Skip to main content

The Disappearance of the Back-Up Career

Analysis  |  By HR Daily Advisor  
   July 20, 2023

Given the often high costs to retrain or upskill career transitioners, some believe the viability of a back-up career is fading.

This article was first published on July 20, 2023, by HR Daily Advisor, a sibling publication to HealthLeaders.

While many people dedicate their entire careers to a specific vocation or skillset, the reality is that most people are not so thoroughly specialized that they are limited to the skills required for their current job or career. For example: an accountant might also have a knack for carpentry, a truck driver might have a side-hustle as a music teacher, an IT professional might design apps as a hobby.

Career Leverage or Fading Opportunity?

Having marketable skills outside of one’s primary vocation can act as a form of diversification or backup plan. If career choice one goes south for whatever reason, there’s at least something to fall back on without having to start from scratch. But given the often high costs to retrain or upskill career transitioners, some believe the viability of a back-up career is fading.

“Back-up careers have had a reputation for staying power—largely, they seem stable or ‘safe’ enough to weather economic changes,” says Megan Carnegie in an article for BBC Worklife. Carnegie adds that, “While it’s true that many of these jobs do have endurance, pursuing a new career often requires retraining or re-education—which takes time and money. This has always been the case, of course, but now, current economic conditions are making these additional costs more difficult to shoulder.”

Impact on Employers

The impact of this trend on workers is pretty straightforward and generally negative. Fewer career options and closed doors are almost always a bad thing. But our focus is primarily on the other side of the employment relationship: the employer. How does the decreasing availability of back-up careers impact employers?

On the one hand, it might mean that it’s that much easier to retain staff as well as to set more employer-friendly policies. If workers have fewer alternatives, employers have more leverage.

But just because employees are “stuck” in a career doesn’t mean they’ll be happy, engaged, or productive in that career. How much of a benefit it is to employers to better retain employees who may be disgruntled and simply don’t want to be in that role is debatable.

HR Daily Advisor is BLR’s FREE daily source of HR tips, news, and advice. HR Daily Advisor offers free webcasts, articles, and reports on topics important to HR and compensation professionals.

Tagged Under:

Get the latest on healthcare leadership in your inbox.