April 15, 2011
Plan B: A backup career strategy lends security in uncertain times
The Associated Press
At a time when job security seems to be a thing of the past, many workers think about what they’d do “just in case” they lost their job — go back to school, open a business or work in another field.
Career experts say developing a Plan B is critical, no matter what line of work you are in or how comfortable you feel in your job.
Few industries are recession-proof and solid, says Wendy S. Enelow, a career consultant and trainer and co-author of “Expert Résumés for Career Changers.”
“Today you’ll hear that industry X is nice and solid, and tomorrow some catastrophe happens,” she says.
Susan Guarneri, an online career coach who calls herself the Career Assessment Goddess, puts it another way: “The only people I know who have job security are the pope and the queen of England. What this means is that you have to be your own advocate in terms of figuring out what really would be the best career fits for you.”
Coming up with a Plan B can be challenging. But once you do, you’ll be less worried about the prospect of losing your job and more prepared for whatever happens, career experts say.
So how do you figure out your Plan B? Experts offer this advice:
Examine your life
Start with the Seven Stories exercise, suggests Kate Wendleton, president of The Five O’Clock Club, a career-coaching and outplacement network. An abbreviated version: Make a list of accomplishments in your life, things you enjoyed doing and that you did well. These can be from childhood, volunteer work, your career or hobbies. Rank them in order and analyze them.
“See what the threads are that are running throughout them, such as writing, leading, computers, whatever,” she says.
Wendleton also recommends creating a 15-year vision. Take a look at your life now, and then imagine it in five years and then in 15 years. Ask yourself: How would your life be different from the way it is now? What would you be doing? Where would you be living? What would your hobbies and interests be? Then ask yourself how you feel about your entire life as it appeared in your vision.
Assess your skills
Broaden your idea of who you are, says Steve Langerud, a private workplace consultant. Ask yourself questions about your needs, goals and work so that you can fill out a statement like “I need to use these skills to work on these issues with these people in this environment,” he says.
Start reading job descriptions for your industry, suggests Laura DeCarlo, president of Career Directors International. Do you meet the qualifications? Are there things you need to work on? Make sure your résumé and LinkedIn profile are current. Develop a list of companies you want to work for. Start researching jobs that interest you.
Build a network
Plan B begins and ends with networking, says Garrett Miller, author of “Hire On a WHIM: Four Qualities That Make for Great Employees.” And that goes beyond LinkedIn and Facebook.
“Networking is, in a sense, being humble enough to let people know that if there are opportunities, you’re always on the market, you’re always looking to grow,” he says. “It’s a perfect time to do those informational interviews with people you know.”
Network within your company as well, says Janine Moon, a career coach and author of “Career Ownership: Creating ‘Job Security’ in Any Economy.” Get to know other people in the office and learn about other parts of the business.
“The thing about a Plan B,” she says, “is to always be aware of where you can provide better value, more value.”
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