepreneur “Even on the most demanding days, I go to bed knowing that the next day will be a whole new day of learning, teaching and innovating.”
*** Pooja Sriram Belur, 35, Corporate professional-author of children’s books
“At my corporate job, I market my company, our products, and brand value across channels. My marketing skills help me push my books out, and my books help me build a personal brand.”
*** Geetika Gulati, 37, PR professional-small business owner
“You need to be passionate about every role you take on because that is the only way to keep going when things look tough.” (Barni is an online store, where Geetika retails her mother Kiran’s homemade pickles, spices and seasonal specials.) Pic credit: Shekhar Yadav
*** Gayatri Reddy Bhatia, 36, Journalist-entrepreneur
“I take every opportunity that comes my way. Apart from perhaps performing a surgery, I can learn everything else.”
*** Rag Mayur, 30
Lead engineer-actor, “I’m currently enjoying both these roles in my life. I might drop one of them if it’s not fetching money.”
***Geet Nagi, 35 Art consultant-events coordinator-entrepreneur
“It is important to find the right partner who understands and supports your other roles too”
***Pia Desai, 41 Communications expert-coordinator of digital parenting peer support community-entrepreneur
“Having a partner is great because you have someone to bounce ideas off”
***Shivalli Jaggi Bhatia, 41 Fashion retailer-coordinator of digital parenting peer support community-entrepreneur
“When responsibilities are distributed, multitasking becomes much easier”
*** Photograph by Parveen Negi, Location Courtesy: ATM, Sunder Nagar
*** Anupama Jha, 43 Corporate professional-Indian classical dancer
“Dedication to your craft is the key element if you want to do well in divergent fields.”
*** Dr Mani Pavitra, 39 Serial entrepreneur-yoga practitioner-life coach
“I don’t make time to do things. Time expands for me. It’s important for me to lead a life of passion, so I avoid anything that drains my energy.”
*** Dr Chytra Anand, 44 Entrepreneur-doctor-influencer-master trainer
“With meticulous planning and a regimented schedule, I am able to demarcate time in my calendar to address every role well.”
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