The Most Important Thing You Can Do for Your Career in the New Year

Along with all the résumé fixing and heavy networking, you need to create a Plan B.

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You're probably seeing a lot of articles this week with headlines like "Ten Best Career Resolutions for 2009."

"Update your résumé," they'll advise. "Acquire a new skill." "Do more networking." "Work smarter, not harder."

Good ideas. But here's a better one: Have a Plan B .

Having a Plan B is vital. In case you haven't noticed, your industry, your company, your job can disappear or be radically transformed in the twinkling of an eye.

That's why you need to think strategically. How could your experience and expertise be transferred to other companies or other industries? What classes can you take, or certifications can you acquire, that will strengthen your position at your current job or make you a more attractive candidate for other jobs? Have you explored cross-training possibilities at your current company, so if your department is outsourced you could find a place in another one? How much money do you have set aside? What are your long-term life goals? Whom should you be meeting and getting to know now , before you need new connections?

Your Plan B is basically a long-range agenda with contingencies. It involves thinking big and thinking long. And it's a good mental exercise!

So this weekend, spend some time laying out your Plan B. In the new year, start taking action. Sure, unexpected situations will always crop up. But a good Plan B better equips you to deal with them and helps ensure your stability in an unstable world.

Happy New Year!

Karen Burns, Working Girl, is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use, to be released by Running Press in April 2009. She blogs at www.karenburnsworkinggirl.com .