Finding Fulfillment in Multiple Careers
For many of us, working is about much more than simply paying the bills. It’s about having a full life, using talents and making a difference. It’s about flexibility and building the life we want. And in many cases, accomplishing all that involves working at more than one job.
In her book, “One Person/Multiple Careers: The Original Guide to the Slash Career,” Marci Alboher coined the term “slash careers” for those who can’t answer the question, “What do you do?” with a single word or phrase. For the book, she interviewed hundreds of people pursuing multiple careers simultaneously, from lawyer/chefs to surgeon/playwrights and nurse/landscapers, and found that many of today’s most fulfilling lives are the ones filled with slashes.
Slash careers rarely happen overnight; they usually develop slowly and take time to find their groove. Here’s how seven women developed successful -- and sometimes surprising -- slash careers.
April Howton, 33, Doula/Business Owner/Furniture Restorer
April Howton was displeased with her first childbirth experience and decided to learn more about her options before the next one. Her research eventually led her to become a certified labor doula and lactation and childbirth educator, and she opened her childbirth services company, Joy N’ Birth, in Florence, Ala., in 2002.
Over the past 11 years, Howton’s first business has grown substantially, as has her family. Now a mom of seven, she partnered with a friend to launch another business, a consignment sale for women’s clothing, in 2011. “I love clothes shopping, but it’s hard when you have a family of nine,” Howton says. “In my area, there were lots of consignment sales for kids’ clothing, but nothing for women.”
Now starting its third year, Déjà vu Ladies Consignment is a twice-per-year seasonal sale. Howton says it requires about eight weeks of work per year, and makes enough money to pay her children’s private school tuition.
This month, Howton launched her latest venture, a storefront where she sells the products of another hobby, restoring furniture. “A friend recently told me, ‘You just take all your hobbies and turn them into a business,’” Howton says. “And she’s right. I only do what I love, and it allows my family to have extra perks like eating out and going to private school. And it’s lots of fun too.”
Julie Sturgeon, 51, Book editor/Travel agent
There’s never a dull moment in Julie Sturgeon’s home office in Indianapolis. She spends about 80 percent of her working hours editing romance novels for a book publishing company, and the other 20 percent researching destinations and booking travel for her travel agent clients.
After 25 years as a journalist, working with words has long been Sturgeon’s primary profession. But “when the economy went south in 2008,” she added “travel agent” to her career description. “Soft skills will see a cutback faster than analytical careers like engineers and accountants when the economy goes south, so you need to have some kind of income stream that can cover you in case all of your other adventures crash at the same time,” she says.
While editing earns the bulk of her income at the moment, Sturgeon maintains her travel agency credentials and stays current on what’s happening in the industry so she is “ready to step in and take [the travel agency] to 100 percent should that become necessary,” she says.
Having lived through economic ups and downs, Sturgeon views her slash career mainly from a practical financial perspective. “My heart is in the romance book editor position, but I also perceive it as the most likely to fall apart the fastest in another economic downturn,” she says. “So I consider it for fun, and the travel agency is for financial safety.”
Brooke Barbier, 33, Acquisitions Editor/Historic Tour Operator
After completing her Ph.D. in American History from Boston College, Brooke Barbier organized a pub crawl along Boston’s Freedom Trail of historic sites for friends and family to celebrate with her. Friends and family loved the tour and recommended that she offer the experience for tourists.
Barbier works by day as an acquisitions editor at a publishing company, but she soon began leading free pub tours for friends and their friends. “Over time, the pub crawl matured into a historic tavern tour,” she says. Earlier this year, Barbier decided she wanted to monetize the tour, so she formed her business, Ye Olde Tavern Tours.
“When I travel, I seek unique experiences that will leave me with incredible memories and vivid stories to share,” Barbier says. “I want to provide that experience to those who visit Boston, so they are eager to tell their friends and coworkers about their vacation and the way they toasted the Sons of Liberty in the same bar where the Sons of Liberty once drank and planned the Boston Tea Party.”
It’s clear Barbier loves offering the tours, as she once gave them for free. But today, her goal is to grow the business and eventually offer other niche tours in Boston. “The revenue is important because it ensures that I can continue to improve and expand my tour offerings, but it was not the most important factor when I founded Ye Olde Tavern Tours,” she says.
