The concept of a backup career option — popularised as ‘Plan B’ by the TVF Aspirants web series — is real among candidates preparing for the UPSC civil services exam. After investing years in the preparation, aspirants often find themselves at crossroads preparing for a backup career, in case they do not qualify the exam.
While some aspirants take a break from the preparation and hunt for other opportunities only to land back in the competition again, many continue to appear for other exams alongside.
In recent years, many state PCS toppers have revealed that though their main aim is to qualify the UPSC civil services exam, state PCS is their backup option.
Talking to Indianexpress.com, UPPSC state topper Sanchita Sharma shared that she came to Delhi to simultaneously prepare for both the UPSC Civil Services exam and for the state PCS exams. Apart from the UPSC exam, she also appeared for Haryana Public Service Commission (HPSC), Uttarakhand Public Service Commission, and other banking exams.
BPSC state PCS Rank 3 Anurag Anand believes that an aspirant must find a Plan B, if success doesn’t come in earlier attempts. The topper couldn’t achieve success in his first two attempts of UPSC exams and started working on his alternate plan to gain stability in his career.
The unpredictability of the exam forces aspirants to face the dilemma of preparing for other competitive exams. However, some aspirants do not believe in the theory of Plan B.
Ankush Kothari, IRS (batch 2019), said clearing UPSC was his only goal and he never looked out for backup options. “After completing my graduation from IIT-Kanpur, I got campus placement in an MNC at a package of Rs 19 lakh. However, I had the dream of becoming a civil servant at the back of my head all through my graduation. Hence, I chose to prepare for UPSC Civil Services instead of taking up a well-paid corporate job,” he said.
Talking to Indianexpress.com, SM Khan, Director, Jamia Hamdard Residential Coaching Academy, said, “In my experience, I have seen the academically brightest students not qualifying the civil services exam even after conscientious preparation. Success is not a surety in this exam. Therefore, simultaneously preparing for other competitive exams is a rational choice.”
Ekta Dubey, a UPSC aspirant from Noida, said, “In the initial years of preparation, the idea to prepare for some other test doesn’t strike. One of the many reasons is the dynamic nature of this exam and the time invested in preparation. But once you face failure, reality strikes. Having a backup option does give peace of mind that if things do not work out here, one doesn’t have to start building their career from scratch.”
On the other hand, some have faced the brunt of not having a second option and stress on its importance today.
Rashika Kapoor, currently working as an assistant manager in a PSB, spoke about how she was exhausted trying to get into Civil Services that she had to change her career path. “I began preparing for the UPSC Civil Services exam just after completing my graduation. It took me a while to get familiar with the study course but by then I had already exhausted two attempts. In my fourth attempt, I cleared both prelims and mains but didn’t make it to the final list. The failure was hurtful, but I was determined and kept on preparing,” Kapoor said.
“A lot of people suggest you choose another career path after consecutive failures, but at times the determined mind doesn’t understand it. I was one such aspirant and in the process exhausted all my attempts. It was heartbreaking as I not just lost a dream but was clueless about my future,” she added.
Rashika prepared for other government exams and was successful. Looking back, she feels that if she had planned a backup earlier, her senior years in service would have been saved.
Brijendra Singh, senior faculty for Ethics at Vajiram and Ravi, said on an average out of 100 aspirants in his class, just 10-20 tend to have a robust backup plan. “As a faculty, I have witnessed students regret not having a backup plan in their later attempts. Sometimes a candidate gets into an allied service like IDES, postal service because of a lower rank scored in UPSC. They usually take off the two years joining time to keep preparing to get into IAS or IPS. However, success in those attempts is not sure shot and at the end, they not only exhaust all their attempts but also lose the opportunity to join the allied services,” Singh said.
“Being confident in your preparation is a good trait but keeping a backup plan is a practical step considering the success rate in this exam is low and unpredictable every year.” he added.