When I think of career resiliency, I think of my friend Molly, who applied nine times before she was promoted from a Customer Service Representative to a Learning Specialist.
In the first interview, Molly was told she didn’t have the necessary education or experience. Instead of giving up, she asked for suggestions and immediately enrolled in the recommended university program. After the second attempt, she began volunteering as an instructor with Junior Achievement, where she applied her new learning to engage students, and eventually earned a commendation. At home, she threw herself into a learning quest and surrounded herself with people who believed in her. At work, she stretched by coaching new employees, serving on the Quality Council, authoring a quarterly newsletter, organizing events and being involved in everything possible.
Two years and eight rejections after starting this journey, she graduated with a certificate in adult education. By then, she had nearly two years of facilitation experience with Junior Achievement, and knew how to make learning interesting. In the Learning Manager’s eyes, Molly had grown exponentially, and the manager was proud to offer her a training job. Since then, Molly has worked as a Learning Specialist and Instructional Designer for a leading educational institution and private-sector employers in Canada, the U.S. and Mexico. Her courses have been recognized nationally and delivered to thousands of people. None of that would have happened if she had given up after the first few attempts.
What is career resiliency?
Resiliency (or resilience) is the mindset that allows people to thrive and bounce back after a setback. Career resiliency is the mindset that empowers people to pursue their career goals in the face of adversity, such as job losses, toxic work environments, failed projects or unrealized promotions.
What do resilient people have in common?
During my 25-plus-year career as a recruiter, manager and professional resume writer, I have worked with countless resilient people. Most have certain things in common:
- They commit to compelling career goals, believe they will succeed and don’t quit until they do.
- They give themselves permission to fail as many times as it takes to master a new skill. They do their best to learn and to keep improving, but they are not derailed by failure or imperfection.
- They view career setbacks as temporary, and look for the learning in any challenging situation.
- They take risks and move mountains to achieve their goals. They go out of their way to learn and actively seek out mentors, teachers, resources and new ideas that will help them move forward. They find the learning in any criticism or rejection, and they keep adapting their strategy or approach until they succeed.
- They use empowering language and positive beliefs to shape their reality. You will never hear a resilient person say something negative about themselves or others.
- They give themselves permission to feel, but they don’t get stuck in depression, anger, helplessness or victimization. They also don’t blame themselves or others for any failures.
- They build strong relationships and support networks with friends and colleagues who listen, encourage, inspire and/or challenge them during both good and tough times.
- They see things clearly. Resilient jobseekers recognize when a workplace is no longer a good fit and are proactive in applying for new jobs. By the time a department is decimated by stress leaves or large-scale layoffs, they have probably already started a new job.
- They realize that sometimes the goal has to change, as their lives and priorities change.
- Resilient people manage their stress with self-care – including plenty of sleep, exercise, yoga, meditation, good nutrition, relaxation, good friends and regular vacations.
Developing resiliency in yourself and others
Challenge yourself, your team, your clients, your friends and/or your students to try some of these ideas for building resiliency, confidence and capacity.
- Find or accept a project that will build upon and stretch your skills, capabilities and confidence.
- Find mentors, resources and supports to help with this project.
- Try wearing a rubber band on one wrist and snapping it every time a negative thought comes to mind. With every snap, challenge yourself to think of a more empowering thought. Be patient. Some thoughts may take a while (and multiple snaps) to disappear.
- Find ways to inspire yourself and others to strive for excellence, break big projects down into smaller chunks and encourage everyone to keep going until each goal has been reached.
- List your three biggest accomplishments and explore the ideas and beliefs that helped you to succeed.
- Name three things that are preventing you from achieving your goal and three ways to overcome these obstacles.
- Name three things you could do differently the next time you attempt something that failed before.
- Try some of your new ideas to improve your success at work, at school or in finding a new job.
- Recognize good work, and celebrate the successes.
- Create some opportunities for team building and self-care.
After a lifetime of observing people, I have come to the realization that resiliency is a journey, not a constant state of being. Adversity is part of life, and nearly everyone struggles with something. Even the most resilient people have times when they have to step back and regroup for a time before pushing forward again.
When times are tough, it’s tempting to give up. Resiliency is about finding the strength, determination and belief to either keep going or to change course to achieve our goal.
If someone you know has had a career setback, remind them that this situation is temporary, and can be overcome. There are many ways to succeed. If the ultimate career goal is to do great work, doing something they enjoy while earning a good income, that can be achieved in many ways.
If you are struggling with something, I challenge you to take the first step, then the next one. You might surprise yourself by succeeding beyond your wildest dreams. Just ask my friend Molly.