5 Ways To Build Career Resiliency

Bad things happen to good people. Karma doesn’t always show up in time. Even good people may find that the knife in their back sports their own fingerprints. Even the most well-intentioned leaders do stupid stunts from time to time. My time in HR gave me a front row seat to such tragedies. It’s not a matter of if you’ll need career resiliency. It’s when.

Sometimes I could help. Many times, even the most energetic HR fairy dust couldn’t save them. The best I could offer suffering souls during these times was resiliency support.

If all’s well in your world, amen. Please contribute to this community by sharing your own lessons and stories. Brilliant recovery stories strengthen anguished adversity.

5 Ways to Build Career Resiliency

Resiliency is hardly ever about “returning to the original form after being bent, compressed, or stretched.” Chances are that original form had something to do with current predicament. It’s about gathering up the lessons and energy from the potentially crippling scene, and emerging stronger, wiser… knowing you have the fortitude to recover the next time. There’s always a next time.

Narration

Your career is a story. Tragic events by nature scream “ending.” Rewrite them as the critical turning point… just before everything got better. Become the author of your own story. _________ happened. That sucked. But then _________. If _______ hadn’t happened I would never have ___________. Spend time considering the possibilities for the next chapter.

Interpretation

Okay, allow yourself to grieve, throw things, and yell at your mirror for a few minutes. Then work on interpretation. Why did this happen? Grab the lessons with eager fists. Hit yourself in the head with them if that feels better. Then try alternative views… “On the other hand, this is great news because____________. Generate as many answers to that question as you can. Put an asterisks next to the ones you most believe.

Navigation

When the wind is at your back, there’s little need or energy to adjust the compass. Don’t waste this scarce opportunity to let the sails flap for a while and consider your best direction.

Diversification

The natural scramble is to look for more of the same: a similar role, or industry. Consider all your gifts. Diversity builds future resiliency. Look for opportunities to pivot toward a role that will strengthen and stretch.

Preparation

Assume you’ll land on your feet and get ready for next time. You’ll face tricky situations again. Take some time to write down your key learnings. Build your network (by giving first). Save some money once you’re able.  Having some cash in the bank is the best way to reduce frenetic grasping and slow down for better options.

Your turn.  Share your ideas, advice and stories on resiliency.

Share this on your favorite network!
Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone
Posted in Career & Learning, Energy & Engagement and tagged , , , , , , .

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt, is CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders and a former Verizon Wireless executive. Karin was named on Inc.’s list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers for Your Next Conference, the American Management Association List of 50 Leaders to Watch, and as a Trust Across America Top Thought Leader in Trust. She’s the award-winning author of two books, Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results— Without Losing Your Soul, and Overcoming an Imperfect Boss. She’s regularly featured in business publications including Fast Company, Entrepreneur, and Inc.

22 Comments

  1. In one other of your posts, I mentioned I went for a run with the CEO of our company at 6a on a balmy Scottsdale, AZ morning.

    He said one thing that sticks with me today. “You’ve got to decide who you want to be when you grow up.”

    Be intentional about your career. You’ll wake every morning with resiliency.

    • Steve, so agree… passion and intention does create serious resiliency. For me, it’s knowing what must happen that helps me push through past the obstacles.

  2. Karin- before I comment I wonder if you write novels. You know how to create a conflict and solve it. Have you ever written a novel?
    I loved your five points. Of great relevance to me are: Navigation and Diversification. I was a successful chemist. I may claim that based on my 80 publications in renowned scientific journals. But still something was missing. I was living a conflict whether I wanted to continue with my life as it was or diversify, but to where. The biggest reality in life is people and I wanted to be close to them. That triggered the idea of using my scientific background to study human behavior. This decision colored my life with beauty. I attended courses in psychology, sociology and other human-related activities. Later I found that storytelling is a great way of communication. I wrote two novels, one of which “Breath Prints” was hugely appraised.
    Yes, navigation and diversification with purpose make us far more resilient and shocks-absorbent.
    Thanks Karin for your outstanding post that allowed me to vent out some of my personal experiences.

    • Ali, what a beautiful inspiring story. We should talk more. I would love to read your novel. Title? How do I buy it?

      The ironic part is that my friend and I have been exploring writing some fiction as a vehicle for teaching leadership. It’s not natural for me, or elegant, but it’s fun to tap into another part of the brain. Someday…

      I believe I will start with a children’s book in the leadership arena.