Jody Stickle, 36, School Counselor/Adventure Guide
An avid hiker and climber, Jody Stickle always wanted to work as an outdoor guide. After completing graduate school and landing a job as a guidance counselor at an independent school, she realized that having summers off gave her the perfect opportunity to become a guide as well.
Stickle now works as a school counselor in Tennessee 10 months of the year and spends two months in Colorado, working as a camp director and adventure guide. “In many ways, both jobs are similar,” Stickle says. “In counseling, I get to see people overcome adversities that aren't necessarily physical, but I still get to see the smile on their face when they've summited the proverbial mountain, much like I do when I am guiding people outdoors.”
School counseling, which Stickle refers to as her “real job,” provides the income she depends on. But her summer job, “mainly for fun,” provides funds that allow her to travel more than she would otherwise. She counts herself lucky because she really enjoys both of her careers.
Tiffani Hill, 41, Secretary/Writer
A former newspaper journalist, Tiffani Hill took a buyout from her newspaper in 2010 and began building a freelance writing career in Huntsville, Ala. When her insurance coverage from the newspaper ended, she started working three days a week as a secretary at a pediatric audiology clinic. The job provided health insurance and extra money, and when her then-husband left a few months later, it became a stable paycheck to cover the bills for Hill and her daughter.
While she now works full time at the audiology clinic, Hill never left writing behind. She continues to take on freelance writing projects that she can complete after hours. Hill doesn’t necessarily view her secretarial work as a “career,” but she enjoys helping patients get the services they need.
“The secretarial work is about paying the bills and having insurance,” Hill says. “No matter how many times I've tried to just do that job and not write, it's never worked more than a month or so. I always go back to pitching [stories] and writing and coming up with ideas. I can't not write, so I figure I should find a way to make a living doing it.”
Ultimately, Hill hopes to continue working toward a full-time writing career, eventually making a comfortable living as a writer. For now, her slash career allows her to meet practical needs and pursue her passion at the same time.
Patti Chrisman, 45, Real Estate Agent/Mobile Boutique Owner
For almost 20 years, Patti Chrisman has worked as a licensed real estate agent. She’s always loved working closely with her clients and meeting the challenges that mean “no two work days are alike,” she says. But when the real estate market started slowing down in 2008, “I honestly had to evaluate my passion for real estate and make some decisions,” she says.
Chrisman decided she needed another income stream to make it possible to continue marketing properties even when sales — and commission checks — were slow. When she began brainstorming other career options that would allow her to continue selling real estate, it was September and she realized there were a number of fall festivals and fairs approaching in her North Alabama community.
“I started making calls to see if there were vendor spots available, and there were,” Chrisman says. “I had no merchandise yet, but I had some venues.” She quickly purchased a business license, began making jewelry and spent almost all her savings purchasing wholesale items to resell.
At her first event, she sat under a cheap, electric blue sales tent she had painted black. As the paint flakes snowed down on her, “I realized I had something viable,” Chrisman says. “Sales were great.”
Five years later, Chrisman sells handbags, jewelry and ladies’ apparel at 12 to 15 events each year through her “gypsy boutique,” which now boasts five professional tents and a cargo trailer. “It is a hobby and a passion for me,” she says. “My little business has grown and blossomed, but it has taken a lot of dedication. I feel very blessed that I have been successful in both of these careers.”
Pat Curry, 53, Freelance Writer/Editor and Coffee Roaster/Coffee Shop Owner
A longtime writer and editor, Pat Curry now edits several trade and association publications. But she’s wearing another hat these days, as the result of her husband’s coffee-roasting hobby.
Several years ago, the couple started an artisanal coffee roasting business and “found we really enjoyed it,” she says. After her husband was laid off from the newspaper business in 2011, he started roasting full time. Together, they own Buona Caffe Artisan Roasted Coffee, which supplies coffee to upscale restaurants and sells directly to the public through its website and, as of June 2013, at the Currys’ coffee and espresso bar in Augusta, Ga.
After years in the editorial business, Curry has enjoyed the change and wants to make coffee her eventual full-time career. “I want to get to the point where I can just work in the coffee business full time and maybe do some freelancing on the side if I want to,” she says. “I love being able to say I own a coffee bar. I really like working there, and I like the entrepreneurial aspect of it.”
While her editing career “is about making money,” owning the coffee bar “is about making money and having fun,” Curry says. “Hospitality is a big part of who I am; I love to have a house full of people who are enjoying themselves. I get that every day at the coffee bar. And at 53, it’s been a lot of fun to learn a new industry.”