It’s quite common to think of Plan B as a compromise. But nothing could be further from the truth. In reality it’s about keeping our options open and not confining ourselves to a narrow set of specific goals.
I tell anyone who I coach and both my daughter and son, to always have a Plan B, plus Plans C and D if necessary. It is obviously great to have passions and everyone should strive towards achieving those dreams, but I would still advise them to review those passions regularly. Why? Because times, circumstances and people change. Their skills might change.
I know of many instances where individuals have focused on one goal exclusively. When something happened along the way, they were not prepared with a thorough understanding of their transferrable skills and what options could be available with their talents. The blows to their self-esteem and life plan were significant.
These might be the actress who failed to get a break, who eventually trained to become a drama therapist. Or the injured athlete who became a sales executive. The doctor who found dealing with death was too much for her and became a teacher. The Sales Director who was laid off and eventually became a landscape designer. The lawyer who had a heart attack and became a Consultant.
I am frequently approached by the parents of young adults who have not obtained the “right ” grades in school or university or even older experienced individuals who are totally unprepared for changes that come their way. Never was this more obvious when so many people were let go during the recession of 2008 and more recently the pandemic.
Why do I advocate for Plan B?
✅ Technology is changing at a rapid pace. We have no idea what careers and jobs will be available in the next ten or twenty years. Those opportunities don’t exist yet and we don’t know what they are. If someone had told me 10 years ago I would be running workshops on social media and job search, I would have looked at them blankly. Or perhaps something we always dreamed of doing, will no longer be found in the workplace as a career or even a function over time. We know that many functions are bring downgraded, outsourced and offshored. Other jobs will be made totally redundant by automation and AI.
✅The structure of workplace is changing at a more rapid pace than ever before. We all need to be multi-skilled
✅ We all have transferrable skills. Plan B doesn’t have to be a fall back position, it can be simply be about being open to other opportunities, understanding what we’re good at and how those talents can ben adapted. A great example of this is British particle scientist Professor Dr. Brian Cox, who grew up wanting to be an astronomer.
At 15 he became diverted into rock music, going on to underperform in his A levels ( AP or IB equivalent) in his final year in high school. I have no idea how Mr. Cox Senior reacted to this development, but for many parents I have come across, this would be a nightmare scenario and send them into a tail spin. Dr. Cox pursued a varied career in rock music (with a number 1 chart topper,) and didn’t go to university to study physics until the age of 23. He is now a leading BBC science presenter, successfully combining that role with an outstanding academic career. Pretty good Plan B!
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✅ Occupational roles are no longer as rigidly defined as they used to be and once again we all need to be multi-skilled.
✅ Organisational loyalty is very tenuous. As we see constantly many high calibre, excellent employees lost their jobs overnight for reasons beyond their control. We have learned that there are no guarantees in life and we have to take responsibility for managing our own careers and personal development. With first hand exposure I saw that those who struggled most to cope were the ones who in pure Darwinist terms, had difficulties adapting to change. They had no Plan B and struggled to come up with one.
✅ Passion doesn’t always pay the bills. Plan Bs can.
✅ Passion isn’t always aligned with skill set. I am passionate about tennis but my ability to earn a living out of it was always zero!
The challenge is for career changers who would like to explore a number of options to manage a consistent message. MBA students often ask me about this. This is about being clear about your core skills, raising your visibility to drive traffic to you and limiting your range of options to possibly three to avoid appearing confused and diluted.
So is having a Plan B a compromise , or simply keeping an open mind to an ever-changing world? Does it necessarily mean compromising on your dream or about embracing multiple goals and multiple facets of our skill sets and personalities? There maybe times when pragmatism rather than passion is required. It’s obviously perfect when both are aligned.
What do you think?
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