Careers can change in an instant, we all like to think that we have job security and that everything will be fine, but the truth of the matter is, that is not always true. When we think about what we will do if our house or car were to be suddenly damaged, we call it a contingency plan or a backup plan. As you move throughout your career with both the planned changes (obtaining a new job) or the unplanned catastrophes (getting let go for whatever reason) having a backup or contingency plan to help you throughout the transition or unexpected tough times is essential.
A career contingency plan doesn’t mean that you will have another job lined up at a moment’s notice, but it does mean that you are prepared in the event you do need to find a new job quickly. Staying up to date (having a current resume and an understanding of the local job market) is a great place to start. By having a clear understanding of your capabilities and the needs of employers within your job market, you can become more effective at being employable at other positions. Discover what your knowledge gaps are and take the time to fix them, while you still have time. Even if you are employed and are not “looking” for a new job, performing a job search at least once a month will help you stay informed on the local market and give you an idea of who is hiring and what types of positions they are filling. This gives you an advantage especially when there are companies that you already have interest in.
Additionally, you should have a Plan B (and it doesn’t hurt to have a Plan C as well). These can be specific companies or fields that you have the proper skill set to move into, or those you can move back to. While you are currently employed take advantage of the educational / continuous learning benefits they offer to help you fill any gaps you can. Attend training, educational courses, or get certified if possible. Not only will these things help you become more valuable at your current position, they can assist you in transitioning to a new one if needed.
When looking to improve upon your skills or fill any gaps, consider the types of jobs most likely to be available as well as the types you can “fall back” on. A good direction to take this is into job fields such as Accounting or STEM related fields as there is more demand in those fields. Do not neglect your soft skills and the things that interest you as well, continuous improvement is always important. Furthering your knowledge may not only help you keep your current career, but it may open up new opportunities for you as well. For example, you may discover the ability to take on a totally different career path, into something you didn’t know you would love. It isn’t only a smart move because you may see the benefits from it if you lost your job, it’s smart because your career will not develop exactly as you plan, it will take turns and change as time goes on. Your career is always evolving, without having or creating the opportunity for growth you will never end up where you want to be. The contingency career plan is just one more way to help you do that.
Retaining a positive life and career outlook while employed, and more importantly while unemployed may be difficult, but also very necessary. Making career decisions when depressed or in a negative mindset is not the best option for you. Not only is it unhealthy, it can affect how employers see you (for example; in your motivation, employers expect to see the drive and determination that you bring to the table not the other way around). Remember the choices you make will impact the “big picture” in your overall career; wise planning and preparation can help to keep you aligned to reach your career goals even when the unexpected happens.
Additionally you want plan for what you can do to survive financially if something were to happen to your job/career. What can you cut back on to lessen the financial impact? Bills such as cable or phone plans that you can reduce to lower your expenditures, dining out, or entertainment you can cut back on. Build an emergency fund, ideally you want at least 1 year of potential future bills covered in your savings but a great goal to set at is ¼ your current salary if you haven’t started yet. If you have multiple income sources, what can you adjust if one were to go away? Freelancing is always an option for a second income stream and it is something that you decide on doing when the opportunities arise.
For more information on creating a career contingency plan view the following:
This was written for creating a career contingency plan to safeguard yourself from the recession, but it has some great info on creating your backup plan, which is great at any time. Backup Career Plan