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Career Resilience: What Is It and How to Build It

How to Build Career Resilience


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The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we do nearly everything. From working and learning to shopping, recreating, and socializing, as an entire planet, we’ve had to find new ways to navigate our daily lives.

If we’re being honest, it hasn’t been easy. But, we can make some shifts within ourselves to improve our ability to adapt to life’s ever-changing circumstances—and it all starts with being resilient.

Merriam-Webster defines resilience as “the ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.” Resilience is a powerful tool in moving through any of life challenges, and here’s the really great news: resilience isn’t some fixed, elusive trait that only some people are born with. Anyone can learn to become resilient, anytime, anywhere.

So whether you’re struggling with a job loss, financial hardship, additional caretaking responsibilities, or the change to your normal schedules and routines, learning to become more resilient can help you live through every type of loss and challenge.

3 Secrets of Resilient People

Dr. Lucy Hone, resilience researcher, author, and co-director of the New Zealand Institute of Wellbeing & Resilience, shares the below three strategies for developing resilience in her popular TED Talk, “3 Secrets of Resilient People.”

1. Understand That Suffering Is Part of Life

In this day and age when anyone can create a sparkling (but not always realistic) social media presence, many feel entitled to a perfect existence, sans any pain or suffering. But resilient people know that tough times are part of every human life. When you understand that bad stuff can—and does—happen to everyone, you are much less likely to feel discriminated against when misfortune does knock on your door. Instead of, “why me?” a resilient person may ask, “why not me?”

2. Direct Your Attention to the Positive

Focusing on what can be changed and accepting the things that can’t is a common trait of resilient people. Human beings are hard-wired to notice and respond to threats and weaknesses. From an evolutionary perspective, this was crucial to survival. But in modern society, that bias toward the negative can make people less able to adapt to change. Our brains don’t know the difference between a real threat to our survival (read: tiger) and a perceived threat (think: a toxic colleague). More often than not, we interpret too many things as serious threats, and our stress response switch gets stuck in the “on” position.

Resilient people have figured out how to find the good, despite negative challenges they face. Termed “benefit finding,” the ability to switch the focus of your attention to include the positive can be a really powerful strategy. Give yourself permission to feel grateful and make an intentional, deliberate, and ongoing effort to tune in to everything that’s good in your world. As Hone eloquently puts it, “Don’t lose what you have to what you’ve lost.”

3. Ask If Your Thoughts and Actions Are Helping

Asking yourself, “Is what I’m doing helping me or harming me?” is another powerful tool for resilient people. Taking a moment to stop and ask yourself if a certain thought or behavior is helping you or causing further harm, and then choosing to be kind to yourself every time, gives you control over the decisions you make. This simple exercise of focusing on helping yourself can mean the difference between staying stuck in a painful situation and moving forward.

What Is Career Resilience?

Resilience is a trait that will serve you well in every aspect of your life, including your career. With alarming unemployment rates and continued layoffs and furloughs as the pandemic continues to take its toll on the job market and economy, millions of Americans are struggling with how to change careers or launch a search for a new job.

Thankfully, this is where career resilience comes in handy. Career resilience is the ability to adjust to career change, whatever the circumstances may be, and to navigate all the ups and downs and twists and turns on your career path. In today’s world, career resilience is no longer just a “nice to have,” it’s a core professional competency.

Not feeling very resilient lately? Don’t worry! Resilience can be learned and, much like a muscle, it’s a skill that’s honed and perfected when “exercised” during crises and tough times. That means that right now is the perfect time to work on your career resilience skills.

Focus on a Resilient Job Search

Whether you’re on the hunt for a new job or are looking to make a career change, it’s important to practice resilience during each aspect of your job search.

“Being careful with your time and focus is important for resilience in a job search,” says Brie Weiler Reynolds, Career Development Manager and Coach at FlexJobs. “During a job search, your attention can potentially go to many different activities and focuses. Try to focus your attention on the key pieces of a job search, and the activities that will help you move forward.”

Specifically focusing your time on the aspects of your job search that you can control is an important facet of career resilience that can help you land a new position. For example, you can:

Reynolds also emphasizes the importance of staying positive during a job search and not getting bogged down in stress and negative thoughts. “Understand that job searching will be a long process without a lot of regular, positive feedback. Have strategies to help yourself stay motivated, to bounce back from rejections, and to keep making progress day after day.”

Building All-Around Career Resilience

Keep in mind that career resilience doesn’t only apply to a job search. Many employed workers are struggling with constantly shifting work expectations and roles as companies pivot to adapt during the pandemic. In the blink of an eye, businesses had to move from having 100% office-based employees to fully remote work for all, requiring employees to learn a whole new set of remote working skills on the fly.

Other workers have taken on new responsibilities and more work as colleagues were laid off and furloughed—often while also contending with working from home with kids and other family members and roommates. Still others face mandatory pay cuts and reduced hours as companies do all they can to stay afloat.

For every one of these (and many other) career challenges, these four steps can help you build career resilience:

  1. Develop a strong network. A supportive professional and personal network can help you work through hard times and enable you to support others as well.
  2. Commit to lifelong learning. Continuous learning lets you take charge of your own career development and increases your resiliency and self-confidence.
  3. Think like an entrepreneur. Your career is yours alone to manage, and you are responsible for charting your own path. Building your personal brand and managing it like a business gives you the power to set and achieve goals.
  4. See the big picture. It’s easy to get caught up in the struggles of the moment and lose sight of the big picture. Look at today’s setbacks as tomorrow’s opportunities, and think about how career success may look five years down the road.

FlexJobs Has the Resources to Help

When it comes to tough times, building your resilience is crucial. By understanding that struggle is part of life, not letting yourself fixate on the negative, and evaluating if the way you are thinking and acting is helping you, you can better weather all the storms.

Extending resilience concepts to career resilience in your job search and as you navigate today’s new normal will give you the tools and confidence you need to make it through any type of career hardship.

No matter what your career situation, FlexJobs is here to help! Members have access to remote and flexible job postings in more than 50 career categories, career coaching services, and advice and tips on everything job-related. Not a member? Take the tour today and learn how FlexJobs can help you every step of the way.

 

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