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  • Kristen Struys

Be Resilient

Throughout our lives, we will all encounter challenges that will test our physical and mental well-being. 2020 and 2021 have certainly given us challenges that we have no option but to cope with – a pandemic, job losses, social isolation, social unrest, educational instability, and increased caring responsibilities. Although each of these events on their own can be challenging, put them all together in a short space of time and this is the perfect recipe for stress and emotional instability.

Looking for a new job can be one of the most challenging experiences, mainly because you repeatedly deal with rejection. The trauma is heightened when it's a job you are very excited about, or you go through the whole process and miss out at the last stage. That is why it is imperative that you have a lot of resilience.

What is resilience?

The American Psychological Association defines it as "… the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress—such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors. As much as resilience involves "bouncing back" from these difficult experiences, it can also involve profound personal growth."

There are many different definitions of resilience, and they all talk about bouncing back in the face of adversity. But, according to psychologist Kenneth Nowack, Ph.D., there are three potential pathways when faced with adversity.

Think about the stressful events in your lifetime, and ask yourself, did you bounce back to the person you were before the event? Did the event have a lasting negative impact on your life? Or did you grow as a person because of this event? These are the three different pathways we have available to us in the face of adversity.

  1. Growth – Post-traumatic growth

  2. Resilience – Bouncing back to the people we were before.

  3. Harm – Post-traumatic stress

Given a choice, no doubt we would all choose option one – growth. There are environmental, genetic, and individual factors that influence somebody's level of resilience. Some of it is out of our control, but the good news is that evidence-based behavioral techniques can increase our resilience level. This will give us the best chance to grow from any adversity we face in our lives, including a prolonged job search with multiple rejections.

Four ways to grow resilient in your job search.

Kenneth Nowack, Ph.D., identified 12 evidence-based strategies to increase resilience. In addition to taking care of yourself through sleep and exercise, connecting with social support, practicing stress management, mindfulness, and growing through adversity, I've highlighted six of those strategies you can incorporate into your daily life to aid in your search for new employment.

Have gratitude.

We give thanks at Thanksgiving; now, let's give thanks every day. According to Psychology Today, gratitude can be described as an emotion, trait, and mood. It is "making conscious efforts to count one's blessings."

A study by Indiana University psychologists Joshua Brown, Ph.D., and Joel Wong, Ph.D. found that when people expressed gratitude every day through gratitude letter writing, they had improved mental health four and twelve weeks after the study ended. Not only that, their study found that their brains changed! Participants who wrote letters showed greater activation in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) when they experienced gratitude than those who did not write the letters. The mPFC controls decision-making.

Look back on your career path to date, be grateful for the positive influences that have helped you develop to this stage. Maybe it was an inspirational boss, a great friend you met through work, a change in your career direction, a promotion, or fantastic training.

We can also be grateful if we get shortlisted for a job or called to interview. This in itself is a success, even if we don't get the job.

Change your mindset, be hopeful.

Here's an opportunity to assess how you react to challenges that come your way. Next time you feel a need to freak out, consider these few questions, ask yourself to evaluate the situation:

  • Question the impact of this stress (How much will this matter in a year? What's the worst that could happen? How would I survive it?)

  • Reappraise the stress and look at it from a different angle (What's a lesson I can learn from this?)

The longer your job search continues, the more despair you can feel. I know from my own experience of being out of work, it was traumatic at the time, but looking back, it did make me stronger. I knew the right job was out there for me; it was just how long would I have to wait for it? It eventually did arrive, and it was the perfect job at that time and a significant part of my career. So while it might be hard at the moment, try and look at the glass as half full; make lemonade out of lemons. Change your self-talk, read and hear more about self-talk in our "Remain Confident" blog.

Find meaning and purpose.

A study by Alimujiang A, Wuensch A, Boss J, et al. reports that defining meaning and purpose in life predicts well-being and longevity. Not only will finding meaning and purpose in your life positively impact your well-being, but it can also help you identify the job that is perfect for you. Finding a company whose values align with your own will significantly increase your chances of success in that company. You can hear more about identifying your values in our "Creating Awareness" podcast. According to Johan Hari, author of Lost Connections, humans need to connect to meaningful work to feel useful and have a purpose.

Move toward your goal or quit.

This is something we rarely hear, according to Miller and Wrosch – "It may be more prudent to cut one's losses in the face of insurmountable obstacles to remain healthy." Yet, studies show that people who decide not to pursue goals out of their reach report significantly lower inflammation, decreased cortisol secretion, higher sleep efficiency, reduced emotional distress, and lower self-reported cold symptoms.

So maybe your goal was to get the perfect job with a higher salary, which has not been achievable. Lower the salary expectations, or take a role that ticks six out of ten boxes. It doesn't mean you've given up on your goals; you've just postponed them and prioritized your health.

You'll know the old saying – 'What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.' Think back to previous occasions you have faced adversity. Do you feel you learned anything from it? Indeed, when I look back on my experience of being out of work, it was mentally challenging, but for every rejection letter I received, it just made me more determined to get what I wanted.

Increase your chance of growth in response to being out of work. You can create and build resilience and nurture it throughout your career and personal life to help you adapt, cope and grow.

Choose ways to practice and increase your resilience this week and add more strategies to your toolbox to help you grow and adapt throughout your job search and beyond.

For more great tips and strategies to help be more resilient, tune into the accompanying podcast, where we speak with Dr. Katherine Perez-Rivera. Dr. Katherine Perez-Rivera, a licensed clinical psychologist with over 20 years of experience working with people motivated to work on their well-being. You can listen to our accompanying podcast here.

What steps will you take this week to flourish?

Edited by Stephen Flanagan at Talent Attract.


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