"Should I have a backup plan if I can’t secure an ideal job?"


Author: Larry Medina (Head of Career Services, Alumni & Corporate Relations) at ESSEC Asia-Pacific

This week, I will look at the need for a backup plan during an internship or job search. In Singapore, the peak period for securing a summer internship is March and April. 

As we progress through April, it is understandable that the stress of finding an internship can build. One way to help manage the search and the associated stress is to have a backup plan.

I always recommend that students develop both a main plan and a backup plan. The former focuses on their primary target, and the latter locks on a secondary target that is more attainable.

Main plan 

It is important to understand the probabilities of various options. For example, depending on location and year, Google hires less than 1% of applicants, with some estimates being as low as 0.2%. 

In general, it will be more challenging to get an internship or a job in top companies in top locations. This insight is not meant to be discouraging but to help you better plan your overall search strategy.

Yes, always focus your energy on getting the role that you want. After networking, applying and interviewing, you will start to see if you are making traction towards your goal. 

This will give you a sense of whether you should focus your energy on your main plan or start to focus more on your backup plan.

Backup plan

Here, I would like to clarify. Switching to your backup plan is not giving up. A backup plan can be a stepping-stone role that gets you one step closer to your dream role. 

As I have discussed in previous career tips, there are three focus areas to develop your career: location, industry, and role. 

If you change two of your focus areas, your backup plan may only afford to retain one of the other. This gets you one step closer to your ultimate goal. 

Please remember that a career is not a sprint but a marathon and sometimes, making an incremental step towards your goal is the next best option.

Plan to progress

Having a well-formulated backup plan can also help relieve your stress. It gives you a way forward if you are not making traction in your job search. 

You can put timelines on different phases of your search. For example, you can focus most of your energy on your main plan until a specific date and then switch to your backup if you think you are not making enough progress. 

Having these markers will give you structure that may help you manage the stress of the search.


To recap, it is important to focus your energy on your main plan or primary target and develop a backup plan. 

Your backup plan can be a stepping-stone position that gets you closer to your target role. A well-formulated backup plan can also help you manage the stress of a job search.

Here is wishing all students the best during this internship hunting period.

Larry Medina is the Head of Career Services, Alumni & Corporate Relations at ESSEC Asia-Pacific Business School. For more career tips, follow #careertipswithlarry.  Read previous tips from this series.

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