On having a plan B

Posted in: Bloggery

After dramatic plunges across the developed world in stocks and currencies and a massive rally in bond rates, the question is being asked are we in crisis mode again?

Just as the dust was clearing from the pantomime in Washington DC over the US debt ceiling, global financial markets have whipped attention back to the equally intractable European debt mountain. Meanwhile the economies of Europe and Japan remain mired in debt, slow growth and internal dysfunction. These are the mega-trends that underpin times like now, when markets plunge and all around we hear the cries of traders yelling: “the sky is falling, sell sky.”  Time will tell what these developments mean for corporate stability.  It does lead the mind to thinking about what all this uncertainty means for careers and jobs.

How prepared would you be if your current role were to disappear catching you by surprise? Do you have a Plan B if you lost your job tomorrow?

Everyone needs a Plan B. A realistic measure of pessimism (or preparedness for change) is needed in capturing  jobs and developing careers in the 21st century employment.  It doesn’t matter how terrific you are at what you do, external factors such as the economic climate can render you vulnerable if you let them.

This year we undertook a survey of senior managers focusing on job satisfaction, career satisfaction and resilience.  We asked respondents to rate their career resilience.  This is the ability to cope with unplanned job change and to effectively navigate a new career path.  Some statements tested objective facts – such as having a strong record of achievements – and others addressed personal competencies and a state of mind.

Our survey found senior managers were feeling suprisingly confident and resilient about their careers.  We were surprised by this level of confidence. Our experience is that whilst senior people quickly recover from the initial emotional impace of unexpected displacement very few in fact have strong networks or are equipped for career change.  It is quite common for executives to lack a strategy to represent themselves effectively in initial forays into areas of interest.

Ask yourself the following questions (which are summarised from our survey):

  1. Can you think of previous times when you have adapted readily to changes in your work environment?  What does this experience tell you?
  2. How strongly would you rate your networks?
  3. How confident are you that you would capture a good new role?
  4. How many possible alternative future careers can you envisage for yourself?
  5. How well do you operate under stress?
  6. Have you a strong record of achievements, which you can summarise?
  7. How well do you understand your strengths: can you articulate your capabilities?
  8. Do you have the ability and the resources to explore different fields of activity, including self-employment?
  9. Do you think you can create employment opportunities for yourself?


Needless to say, these are all matters we address in the course of our work with senior people working through career transition.  Our aim is to help with the building of needed capabilities –and to then back these up with a range of services around research, business intelligence, interview skills and basic tools, such as a good resume.

If you felt you could answer these challenges fairly well, then you perhaps need have no particular concerns.  But if you had some difficulties, maybe there is a need to do some work or to seek some advice.

Perhaps those we surveyed were a tad overconfident.  Maybe our timing was a little out: this survey occurred before the latest burst of market turbulence.

Reinventing a career which has been disrupted by an unplanned change is for most people a significant task at a number of levels. Create your Plan B and work on challenges like these when times are good and not when you face the need to secure new employment.  A sensible review of your career risks now enables you to take actions to address them, rather than letting the vagaries of the economic climate decide for you.

(I need to acknowledge here the contribution of Susan Moir to this short piece)