For many people, careers by default have guided their lives. What's this? "Having no plan or road map for what you want to do in your life." This process gets kick-started in college when you feel pressured into choosing your major. The pressure may come from parents, peers, or the college counselor – even from inside you. No matter where it comes from, you find yourself facing a decision that you may not be ready to make. So what do you do? You choose anything – just anything – so that you may finish your coursework and get on with your life. Sound familiar?
After graduation, more decisions need to be made. What kind of job can you get with your degree? OMG! The jobs in your field have gone away while you were studying. Now what? Either you move back home with your parents, or you bunk with friends also doing a job search while you all work in fast food restaurants, retail sales, or if you're lucky, entry level office jobs. What happened? Why isn't your life turning into the great experience you were promised in your teens? (Another option is to return to school – but do you really want more debt?)
"If only" becomes your cry – if only I'd given my career choice more thought; if only I'd researched career options before choosing my major; if only I'd paid more attention to what I really enjoy doing – who knows? I may not have even gone to college at all, but studied while working in some kind trade instead.
I remember in high school when my mother (a former high school teacher) advised me to take a semester of typing even though I planned on getting a bachelor's degree. Honestly, typing really didn't appeal to me, but like a good first child, I listened and followed her advice. Today I look back and realize how important that one semester of typing has been to my entire career. In my first full time job I used typing and have relied on my keyboard skills ever since to manage whatever tasks that my jobs dictated. For me, typing was my Plan B. Today it is my tool for facilitating all my other skills and talents.
What is your Plan B?
If your career isn't quite working out right now, do you have a backup plan to go to? Even it's just a part time job, it's important to have something to supplement your living expenses while you continue to pursue your dreams. Sometimes a Plan B is your current position while you work on defining and exploring a career change. After all, you have to eat, right? If you're not working at all, what can be your Plan B? Perhaps something as simple as selling your services for cleaning houses, walking dogs, building websites, or even acting as a companion for an elderly neighbor.
The ideal Plan B job will be a temporary, short lived thing. It needs to help you survive while you make the transition into your chosen career, a career where you achieve your goals and meet your working wants. And a Plan B doesn't have to be job itself, it can be a skill you utilize while holding down a job.
What's most important here is that you do have options. What do you choose for your first – or next – career? What kind of Plan B can you come up with to give you the time to get what you really want?
Wishing you career success in 2011!