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Paul Sweum
Indexer | Technical Writer | Editor | Environmental & Town Planner
Bellevue, Washington

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When Preparation Meets Opportunity: Your “Plan B” is Waiting in the Wings

We all have our 'Plan A'...but when are we going to put our 'Plan B' into play? It's easy to keep putting it off...but wait! It's been there all along. Here's some thoughts on it.
Written Apr 01, 2009, read 2452 times since then.


I don’t need to explain to all of you how the times are uncertain. Stability for many of us has been disrupted…and many of us don’t know what to make of this current “economic thing” ~ which is how I choose to refer to it ~ being the Monday morning economist that I am.

For some of us, it’s downright frightening...and it can make you feel like running into the corner of the room and hiding under a coat, which I believe Homer Simpson once did in an episode of The Simpsons. Trying to escape and hide, however, isn’t going to make issues go away.

In my experience, I learned that simply getting by with a “Plan A” is not enough.

My message to you is to choose to not be Homer…to choose to not hide under the coat…and to turn the ship around to come at this economic thing head on. A little soul searching, along with some outside-the-box thinking, can help you construct a “Plan B” by giving you a renewed sense of confidence and stability on the job front…and therefore in your life.

The question now is: “How do I figure out what this Plan B is?”

At the end of the day, only you can answer that question. However the answer more than likely lies as a patchwork quilt throughout your past experience, perhaps hidden in your resume, or inside you as an untapped passion…and you may not view the building blocks of your Plan B the way you viewed them 5, 10 or 15 years ago.

I can hear you…you’re saying “Huh?” An explanation and example of this is best served through my own story.

When my interest in a city planning career began at Arizona State, I set myself on what I refer to as a “Plan A trajectory.” Be it my geography studies, planning internships, or odd jobs, everything served as a building block toward the goal of becoming a full-time planner. I looked around at friends who were going down similar Plan A trajectories; whether they were carpenters, engineers, communications specialists, tech types, or entrepreneurs.

I rolled along with many temporary jobs along the route to becoming a planner that helped pay the bills; such as moving furniture, delivering pizza, distributing for a wholesale florist, telemarketing, waiting tables, and as a mail room clerk. However, it was the more unconventional jobs that caught my interest. At one time or another I worked out of a shop that made incense, helped other students write their resumes (pre-Internet times), and called balls and strikes as a baseball umpire for little league. I considered being the only 24-hour "dancing notary" in Arizona but then, uh, reconsidered.

After planning became a full-time career, there wasn’t time for much else with the demanding daytime schedule coupled with endless night meetings. However after several years ~ as I saw potential burnout ahead ~ I forced myself to pick up some other skills along the way. I took on stained glass art as a hobby and managed to bring my facility to a level of selling a few pieces. Finally, my day under the big top arrived as I trained as a professional clown and performed at birthday parties before it became a volunteer thing.

Times changed, my views on the demands of planning changed, and my life priorities changed. I reset my Plan A trajectory towards a career in indexing and technical writing, using a skill set I had developed through my years as a planner. However, as I worked through these career transitions I was asking myself “When am I going to develop this Plan B I’ve been talking about for so long?”

In truth, I had developed it all along and didn’t even realize I was doing it. Now, when the subject is brought up I enjoy telling folks that “clowning is my fifth job.” They think I’m kidding...but, well, I’m really not.

By pursuing passions, noodling through hobbies, and keeping myself open to unconventional forms of work, I bring an alternative skill set to the table that serves as a bona-fide “Plan B.” I realize my examples may sound rather outside the norm, and they may not create a revenue stream that selling insurance on the side, for example, can. There are definitely more lucrative ideas out there, and folks with those passions should pursue them.

However I thoroughly enjoy these forms of work, and jobs in performing arts such as clowning actually pay unbelievably well…and not everyone is a clown, so they’re in demand. I take a similar approach to stained glass and plan on developing that further.

My story is just one example. You can discover hidden talents, cherishing your passions, and take the time to develop them into something that’s meaningful and useful. We all have it in us. You have it in you. If you turn something you haven't given much thought to ~ or overlooked altogether ~ into a Plan B form of work, then you can increase your chances of maintaining stability in uncertain times.

By having these developed talents in your toolbox, you will create your own luck...and they will serve you in ways that you can't begin to imagine.

That's when preparation meets opportunity.

Learn more about the author, Paul Sweum.

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