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Building careers resilience

In this blog CareerFocus Essex provides some useful hints and tips

Building career resilience takes time and intention! Building or being resilient has been talked about a lot recently. This blog will focus on career resilience, as careers work is our specialism! Before talking about how to improve your resilience, its important to think about what resilience actually is! The American Psychological Association suggests that its ‘the process of adapting well in the face of adversity… or significant sources of stress… resilience involves "bouncing back" from these difficult experiences’. Being resilient isn’t about avoiding stress or being ‘born with resilience’! The British Psychological Society (BPS) suggests that ‘Resilience is a dynamic interaction between individuals and their ecology, or environment’ - i.e. its not a statically ‘in built’ aptitude, but more about how individuals interact with what’s happening around them. And therefore can be developed!

There are ways to improve your careers resilience - which we will touch on here. Everyone will have some ‘difficult experiences’ at some point in their educational and career journeys. These could include not getting the A level or degree results you needed for your future plans. Or getting made redundant, or not getting that ‘dream job’ you’ve spent time and energy studying and working towards. Building resilience will help you cope with these unexpected events, to ‘bounce back’ and find a new way forward. And to still be interested in the alternatives! And there will be a way forward. Careers advisers will be able to tell you about clients they’ve worked with who have made real successes from any of these events happening. I’ve come across people who have gone onto PhD’s, become successfully self employed or found far more interesting careers than what they’d originally planned to do.

Now, for some top tips! What you can proactively do to intentionally build your resilience. The important word here is ‘intentionally’, there will be some need to ‘stretch’ yourself, to push yourself slightly out of your comfort zone, just a bit!

How can you ‘stretch’ yourself? Intentionally, to improve your resilience.

1) Build up your ‘community of support’. Could you improve your LinkedIn contacts? Could you improve your network generally? This isn’t just about numbers of those who know you exist, but about the quality of interactions with them. Could you help them with projects, research or in other ways? 2) There are already people who want you to do well. Who are they, and how could they help you further? People who you can be open with, who will challenge you gently if needed, and encourage you to be the ‘best’ you. Make a list of these ‘cheerleaders’. 3) Make sure you’ve using these ‘cheerleaders’. Each may be able to help you in different ways. Amongst these ‘cheerleaders’ could be a careers adviser, a decent line manager, HR team, your mum and teachers/lecturers! 4) Take on some activities whilst you are studying or working that will push you a bit. For instance being involved in the National Union of Students (NUS) or doing presentations/assemblies. If you are working, what could you do that would challenge you? Some CPD, managing a new client relationship, a new project? 5) National associations really welcome new members, such as students. If you can get involved in these, and help run events or other initiatives, these will help you build skills, experience and contacts for the future. For instance, the Royal Society of Biology and The Royal Society of Chemistry are both keen to have students and new members actively involved. 6) Give yourself a challenge - could you do the couch to 5k over the summer? Or do the 3 peaks challenge next spring? Physical fitness can help with resilience too, and you don’t need to be an Olympic athlete for these challenges! 7) Take time out to do something different, its important to have time where you are not trying to achieve something relating to work or study! 8) Learn some skills that will help you to relax, or that may be useful outside of work and study. So for instance, learning to cook, learning a language, learn how to read an OS map….. 9) However focussed you are on one particular outcome (training to be a vet, a doctor, a hairdresser), its always worth having ideas of alternatives. So, understanding why you want to do a particular career and how other careers could use the same skills, interests and motivations is important! This planning will build your career resilience for any unexpected ‘bumps’. Take a look at the National Careers Service website for careers information. 10) Make a list of skills and how you can demonstrate them. Similarly, make a list of achievements, how did each achievement make you feel? This might give you some pointers for activities to build your resilience now. 11) The BPS have produced a briefing paper called Resilience and character, which if you are a teacher or adviser working in a school is definitely worth reading for their recommendations. And the last word? Other people may seem to be more resilient, but this is about developing your resilience to help you ‘bounce back’ to a better ‘you’! Mark Yates Member of the Careers Writers Association Registered freelance careers adviser

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