    • Karin_

      Sorry for the late response as I was asleep. It is morning in Jordan time zone.
      I greatly appreciate your appreciation. Unfortunately, the novel was written in Arabic. I promise to write soon a slideshare presentation about it in English. The novel received wide applauses. It discusses the struggle between a famous scientist who has a beautiful wife with an almost totally ignorant neighbor who is very rich, but has an ugly wife. Who wins: social status or money? The breath print reveals what percolates in hour chests. We all breathe the same air, but as we exhale it it is mixed with “volatiles” inside us. Those volatiles reflect our internal feelings and their presence in certain amounts revealed a mystery in the novel.
      A last point is that I joined the LinkedIn Group Creative Designs and Writing. It helps greatly in improving our storytelling abilities. There are some great discussions there.

  3. The heat of the moment is always difficult. I’ve certainly had my share of instances to test my resiliency over the years, as I am sure we all have.

    One strategy that has helped me is to stop and think about how I would feel about the incident in the future. As bad as something appeared to be, will it still matter in 12 months? Sometimes just doing this lightens the load – almost like vitamin C might lessen the severity of a cold.

  4. I was forced to switch careers 2 years ago. My job, department, business dried up with budget cuts. For me, it has been a battle with anxiety. Focusing in on managing your fear is critical in maintaining resiliency. I dealt with it head on, embracing my worries. And this weekend I’m doing my first workshop on managing anxiety based on lessons learned.

    • Jim, I image the journey you must be on… terrifying, interesting, doubtful, exhilarating. I”m so excited for you… please let us know how it goes!

  5. I made a careless mistake in the heat of the moment early last year and learned a lot about myself, getting sucked in to manipulation, and not letting other people push my buttons. Unfortunately, the organization I work for is extremely unforgiving and my error haunts me to this day.

    The process of re-evaluating my own career resiliency and what I want to do when I grow up is fascinating. One non-negotiable is that I will work with/for people who understand the value of both mistakes and forgiveness. There are lessons in each. I need and want to be surrounded with supportive people who value my overall talents and, yes, my foibles.

    I am my own biggest stumbling block. My bashing took a serious toll on my self-perception, my inherent sense of value, and the process of rebuilding my confidence. Am I too old to make a difference for a new employer? Will anyone take a risk on me? Time will tell.

    • Simi, Thanks so much for sharing your very important story. Thank you for your honesty. Please, please do not let one incident define you. Take an honest assessment and learn, but you are much more than any one situation. As I look back on my career, I have plenty of scenes I wish I could re-do.

      I hear you about wanting to work with leaders who will help you fail forward. Have you tried to talk to your manager about your learnings and intentions?

  6. I know this is easier said than done for *some* people (particularly those are highly skilled at excuse-making), but my suggestion is to always have a backup in place.

    I wrote recently

    When life hands you lemons, open a lemonade stand.
    Better yet, when life hands you lemons, have a lemonade stand already open.
    (http://www.mattmcwilliams.com/when-life-hands-you-lemons/)

    That means that if you get fired from a $60k/year job, it sure helps if you have a $10-15k a year business on the side, ready to at the very least keep your head above water while you look and perhaps grow into something bigger.

    That is the ultimate resiliency to me.

  7. I love the way you suggest folks re-write their story and focus on the way things have improved.

    “Rewrite them as the critical turning point… just before everything got better.”

    It’s essential that we maintain a positive attitude if we are to be resilient.

    Great post!

  8. You did a great job, Karin of exploring ways to build career resiliency!

    We do have to learn lessons from our past mishaps and mistakes and definitely put those teachings to good use.

    I think that I have learned so much from analyzing how I could have done things differently and then committing to try a new perspective with a new lens the next time. We need to keep open minded and be willing to accept honest feedback.

    Thanks!

  9. Pingback: 5 Ways to Build Career Resiliency « Leadership.BlogNotions - Thoughts from Industry Experts

  10. A friend shared the link to this site with me a few days ago. I was RIF’d in May 2013 after I turned up on the wrong side of politics… It really annoyed (not my first choice in adjectives) me after all the work I put into a huge project (Epic IT Conversion). They paid for my MBA and let me build Epic then laid me off….. I wish I would have seen this 6 months ago. Just now getting past the angry part and moving on with more career flexibility then I realized I had back then… So we’ll see where this takes us – now that I am focused.

    • Frank, I get it… that sucks for sure. And yet, I hear some good stuff in that story. Game on. Please keep us posted as you re-write your next chapter.

  11. I hold this attitude: Charge into a bright future. Every day I have new possibilities. Bad stuff happened yesterday, let’s make the most of this day I have been given. Today I may have the biggest win in my life. I won’t get on the scoreboard if I don’t bother defining what my win looks like, and then pursuing my creative future with positivity and intention.

    Thanks for your essay, Karin.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *