Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Alphabet Strategy

Since I'll be gone this weekend visiting friends from State a state over, here is your weekly fix of Eva McSpartan a few days early. This entry is inspired by our economy and how it has affected industry.

Unless you've been under a pretty decent sized rock for the last few years, you know that our economy has taken some blows and it hasn't been pretty. Yes, we realize this, now what do we do to deal with it?

Here's an idea for everyone...the Alphabet Strategy. This is a play on the idea of having a "Plan B". Given that our economy has been pretty unsteady, industries have become a bit unsteady as well. Prices have fluctuated dramatically on stocks, products, and materials which has led companies to make dramatic changes in their structure, products, and overall management. As a result, companies that may have been stable a few years ago are making cuts in people, products, and their benefits packages.

The hard truth of this is that these changes are affecting everyone from the CEO's of major companies to the interns who are on the bottom of the totem pole. Here's how you are going to get through this's time for you to accept that change is going to be the norm. Figuring out what you want, what you can compromise with, and how to be open minded are going to be important parts of surviving this rough patch. You can have control of what seems to be a complete mish-mash of craziness. Seriously.

Let's start thinking about how to use the Alphabet Strategy in connection with these thoughts. The Alphabet Strategy is the idea that you need to have more than one back-up plan because your life is never going to follow one path. A visual example of this is with the tree chart from last week. The point of this strategy is to give yourself an expanse of overall goals that you want to accomplish so that when you are faced with a road block, you can continue on a different path and still be successful. If you start asking around, you may find that some of the most successful people were the ones who looked at a bad situation, readjusted, and continued on to accomplish their goals in a different fashion. Not everyone can have that "perfect" path that we see in the movies. Life just doesn't work like that (and that's why it's so much fun!)

Now that we've discussed this theory, let's start custom building it to fit our lives. The first step of this is to write down 5-10 goals that you have for the next 5-10 years. These can vary from goals that you have professionally and personally. Here's a few goals that I have:
  1. Graduate from college in December 2009 with a job offer in my pocket.
  2. Complete a masters degree. It could be an MBA or Masters in Engineering Management. It could even be a masters in physical therapy.
  3. Pass the FE Exam so that I have the option of consulting someday if I'd like to take that path. Depending on graduate school info, I may add the GMAT or GRE to this list.
  4. Move out of my parent's house (sorry ma) by the time the summer of 2010 rolls around.
  5. Save as much money as possible my first couple of years at work for a cushion fund to spend on grad school, a house, a car, or to just save for later.
Those right there are a start. There are definitely quite a few more goals on that list, but for now that gives me something to work with.

My next step for these goals is to formulate stategies on how to accomplish them. I'll look at number 5 to demonstrate this point. One thing that many new graduates don't realize is that getting your financial act together when you're first starting out in industry can help you a lot! When you are first starting out, being frugal like you're still in college can be to your advantage. Avoid making huge purchases right away if you can. Using tools like can help you as well. This website helps you track your spending so that you can see where all your money is going. Even the most money conscious people may be surprised by what all is going on in their bank accounts. In addition to helping you for the future, taking steps now to raise your financial IQ will be to your benefit later. If you can handle your accounts like a champ now, when your life becomes more complicated later you'll be able to deal with it.

While I could go on for pages and pages about all the things you could do to make potential plans for yourself, what is going to help you the most now is to try this out! All you need is a piece of paper, a pen or pencil, and a few minutes. Write down your goals, start making up strategies and maybe even put together a simple tree chart. Confused? E-mail me at

Like always,

Good Luck Job Seekers!

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