You’ve probably heard the phrase "if you fail to plan, you plan to fail" at least once in your life. It’s a reminder that no matter how good your first plan is, there’s always the chance that something could happen to make that plan moot. Without a Plan B, all sorts of bad things could happen. But it can get worse than that. In a business environment where things change quickly, even your best-laid Plan B might go out the window before you know it. Without a Plan B, C and D, you could end up in a host of decidedly less-than-ideal situations.
Here are just a few of them that should remind you that making multiple backup plans is an absolutely essential part of your career planning, and a crucial factor in running a successful business.
One Backup Plan is Not Enough
So why do you need more than one backup plan? Why isn’t just a "Plan B" enough to keep you out of troubled waters? First off, you’re not a mind reader or a time traveler, and as such, you don’t really know what the exact problem is that you might be facing in the future. As such, you need to develop contingency plans for various aspects of your business, which cover every possible thing that could go wrong. If you can imagine a problem happening, you need a few backup plans to handle it. If you’re in sales, for example, you might need a Plan B to handle inside sales a certain way, and a Plan C and D to turn to, should the first backup plan not work out. Meanwhile, you might need a completely different backup plan for handling outside sales.
Job Hunting Takes a Long Time
In the case of your own career, there’s another good adage to follow: "The time to start looking for a new job is when you get hired for your current one." Remember how hard you worked to land that job in the first place? What would happen if you suddenly lost that hard-earned job? Would you have the funds to pay for what you need to pay for in your life?
On that note, plan B could be to have another job -- or some solid job prospects -- on the back burner, just in case. Plan C, meanwhile, could be to have at least two months’ salary in the bank in case you find yourself on the street with a pink slip. And Plan D might be to have a small sideline business that could help you to bring in some cash while you’re looking for work again -- or at least to give you something to do in between sending out resumes and pounding the pavement looking for work. The process of looking for work, interviewing and then training can definitely take more than two months, which is why that Plan D -- to have a side business -- might end up being a godsend.
Careers and Industries Change All the Time
Maybe you already have a backup plan for how you’ll make money, should you get let go from your current company -- but what about making Plans B, C and D inside your own company too? Don’t overlook the value in trying to create a new job for yourself right where you already are. Maybe there’s an aspect of your industry that you’re interested in learning more about, or a facet of the business in which most of the new hires are coming into. In those cases, it doesn’t hurt to let your Plan B be a re-training process, in which you take night courses or online classes to learn a new skill set. Plan C, then, might involve sowing the seeds within your own company to start working in that field. Plan D, meanwhile, could involve starting your own business or putting out feelers for jobs openings in that new skill set.
Things May Not be What They Seem
No matter how solid your job or how perfectly you’ve executed the tasks in your job in the past, you’re still a human, and because of that, you’ll never be capable of seeing and hearing all sides of a story. You might think you know your position and think you know that everyone on your team adores you, but sadly, that’s being too trusting. If you don’t have a backup plan for your career or your job processes, you could be the one to get completely blindsided when your company downsizes or when your co-worker turns on you and takes credit for your work. It sucks to lose your full faith in people and processes, but reserve just a little bit of mistrust for the system -- and use that to develop backup plans upon backup plans that cover every contingency.
Change is Good
How many times have you heard "we do it this way because it’s the way we’ve always done it?" That’s a sure way to be the one left behind when there are major advances in your industry, or when you get a new boss. You need to be a person who embraces change and is ready to roll with the changes -- or you might end up looking like the dinosaur that isn’t able to adapt. In terms of your work, try to stay on top of the changes in your industry and the new technologies that could apply to it. Before you’re even asked, develop action plans for how you might implement that new thing. When your boss finally comes around and is ready to embrace that new technology, you’ll be viewed as a change agent, instead of a stick-in-the-mud. Change can be really good, and you need to show that you’re the one who can manage it successfully.
Things Fall Apart
If you take nothing else away from this, remember this one simple fact: Things fall apart.
You can’t control every situation, but you can do your best to foresee just HOW things will fall apart, and to plan for how you’ll put them back together. Even if you still fail, the people around you will see that you’ve made every effort to handle the issue. In some cases, that effort alone will be enough to keep you on the job or keep you from losing valuable clients.
See Also: How to Build a Career Plan
In today’s business environment, plans B, C and D shouldn’t get another name at all -- they should just collectively be called part of "The Plan." It’s an essential part of the process, and one that you need to be part of. You can’t be the person who sticks to the same-old same-old and expect to thrive in your career. It might seem like an exhausting prospect, but you really do need to carve out time for contingency planning in any and all aspects of your business -- as well as making time on the side to map out your career and ensure you’re not the one dealing with long-term unemployment.
So what are you waiting for? Stop planning to fail right now!