6 Key Steps for Career Resilience
By Beverly Jones, Metro Area
/ Published July 11, 2013
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- As an executive coach, I know that the path to professional success isn't what it used to be. When we Baby Boomers entered the job market, career success could be a matter of climbing onto the right organizational ladder, and then hanging on. As a young lawyer I was pretty much told, "Be loyal to the company and the company will be loyal to you." Today, the idea of spending a whole career in a single organization, keeping your head down and doing pretty much the same type of work, seems quaint. Your career can be expected to flow through many phases, encompassing numerous organizations, shifting skills sets and startling change. I've worked with hundreds of leaders and high achieving professionals, and I've learned that you can't predict where your career path will take you. But you can prepare for it. Once, a central characteristic for success was loyalty. Today what you need is resilience.
Resilience brings security in a constantly changing world. Resilience means anticipating risks and feeling comfortable with change. Resilience involves limiting damage during turbulent times, absorbing hard knocks, regrouping and bouncing back when the worst happens. It's the ability to start feeling better and bolster your confidence after a setback. It's remaining engaged in the midst of shifting challenges. And resilience is spotting trends and turning them into opportunities. Resilient people resist the urge to get bogged down in the past, and instead keep looking toward the future. They are curious, and keep learning. Whether you're a college student wondering about your first real job, or a Boomer thinking about alternatives to retirement, resilience means being able to evolve with the times.
You can build resilience. Resilient people aren't necessarily born with a unique ability to bounce back or forge ahead. Rather, they are ordinary folks who learn behaviors, attitudes and work patterns that allow them to keep going and growing, even in difficult or uncertain times. By learning to become more resilient you can bring new power, direction and energy to your career. You can be more comfortable in an environment where nothing stays the same and the old ways may no longer work. When you gain resilience, you can create a more successful career path, and at the same time find greater enjoyment in the rest of your life. Here are my six tips for building resilience:
1. Get connected. Develop a strong network of positive relationships. Don't wait until there's crisis, but start now to methodically extend your circle. Go out to events even when you don't feel like it. Join groups. Recruit mentors and find ways to mentor others. Look for ways to support friends, colleagues and even casual business acquaintances. And know that they will be there to accept, support and inspire you during the hard times.
2. Choose optimism. Positive people are more resilient than pessimists, and you can work to become more optimistic. A starting point is to stop thinking so much about what goes wrong and start focusing on what goes right.
3. Learn something new. To deal effectively with change, it helps to be engaged in changing yourself. The most innovative and resilient professionals tend to frequently engage in learning or improvement efforts. When you're in the process of learning, your viewpoint changes, and you spot connections that you never noticed before. If you don't know what to do next, start learning something new.
4. Think like an entrepreneur. Know that you own your career, and that nobody else is going to chart your path. Even if you feel like a cog in the middle of a big organization, you can run your career like a one-person business. And that will help ease your transition, if you need to make one. Think about your brand, recognize who your customers and bosses are, and be clear about what they pay you for. Look for new ways to add value, in effect expanding your range of product offerings.
5. Look at the big picture. Let go of your preoccupation with this week, and think about how success might look for you five years from now. And know that your career can't soar when you're neglecting the rest of your life. Write a brief personal vision statement, make a list, or draw a diagram touching upon your most important values and the key parts of your life. Even when you're engaged in a career crisis you will feel better if you can keep your perspective.
6. Get in shape. Your career is influenced by everything you do to stay in shape - physically, emotionally and spiritually. To do your best work, and to build the resilience that will keep you going, manage your fitness and energy level, as well as your time.