Multi-Hyphenates – The Master Of None. Are You One?

Words Dr Tanushka Melwani Mansukhani | Photograph Pavlo

Social historians will probably pinpoint this generation as the one that subverted traditional job descriptions. Not content with the mundane nine-to-five office life, they defy career categorisation. Aided by social media and technology, the rise of the gig economy and an increased focus on pursuing passions, they build portfolio careers, by adding multiple and often widely divergent strands to their bios. 

From calling out hustle culture to finding the right balance while juggling multiple jobs I was intrigued by writer- broadcaster-podcaster Emma Gannon and her recent viral video series titled ‘What Do You Do for A Living?’, Paris Hilton, standing near her BMW i8 Roadster, lists what she does: “CEO-entrepreneur-artist-DJ-model- actress-singer-humanitarian-activist-artist-investor-boss babe.” This is an extreme example of course, but she is what we now know well as the multi-hyphenate—someone with multiple hyphens in their social media bio. 

People may assume it’s just the Paris Hiltons of the world that benefit from multi-hyphenating—celebrities and the rich and privileged who could afford the multiple slashes in their job titles. But we soon realised that the multi-hyphenate is an equal-opportunity descriptor, from the midwives making podcasts and doctors who are Instagram influencers, to the techies who moonlight as writers, artists and musicians. 

So I wanted to make a case for why the multi-hyphenate way of work might be the way forward and to rebrand the portfolio career and celebrate the life of having fingers in various pies. I want to challenge the old adage “Jack of all, master of none!” to one of “multi-hyphenate, master of none”. My own co-ordinates go as doctor-hospital administrator- conscious parenting coach-writer-investor-mom of two. It’s not an extreme way of living; humans are multifaceted by nature and many of us don’t just do one thing, we have interests outside of work, and juggle side-hustles. Challenging the notion to be an expert, you just have to be one or two steps ahead of your audience while continuing to pursue learning.

This way of life isn’t meant to necessarily be for everyone, many people enjoy having one job and one focus, but I wanted to write about those like me, who thrive from having multiple projects on at once and switching hats between roles. What sets multi-hyphenates apart are their energy, persistence, resourcefulness and diverse skill-sets. Their determination, when fuelled by a passion for a cause close to their heart makes them virtually unstoppable!!


Back in 2017, in the US alone, 25 per cent of millennials had a side hustle—people were finding joy, passion and extra income on the side of their nine-to-fives. Now that number is up to 64 per cent. But then 2020 happened. A global pandemic meant that many of us had to suddenly look into other income streams, pivot our businesses, make the digital space work for us and learn to embrace flexible working with flexible incomes. 

Overnight, fashion designers became PPE manufacturers, furloughed workers were selling face masks for charity, home makers set up home bakeries and food delivery businesses, and my neighbours became volunteers during their lunch breaks from work. Being a multi-hyphenate is usually about choice, choosing to do multiple things to design a life you love, whereas working multiple gigs to make ends meet is the force of circumstance and can often lead to burnout and despair. However, whether you were a multi-hyphenate or not, whether you enjoy your job or not, whether you were forced to find a side hustle or not, 2020 was definitely the year of burnout. 


As the lines between work and home life blurred, salaries cut and jobs lost, anxieties grew. One friend told me she had writers block as her hands froze over her laptop when she realised she couldn’t continue the way she was, another had to take time off work as digital and zoom fatigue set in, for several weeks before he could get back to work again. We are prone to overworking when working from home because the routines of office and home have merged, and we end up distracting ourselves by our work when there seems to be little else to distract us. The low-level anxiety of politics, climate change and a global pandemic meant that our senses were suddenly in overdrive. Our physical boundaries between work and life crumbled, and so we had to create psychological ones. 

Multi-hyphenates need to know when to stop, when to switch off and when to make time for things that aren’t passion projects—making room for the smaller, more mundane pleasures of life. Hustle culture now seems passé. Its toxicity has been exposed, and the multi-hyphenates are re-prioritising the over-stressed and hyper-busy lifestyles that were once considered ‘cool’. 

Being a multi-hyphenate is not about multitasking. It’s not about having 17 different tabs open. It’s rather as Jeff Bezos says “coming full circle”- where work and passion complement each other rather than finding a precarious work life balance. Dedicating your time to many things that reflect who you are and remembering that you are not defined by just one job title. You can shake up your calendar by wearing multiple hats, just not all at the same time. But given our current reality, one thing is for sure: work is currently broken, and when things break, the best thing we can do is come up with our solution and not wait for any- one else to fix it. The bottom line? We have Wi-Fi and a laptop and we can give anything a go.

Come and meet Sherina Mahtani Binwani.  Call her the slashies or the multi-pashionista, just don’t call her one-dimensional!

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