Planning for Plan B: 5 Things to Do When Your Summer Plans Do Not Work Out

By Dr. Esther H. Ra, Advisor for Nursing, Education, and Social Policy

“In general, things either work out or they don’t, and if they don’t,
you figure out something else, a plan B. There’s nothing wrong with plan B.”
― Dick Van Dyke, Keep Moving: And Other Truths About Living Well Longer

Sometimes, even with the best-laid plans, our summer plans do not work out according to our wishes. Life happens. Maybe grant summer funding did not work out in your favor or perhaps you went on the job trail, but you did not get an offer for the dream internship you hoped to have. Even worse, you may have had a personal setback in your family, such as a death or job loss, that you could not control. We get it. Unforeseen circumstances derail all of us at some point, and this summer could be the summer that it is happening to you. We have all been there here are Career Services and want to support you through the journey. All is not lost and this summer does not have to be a wash. The key is to plan for plan B. Serena Williams, who is an American professional giant among women’s tennis, boasts 23 singles title wins in the Women’s Grand Slam tournaments of all time. She has been famously quoted saying, “If Plan A isn’t working, I have Plan B, Plan C, and even Plan D.” While your original plans may have come up short, the summer ahead of you does not have to be for naught. Here are some strategic suggestions to make productive use of your summer:

1) Network. Networking, networking, networking. You can never be DONE with networking. In fact, I tell students I meet with, that networking is an ongoing relationship building exercise that can occur at any time and any place. With more time on your hands, take the opportunity to develop your network. Perhaps, you will want to make a goal to network with five new people every week. Whatever your plan, write it down and keep to your goals. While you want to be strategic about networking, be also aware, that it may come upon you without you planning for it. Penn students have met some wonderful people at airports, grocery stores, train stations, and playgrounds. Capitalize on these serendipitous moments because one day it may pay off.

2) Volunteer. Not all amazing life experiences come from paid positions. In fact, some of the best experiences in my own life came from volunteer experiences that have taken me around the globe, richly broadening my perspectives. Take the opportunity to seek work that brings you passion and gets you excited. Perhaps you can enter a field by offering to help staff a project or an event in your community. I do not know anyone who has turned away a cheerful volunteer. Being a volunteer allows for exposure to the working culture of an organization and you may be privy to spaces you would not otherwise be able to occupy. For example, had I not taken a volunteer opportunity to help design school curriculum in Indonesia, I would not have experienced traveling through Southeast Asia, nor gained a grasp on international education in this part of the world. I would have also missed the unforgettable experience of trying all the lush tropical fruits the region has to offer (durian anyone?). You get my point; not all amazing life experiences come from a paid position

3) Shadow. Consider asking someone in your network if you could shadow for a day. Shadowing is a fantastic opportunity to understand the pulse of an industry or dabble in an interested arena without any pressure. Often, through shadowing, you have the opportunity to rub shoulders with many potential mentors and network accordingly as you look to the future. It is an invaluable way to make connections that you would not otherwise be able to make. Like volunteering, you can also be invited to spaces that you might not normally be able to be in, and such opportunities could help open further job opportunities. It can also help you decipher which niches you want to explore.

4) Learn. Have you always wanted to take extra classes, but you never felt like you had the time or energy? Now is your chance! Maybe you always wanted to hone a skill or try something new. Do it now. Having unstructured time allows for creative exploration and flexibility. My friend is a great example of this. She had always wanted to be a certified fitness trainer and had enjoyed all things health. After working toward certification hours during a free summer, she now trains private clients as a very meaningful side gig. Not only does she love the work as a fitness trainer, she is able to stay extremely fit and healthy. This is all due in part because of her strategic decision one summer to take a risk and capitalize on her interests and free time.

5) Write. Do you feel that you have expertise and experience in a specific industry of work? Consider creating a niche blog or starting your own website. Alternatively, work on writing an article for an online digital resource in your field. Perhaps, get your name out on social media outlets and see where this brings you. Sharing your knowledge and expertise can be an immensely rewarding experience. Furthermore, the opportunities to write freelance on a topic you are an expert are endless. It could take you down paths you never dreamed you would take.

Planning for alternative options can bring meaning and purpose to your “plan B” summer. As Carol Burnett says, “Words, once they are printed, have a life of their own.” Create a plan, be strategic, and be tenacious and I promise, you will achieve your goals.