When looking for a job, we all have a dream company and job in mind. We also include a few back-up companies/jobs in our job search efforts, just in case Plan-A doesn’t materialize.
However, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business and the University of Wisconsin-Madison believe that having a backup plan can actually derail your success rather than help you achieve your goals.
After studying how people reacted to certain scenarios, their research shows that a safety net may actually decrease your motivation for reaching your highest potential.
The two researchers set out to find out if this hypothesis rang true by setting up an experiment with hundreds of people divided into two groups.
In one group, respondents were given a test to unscramble sentences. Those who did well could leave early or get a free snack.
Researchers added one aspect to a second group of people. The second group was told to also come up with ideas about how to get free food or how to make up any lost time later in the day, if they didn’t unscramble the sentences quick enough.
AGAINST COMMON PRACTICE
What the researchers found went against the notion that successful people always had backup plans in case something went awry.
People in the experiment who made backup plans fared worse on the unscrambling tasks.
Shin and Milkman discovered, through follow-up questions after the experiment, that the lack of accomplishment from people who had backup plans was partly due to a diminished drive to succeed.
Failure is associated with negative emotions. These are important for pushing us to succeed, in order to avoid the consequences of failure. When you have a back-up plan in place, the emotional safety net can reduce the desire to achieve your goals and succeed.
DRIVE VERSUS SAFETY NET
Whereas a backup plan may make you feel safe and reduce negative emotions associated with failure, a safety net could interfere with accomplishing your primary goal.
Security makes you feel better, but it might diminish your desire and drive for what you really want to achieve.
For example, you may settle for a job at a less well-known company because you already have a connection there versus reaching for a loftier objective at a prestigious firm where you don’t know anyone.
Fortunately, the researchers have a solution.
HOW TO ACHIEVE PLAN A FIRST
Shin and Milkman explain that you should rely on a backup plan only after you exhaust all possibilities for earning your original goal.
Many times, people may fall back on Plan B prematurely when they are already close to finishing Plan A.
Figuring when to switch gears means you should know yourself, determine what it takes to realize your objectives, and recognize when you can’t do any more.
What you do during your job search, does depend on your specific situation. However, it might be worth considering and incorporating the findings of this research into your job search.
Before spreading your efforts across Plans A, B and C, perhaps you should give Plan A everything you got first. It could make the difference between getting your dream job and having to settle for something less inspiring.
Having said that, to find your dream job it is essential that you go about the search in the perfect way. Take a look at our free guides to help with this.