Career Backup Plans - Part Two

By George Spafford

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In the first article, I reviewed career contingency planning largely centered around finances, insurance and legal issues associated with your previous employer. In this article we’ll look at what to do next in terms of planning for your future.

Next Steps

At this juncture take a close look at your career and decide if a change is needed. Has the market changed yet your skills haven’t? Are you happy with your life? Is there a better use of your time? Is there a unique opportunity to pursue? Questions such as these are examples to consider. You need to make an honest self-appraisal and decide what interests you and in what direction to head with your career.

When assessing what to do next, there are at least three options to look at. On one hand, you can find another full-time employer and for some this is just what they want. Another opportunity is to pursue freelance/contract work. People who find this path are looking to have more control over their employment and are willing to take on the additional management costs in return for higher pay and more flexibility.

For others this is an opportunity to start their own business. If you are serious about this route, think through your business plan carefully. Starting your own business can seem great until you carefully analyze the investment to begin, ongoing cash flow and hours required. This can be a great career option for some yet disastrous for others.

The key with all the options is to think them through carefully and discuss your options with friends, family and colleagues that you trust. Any of the above opportunities may look fantastic to you but a disaster waiting to happen to others. If you believe in the dream, chase it but pay close heed to the counsel of others whom you respect before you jump. The balance of the article will largely focus on those seeking contract or full-time employment.

The Job Market

Carefully research the job market in the geographic areas you can work. Do they need the skills you have to offer or do you need to pick up some training and certifications? In general, it is a good idea to stay up on the market and get training even if you have to fund it yourself to remain marketable.

The main point here is you need to understand what makes people marketable in the field you are looking at and then take the correct steps to be successful in your pursuits.

Dust Off the Resume

Some people keep their resume constantly updated while others haven’t looked at theirs for a long time. During your planning, get the resume out and update it. If you are looking at several types of jobs then consider a resume tailored for each. In other words be sure that you identify the accomplishments and responsibilities you have experienced that are relevant to the resume.

Furthermore, get advice and/or professional help with your resume. There are for-fee services, friends who can critique, etc. Don’t try to update and polish your resume on your own. There are a lot of ways to create a resume that work and a lot that do not. Leverage the experience of others.

One important thing: Don’t lie. While embellishing and puffing up your resume is considered an art by some, it can become very apparent during interviews or early on in a new job whether you possess the skills you claim. If you don’t, then your reputation can take a hit and in a small market word can get around. Samuel Clement offered some sage advice years ago when he said that by telling truth he had a lot less to remember.

Social Networking

In the good old days we met people face-to-face at parties, social clubs and sporting events and talked about career options. Today, we still have the tried and true methods and now sites like www.linkedin.com can help facilitate introductions as well.

References make a dramatic difference when trying to talk to the right people about a career opportunity. Don’t skip developing and maintaining a network of contacts when times are good because they will become vital if a career change is needed.

Job Sites

Being in IT we have many great job sites that can help us contact prospective employers. Sites such as Monster.com, Dice.com, and Careerbuilder.com have proven track records. These sites are expanding and are offering premium fee-based and free services. Take the time to understand their offerings and craft your responses to their questions in a manner that maximizes employer interest.

Be very careful when putting in salary expectations, whether you want full-time only or will consider contract work, etc. These are all filtering questions and they may very well exclude you from positions that you would have considered had you only known that they existed.


Some bemoan recruiters but the truth is they serve a very important role in that they can leverage networks of employers and job seekers and broker meetings. In return for their efforts they often get some percentage of the starting salary paid by the employer. Take the time to identify local, regional and, if relevant, national recruiters that can help you in your journey.


Searching for a new job can be stressful. While it is easy to focus on the logical side of the search, it also helps to realize that there are variables outside of your control. Rather than dwell on them, focus on the positive aspects and where you want to go. It’s all too easy to slip into depression and lash out unless you direct your energies to creative goals. Planning can help you do just this.

In closing, changing careers can be a welcome, or unwelcome, opportunity. By preparing for it and choosing the paths that you will follow then you are reducing the number of decisions that you must make in a rush. In the end, where you go from here is entirely up to you.

George Spafford is a Principal Consultant with Pepperweed Consulting and a long-time IT professional. George's professional focus is on compliance, security, management and overall process improvement.