Young Chinese slash through multi-faceted professional lives

By Wu Jin
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, June 3, 2020
Adjust font size:
A photo shows a female "slash youth" who works in Beijing in 2019. [Photo/VCG]

Many young Chinese who have been pursuing multiple professional experiences for money, fun, liberty or their personal values are probably reconceptualizing the meaning of work.

Xie Mingwei, a 30-year-old woman born in Harbin, the capital of northeast Heilongjiang province, has chosen a multi-faceted career to make a living in Beijing.

Upon her graduation from the China Agricultural University with a degree in agriculture, she spent half a year working as a village head before becoming a physical teacher at Xue'ersi, a sought-after extracurricular school that was established in 2003.

However, after a four-year tenure, she resigned and hunted for jobs with more flexible working hours. This allowed her to choose more than one career. She has taken an immense interest in her work as an insurance saleswoman, rock-climbing trainer and psychotherapist.

"I felt bored being tied to the laboratory," Xie said while explaining why she didn't choose to pursue a career as an agriculturist. "I'm extraverted and eager for communication."

When on campus, Xie was a diligent and well-disciplined student. She pushed herself to excel in every subject and at every part-time job. But this stressful life soon depressed her and forced her to seek out a psychological consultation.

"The psychotherapy which lasted for one and half years impressed me the most with the sand-play approach that reflected the unrestrained ambition that had overtaken me," Xie recalled.

Since the psychological consultation, Xie has been convinced that her ultimate goal in life should be health and happiness instead of money and power, which is pursued by so many and considered indicative of status and success. Impressed by her effective and amazing treatment, she studied psychology in her spare time and passed the accreditation exam, which certified her as a level-three psychological consultant.

"From my point of view, working has provided me with the opportunity to meet different people and learn new things. Yet I haven't had any difficulty finding new jobs," she said.

To demonstrate the benefits of being a freelancer, Xie recalled the following story: "A few days ago, I organized a rock-climbing event for toddlers around three after learning from my friend that their children had wanted to try it out for some time. Thanks to my liberal professions, I was able to do this very efficiently."

In contrast to the traditional nine-to-five grind, lots of young Chinese now work as a "slash youth." This term was coined by Marci Alboher, a U.S. attorney-turned-journalist who is a speaker and writing coach.

A regular contributor to the New York Times, Alboher used the phrase to refer to those who held multiple jobs in her book entitled "One Person/Multiple Career: A New Model for Work Life Success," which was published in 2007.

Wang Yujia, who has lived in the U.S. since 2015 when he studied as a postgraduate candidate of design at Harvard University, is now working as a professor at a state university in the U.S. As a typical slash youth in America, he has multi-faceted professional identities. This is an emerging trend among ordinary people.

"My postgraduate classmate has worked as a consult, is a rock-climber enthusiast, and a photography aficionado," Wang said. "Because of her hobbies, she started making more and more friends, and she was sponsored by a sports company. In the past, this sort of thing only happened to celebrities."

In China, looking at this year's government work report, the number of people with flexible employment or working odd jobs has been estimated in the tens of millions.

Niu Tian, an assistant research fellow at the Institute of Journalism and Mass Communication, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that the huge size of flexible employment suggests an economic transformation. This is especially true following the coronavirus pandemic.

Despite the sluggish real economy, online sales have continued to surge, meaning that new job opportunities are arising for people who don't want to put all their eggs in one basket, Niu explained.

However, a poll from, one of China's major job-hunting websites, tells a different story.

According to the website, only 8.2% of employees in China received extra income from moonlighting during the first half of 2019. This suggests that the "slash youth" are only playing a peripheral role in the job market.

However, Niu said, this is probably because different yardsticks have been adopted for defining the slash youth.

"The division probably runs at whether part-time jobs, many of which last for a short time, should be considered part of a person's multi-faceted vocation," Niu said.

According to her, plenty of young people who spend their spare time increasing their saving jars by working as writers or live webcasters constitute a growing number of slash youth.

As an outcome of social progress derived from Internet related industries, young people in China have reconceptualized the meaning of work.

"Despite their roles as bottom-level employees in full-time jobs, the slash youth usually fill their side projects with intense passions. That is why they often perform much better in their part-time jobs," said Niu.

According to Niu, who has been dedicated to researching the slash youth, permanent residence permits and cradle-to-grave jobs are of less concern to the generations born after the 1990s. Instead, when they seek a post, these young Chinese people care more about their personal growth in a profession. This is even more important than whether or not the job they choose guarantees financial rewards.

"The driving force behind these newcomers to the job market makes me feel upbeat about the future," she said.

Follow on Twitter and Facebook to join the conversation.
ChinaNews App Download
Print E-mail Bookmark and Share

Go to Forum >>0 Comment(s)

No comments.

Add your comments...

  • User Name Required
  • Your Comment
  • Enter the words you see:    
    Racist, abusive and off-topic comments may be removed by the moderator.
Send your storiesGet more from