Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Building career resiliency

The Fall 2013 edition of Career Connections landed on my desk late last week. Career Connections is a magazine published by CAPS twice a year (fall and winter). The feature article in the most recent edition is about the role of career resiliency in coping with work-related stress.

Included among the definitions of resiliency I read in the compact edition of my handy dandy Oxford English Dictionary – you know, the one I need a magnifying glass to read – are: the tendency to rebound, buoyancy, and power of recovery. In relation to one’s career, I see resiliency as the ability to anticipate and respond to change in ways that move you forward – not only being able to bounce back when the worst happens but also being able to learn and grow from experience (good and bad).

I also see career resiliency as something that can be developed. One of the key ways to develop career resiliency is by building and nurturing a strong network of professional and personal contacts. According to the article in Career Connections, one of the four common causes of career stress that can lead to ambivalence and inaction is isolation. Friends, colleagues, mentors, etc. are people you can turn to for advice and support when you find yourself in career transition or dealing with challenges.

Another way to build career resiliency is to keep learning. I’m not suggesting further education, such as a second degree or other certification to supplement what you already have, although that may be something you want to consider. But you can also learn a lot by being involved in your profession and community; for example, by participating in professional association activities, such as conferences, or through volunteer work.

Maintaining a positive attitude and staying optimistic are often included among advice for building career resiliency. While I agree that always focusing on the negative, blaming others for your problems and other behaviours often associated with pessimism can inhibit your ability to deal effectively with challenges and move forward, being a Pollyanna (blindly optimistic) is not very helpful either. Let’s face it, bad things happen in life. And some of those things are beyond an individual person’s control. Allowing for ‘negative’ feelings (e.g. anger, despair) about those things can be helpful in terms of naming them so that you can move forward by, for example, accepting the situation or joining with others to try and change it.

Finally, staying fit – physically, emotionally and socially – is also key to building career resiliency. In addition to the strategies noted above, regular physical activity (you don’t need to work out like you’re training for a marathon), eating right (allowing for the occasional unhealthy treat, whatever that means for you) and taking the time to do things you really enjoy can help you maintain your physical and mental health.

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