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Career Resilience. What it is and how to get it.

Around this time last year, I created a post that said, “All jobs are temporary”.

I have thought about this often since and wondered if it was somehow prophetic! Little did I or anyone else know how temporary or how precarious some jobs would become in the pandemic.

My point at the time was that you never know what is going to happen in your job, even in a buoyant economy. We have all heard stories of people turning up for work to find their employer has gone out of business, or been shut down by Revenue or receivers, or large companies making “re-structures” suddenly and brutally.

Sometimes we might see it coming, but on other occasions we are taken unawares and totally rocked.

What can we do to best place ourselves to be able to pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off if something like this happens to us?

Resilience in general terms is something that can help us WHEN things go wrong. It doesn’t mean protecting ourselves from anything going wrong. There will always be some things that will be outside of our control. Nor does it mean avoiding issues that shake us or staying on an even keel all the time. But it is the ability to recover when something does knock us down. How to bounce back (bounce-back-ability!) or how to stay strong (think of a tree bending in the wind during a hurricane – it bends but stays connected to its roots).

So, try to transfer that imagery to your career. How can you ensure that your career can bounce back from a setback? Or how can you ensure that your career is strong enough to withstand a hurricane in your industry, company or in the economy in general?

Some tips:

  • Acknowledge that your career is your responsibility. Nobody owes you a career. Even if you have been a loyal employee for 25 years, this doesn’t mean that you are rock solid always going to be there. Things can change, and change quickly and if this happens, apart from statutory protections and the benefits of any exit package that you may receive, you’re pretty much on your own. Acknowledging this and taking control of your own career is the first step in building resilience.

  • Fixed or growth mindset? Mind what you are saying to yourself about your career. If you find yourself thinking “who would hire me?” or “I have no skills” or “I couldn’t learn to do x or y” you are operating within a fixed mindset, denying yourself even the possibility that you may be able to get a new job or learn skills. Try to cultivate more of a growth mindset. Try to flip those negative thoughts into something more open to the possibilities. “I got a job before, I can get one again”, “I am a valuable employee” or “I can’t do X or Y now, but I can learn”.

  • Have a career plan. Even a vague idea of where you want to be in 1-, 3- or 5-years’ time can help you. Setting a goal or ambition and working out how to get there will help you take control. It also gets you in the mind frame for action and planning and helps get you out of your current “rut”.

  • Review your career regularly. I was guilty of not doing this for years. I was in a good job, it was very convenient, I had great work colleagues and it was fun. I didn’t consider my long-term future at all. If I had, I might have planned things differently and made decisions myself, instead of letting other influences take control. My advice now, do an annual career review. Where are you now, where do you want to be, how will you get there? Have a 5-year plan.

  • Keep up to date with news, trends and announcements in your industry. In other words, be engaged in what is going on in your area. Don’t stagnate. Read articles, find out what’s new or what’s coming down the track so you can be prepared for it. Is there a new competitor, or a new technology, or a new law? What do you need to know?

  • Stay up to date with technology, even social media. If I had a penny for every client who has said to me “I don’t do social media” or “I’m not good at technology” then I would have quite a few pennies indeed! A fellow coach preaches this constantly, especially to people who might be considered older in the workplace – keep up to date with technology! You don’t know how to use email? You are SO missing out on opportunities. You will be expected to have a basic grasp of tech in almost any job now. You don’t need to have the latest powerful, expensive laptop. Most technologies are totally usable on your smartphone. My mother is in her 80s and can use email, YouTube and online banking – so can you. Find out what you need to know, enlist a younger family member, play around with it yourself (you can’t go far wrong) and practice. (This also neutralises the effects of ageism somewhat).

  • Keep an open mind. Linked to the growth mindset, don’t rule anything out. Your current employer has been bought by a large multinational and you have the chance to go or stay. You might be tempted to say, “Oh I couldn’t work for them, they’re a big corporate machine” How do you know? At least find out some more before you make sweeping generalisations and snap decisions.

  • Refresh your skills or learn new ones. Do you have a skills gap? What is it and how can you fill it? How long is it since you engaged in any relevant training or education? This will not only update your skills but show your willingness and ability to learn. Double bonus.

  • If you are afraid of change, then try new things in a small way. This doesn’t have to be at work. It can be anything. This helps your open-mindedness. Try a new route, a new food, something you wouldn’t normally wear. Vary your lipstick colour from the one you’ve been wearing for years. Change your hair. I’ve heard it recommended to wear odd socks to help deal with a resistance to change. Try social media if you haven’t used it before. Make change normal to help with your resilience.

  • Avoid institutionalisation! Consider how long you have been at your current job/employer. How does this impact on your employability outside of this company/organisation? If you consider yourself a “lifer” and if security is important to you and available in your current workplace, then this might not be an issue. But if you wish to move at some point, or if you think your role or organisation might be vulnerable, you really need to consider this. Should you look to move out now, or plan to do so before you are seen as “institutionalised”.

  • Update your CV, have a look at current job postings and/or talk to recruiters in your sector to see what’s happening in the jobs market.

Take Control!

It’s important to acknowledge that you are the person in control of your career and there are certain steps you can take in order to ensure that that career is as resilient as possible, should it be shaken by a sudden wind. Keeping engaged, informed, up to date and open minded with an eye to the future are some of the best things you can do for yourself and your career resilience.

Need help or support?

If you’d like a free Career SWOT analysis worksheet and explanatory video email me at [email protected] putting CAREER RESILIENCE in the subject box.

Or book a complimentary call if you’d like to discuss how I can support you.

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