Should I Have a Back Up Plan For My Career?

By Phil Cooke

“Plan B” is not something we like discussing when it comes to our careers. Some people feel strongly that to be successful, you have to crawl out on a limb and then cut it off behind you. It sounds bold and courageous, but sometimes that strategy also results in careers (and lives) crashing to the ground.

Cortez supposedly burning the ships so his crew could not return to Spain from the New World is a business illustration that’s used over and over again, and there is some truth to the idea. You don’t want to make Plan B so easy that you give up your dream too soon. If it’s easy to fall back on a job working for your in-laws selling insurance, then a significant number of people will do exactly that when life as a musician, writer, or filmmaker gets tough.

But the truth is, serious challenges will happen in your career. Industries change, culture changes, bosses change, corporate administration changes, and sometimes, things happen out of our control. That’s why I don’t believe having a Plan B means you’re expecting failure. In today’s world of changing technology, we simply can’t be confident that our career won’t be impacted. In fact, your job today might not even exist in a few years, so in that light, having a Plan B is just smart strategic planning.

One of the reasons I did the hard work of earning a Ph.D. years ago is this exact issue. I love what I do, but I also knew that one day I wouldn’t be able to travel as much as I do now. One of these days I will need to slow down, and with a Ph.D. in hand, I have another option to pursue with my career.

The point is, should your career stall, don’t be caught without an alternative, and it’s never too early to start thinking about the possibility. I meet far too many professionals who were shocked when the time came and they had no Plan B in place. As a result, they defaulted on their mortgage, lost their home, and in some cases the stress destroyed their marriage.

Is there a lateral move you could make into teaching, consulting, or working full-time? It doesn’t have to be a complete change of career. A lateral move is like a movie make-up artist shifting to working in a salon, a TV writer getting a job with a magazine, or an actor moving into casting or teaching. It allows you to stay in the career you love, but with a different focus.

Think about it. Switching to a Plan B might buy you time to eventually get back on track once the industry changes again. You never know, and it’s always good to keep the bills paid.


This article originally appeared at Phil Cooke, Ph.D. is a media producer and consultant to churches and ministries around the world. His latest book is “Ideas on a Deadline: How to Be Creative When the Clock is Ticking.” Find out more at

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