By Gordon Tinline, Business Psychologist

Psychological resilience is the capacity to deal with tough challenges and recover well from setbacks. Resilience is extremely important, especially when applied to career development and transitions, as it helps us adjust to change and remain engaged throughout the numerous challenges we will all inevitably face throughout our careers.

So, how can you build your career resilience and thrive in the face of uncertainty?

1. Own your career and think like an entrepreneur
Beverley Jones, an executive coach, states that a key ingredient to building career resilience is the ability to ‘think like an entrepreneur’. She states, “Even if you feel like a cog in the middle of a big organisation, you can run your career like a one-person business.” This is a positive and active way to think about career development, and fits with an emphasis on the need for career ownership and self-reliance.

2. Play to your strengths
Another key aspect of career resilience is understanding and developing your strengths. A strength is something you naturally do well and enjoy doing. Of course, we all have weaknesses, and it’s important to recognise yours in relation to your career development and ambitions. However, focusing only on developing your weaknesses is a recipe for one day being average. To really develop, you need to identify and develop your latent or under-used strengths. For example, perhaps you are a very capable negotiator and have enjoyed doing so to reach a successful conclusion in the past, but your current role provides few opportunities to use this strength.

How could you open-up possible avenues to use this strength more frequently? Perhaps your manager would welcome an offer of help to support negotiations with suppliers or agents? Playing to your strengths is the key to development but also bolsters resilience through greater positive emotional experience.

3. Build your personal brand
There is also a link here with developing your personal brand which may well boost your resilience as well as enhancing your career prospects. Building your personal brand is about understanding your core purpose and strengths and embodying them in the way you behave. Finding and staying close to your core purpose in life provides a foundation for everything you do, and become the basis for rebuilding in the face of setbacks.

4. Develop coping mechanisms
Career resilience is also about having strong adaptive coping mechanisms in place particularly when you face are facing a major transition or uncertainty in your career. Generally, it’s useful to have some flexibility around the coping mechanisms you can draw on. You may have a strong rational coping approach enabling you to easily and logically think through how you are framing an issue. This is likely to be very helpful but it might be a mistake to over-rely on it and as a result not consider other proven coping techniques such as drawing on social support.

5. Avoid “rust-out”
Burn-out is a risk that needs to be managed as your career progresses and changes, but so is rust-out. The latter refers to the risk of becoming progressively disengaged, demotivated, and frankly bored. The consequences of psychological burn-out are usually painful and dramatic with health implications. But rust-out can creep in slowly and less visibly, particularly in the early stages. It is avoided by staying connected to an activity that has meaning for you, and being prepared to operate outside your comfort zone. There may be a period in your career when rust-out is a greater risk for you than burn-out. You may tolerate the former for longer than the latter but the results of not recognising and addressing it will be negative for your career and your long-term resilience.

To sum up, take these steps to really build your resilience and thus ensure you are better equipped to deal with career challenges:

  • Own your own career and think like an entrepreneur
  • Play to your strengths
  • Build your personal brand
  • Develop coping mechanisms
  • Avoid “rust-out”