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Saturday, February 7, 2009

Contingency Planning: keeping a Plan B ready for your career

Multiple bloggers on the Generation Y- led blogging community of the Brazen Careerist have written about creating multiple income streams or having a back-up plan if an intended career doesn't go well. The ideal situation is to be able to combine the two and earn money at a 2nd job. Another option is have a fall back career that you can start that will earn money quickly. That could be freelance or consulting contacts with reliable clients. Either way, using "stream" after a phrase like income stream or work stream or just plain streaming, make me think of someone urinating into a river.

I learned about contingency planning the hard way when a fellowship ended and the full-time opportunity fell through. As a result, I got good at always having an income-earning side job or a Plan B that I could quickly start. Here are those stories.

Knitting Instructor: I had been knitting since senior year in college and this was always the "Turn my hobby into a job" dream option. At the beginning of the holiday shopping season, I approached my local yarn store to see if I could work there and eventually become a knitting instructor. They were intrigued enough by a male knitter to hire me just for weekend work. I started out in the store, helping customers, running the cash register, and constantly searching for that one particular ball of yarn that the computer said that we still had in the back room. Eventually, they needed an instructor and I taught classes and did private lessons.

The great parts of the job were that having a employee discount for your hobby is like catnip as I would walk around the store in a euphoric haze. I also made up business cards with the motto, "Man enough to knit, strong enough to purl". Unfortunately, I learned that working in your hobby is different than working on your hobby. Teaching is hard work no matter if you're teaching knitting, calf-raising, or 17th century Russian poetry. The other draw back was that it would be hard to support yourself as a knitting instructor if I really needed to.

Spanish Medical Interpreter: In the definition of serendipity, I went into an acquaintance's birthday party and found this side job. While small talking with a guy, I found out that he sells insurance and does Spanish medical interpreting for a small local agency. With his reference and a Spanish Medical dictionary, I went to the agency and the next day was interpreting at a dentist's office. Later, I joined a larger agency so I could do phone interpreting at home. I would give them the hours when I was available. The phone would ring and I would either be helping with a lactation consult in Georgia or selecting a Medicare prescription drug plan with a senior in Florida. However, more often than not, I was talking with CommEdison in New York and explaining to someone why the electricity was shut off.

This replaced knitting as my side job. The good parts were that I was actually involved with patient care or at least talking about it. It was a little intense for a side job but it maintained my fluency in Spanish and this would always be a full-time option. Additionally, it would keep me in my field of health care so there was great networking potential.

MBA Admissions Consultant: This is my current side job where I subcontract with a company and help applicants with their MBA programs essays. I stopped the Spanish interpreting for this side job since it paid well, taught me a new skills that always had a market, and I enjoyed working with the applicants and keeping involved with the whole MBA scene.

My childhood dream career was to be a writer and this job is the closest thing to writing that I have done. It's more editing but I work with clients to tell their story. My previous posts here and here and here have described my experience with admission consulting. Admission consulting combines my social work skills (I spent a year in a Masters in Social Work program but did not finish the program), writing skills, and most importantly is something that I could see doing full-time that pays the bills. I do enjoy the work and the clients.

I also think that I can combine all three of these side jobs and become a knitting instructor for Spanish speaking MBA applicants. Or I could help knitters learn Spanish while they apply to business school. Or help MBA's fund a knitting cooperative in a Spanish speaking country. The options are truly endless.

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