How to Establish a Backup Career Plan

The tech world is volatile, and today’s companies and consumers are shifting to favor a more gig-based economy; it’s increasingly common for people to jump from job to job, and from career to career, rather than working at one place indefinitely for the majority of their working life.

Even if you love what you do currently, and want to stay with this company forever, it’s a good idea to have a backup career plan—just in case you need to call on it.

Why a Career Backup Plan Is Important

Establishing a backup career plan can help you in several important ways:

  • A path forward after termination or layoffs. Even if you’re a fantastic worker, there’s no guarantee you’re going to work here forever. If you’re terminated for any reason, or if you’re laid off, a backup career plan will give you a path forward. You’ll know what to do next, and you’ll have a new way to make money.
  • A better understanding of what’s important to you. Searching for an alternative career path can also help you better understand what’s truly important to you. Do you love working with people? Are you most interested in an ambitious career path, where you could make a high income?
  • A feeling of security. Job security is one of the most important aspects of a job, according to Americans, but unfortunately, it’s usually not a variable under your direct control. You often can’t directly control the health of an industry or the performance of your entire company. But if you have a backup career plan in place, you’ll have an instantly better feeling of security—because you’ll know what to do if things go south.
  • A secondary source of income. In some cases, your backup career plan can function as a secondary source of income. You can pursue your backup plan in tandem with your primary career path, capitalizing on income in both areas.

How to Create a Career Backup Plan

What steps can you take to create a career backup plan from scratch?

  • Consider your goals and interests. First, think about your goals and interests. What are you hoping to achieve in your life, and where have you found value in the past? What were the most rewarding parts of this career, and what have you gained from your jobs in the past? These can help you decide on a backup career strategy for the future.
  • Get licensing or certifications. If you want to be adequately prepared for an alternative career path, you could consider getting a formal license or certification; that way, you can hit the ground running if your current career doesn’t pan out. For example, you could get your real estate license online, or become a certified dietician.
  • Get education. Similarly, you could invest in your education. These days, there are countless sources of information online to consult; you could sign up for a class with a university, or simply watch a highly detailed YouTube channel. In any case, getting exposure to information from your chosen backup career field early can help you prepare for it—and make sure it’s something that truly interests you.
  • Start a side gig. If you’re especially interested in generating extra income from your backup career plan, you could consider starting a side gig. You can spend a few hours a week (or more) on your side gig, making extra money while simultaneously developing your skills, and if you lose or quit your current job, you can dive into it full-time.
  • Build your professional network. It never hurts to build your professional network. As you add more people to your contacts list, you’ll learn more about the different career paths available in your city, and you’ll also have people to reach out to when you’re in the market for a new job.
  • Develop a robust emergency fund. In case it’s a while before your next career picks up, it’s important to develop a robust emergency fund. Build up your savings while you can, so you can tap into them if you find yourself in need in the future.
  • Come up with contingencies. Finally, come up with contingencies beyond your initial career backup plan. What are you going to do if your initial idea falls through? What immediate steps will you take if you find yourself without a stream of income?

There’s significant room for flexibility here, so don’t feel pressured to follow the same formula as someone else. As long as you’re thinking about what you would do in the event of unexpected job loss or sudden disinterest in your current career, you’ll have a much better chance of developing the career you want in the future.