When Your Career Planning Encounters a Hiccup, it’s Important to Have a Plan B

We talk a lot on this blog about the importance of having a vision and a plan for how you will achieve that vision. Cliché as it may sound, you’ve got to have a plan, because planning prevents poor performance!

What’s more, it’s not enough to have just one plan. You need to have a Plan B. And it might not hurt to have Plans C and D waiting in the wings, too!

Why is it important to have more than one plan? As time-management guru Alan Lakein famously said, “Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.” But the future is unpredictable, and life — careers, too — rarely goes entirely as planned. It’s important to have backup plans in place when your main one goes awry.

Here are the components we believe are critical to your career Plan B:

  • An assessment of how likely it is you will land in a job in your preferred field, were you to lose your current job.
  • A forecast of how long you would be able to stay afloat financially without generating income. This means having a solid emergency fund and a firm grasp of your essential monthly expenses, such as rent/mortgage, food, utilities, etc.
  • An estimate of how long you can conduct a job search full-time before you will need to find stop-gap work to generate some income.
  • An estimate of how much longer your job search will take if you are required to take a stop-gap job.
  • A list of potential stop-gap jobs that are suitable for your skills, time constraints and financial requirements.
  • A strategy for how you will support yourself and your family while in transition.

As you can see, Plan B incorporates some tough realities. Ideally, when you lose your job, you want to spend all your time and energy on finding a new one. When that isn’t possible, Plan B kicks in to help you control expenses while continuing your job search. Plan B may mean taking a job that doesn’t fit your ideal vision, but that could be a stepping stone to get you to the job of your dreams. These types of jobs include:

  • Stop-gap work — You can do the job well and it will pay the bills, but it’s not what you want to do long-term.
  • Stepping-stone jobs — The job is not your ideal, but it will add to your skills, experience, and contacts, and be useful for your long-term career vision.
  • Soul-feeding jobs — This job may not be in your field at all, but it helps pay the bills and you feel good about the work.

Each person’s Plan B will be as unique as his or her long-term vision. Yours should address how you will keep moving forward in your career when Plan A doesn’t quite work out. Life is unpredictable, but with planning and vision you can increase your chances of achieving your career goals.

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