Posted on | November 23, 2011
Resilience is a critical soft skill essential to career success and work happiness. Professor Rao defines resilience as the “ability to recover fast from adversity.” I agree. We may not talk about resilience often in the context of career success as we typically expect work /life to treat us fairly.
My recent experience reminded me that life or work is not always fair or reasonable. And when life gives me a lemon, I can choose to be a victim or be resilient and make lemonade. What happened to me is not work related but the same principles of resilience apply. My 3 year old daughter’s Mandarin immersion preschool – Language-in-Action – abruptly announced 2 weeks ago that they will be closing mid-year. All the parents and teachers were stunned. No explanation was given. We had exactly 10 days to respond and have to find another suitable spot to continue our children’s Mandarin education. Usually these things takes months of research and mid year is the hardest time to find any openings. What a holiday “gift” to receive.
You may not be able to easily relate to my story if you don’t have kids, but this kind of news to a parent is similar to any of the following bad news you may encounter in your career.
- Being laid off unexpectedly right before the holiday – This is what’s happening to the teachers at this school without any warning
- Being passed for a promotion you expected - This school’s director told us only last month how committed she was to this program.
- Not getting an offer after you aced all the interviews - None of the teachers or parents knew this was coming. Everyone was happy and thriving at this school.
- Being blamed for something you did not do at work - Teachers and parents are given no choice but to accept this decision. We still don’t know to this day what went wrong. The school director declined to explain or show her face anymore.
- Stay Calm – This is harder than it sounds. When we are “wronged,” it will make our blood boil and our head filled with anger and thoughts of retaliation. Resist! None of these thoughts help. What happened already happened. In all likelihood, it cannot be changed anymore. What we need to do is accept that it happened and keep a clear head so we can focus on how to overcome this obstacle.
- Take Productive Action – Focus on the critical actions of how to overcome the unexpected obstacle, instead of spending too much time and emotional energy convincing yourself and others how wrong it was that this happened. The latter may be our instinctive response. We can get many people to sympathize with our plight, but at the end of the day, we still have the issue of how to respond and move on. To me, productive action is focusing our time on doing things we can control to help us overcome this obstacle. For example: If you are laid off, start fingering out your finance and plans for finding another job. If you are wrongly blamed, then find people at work with power / influence and start you own campaign to find out what happened and rebuild your reputation. The goal is not to reverse the blame as what is said is already out there. The goal is to learn from it and see how you can prevent it from happening again at this job or in any future jobs.
- Be Thankful and Move On – This is perhaps the most counter-intuitive tip of how to be resilient as how can we be thankful at a time like this? Well, we all can and I say it’s the best thing to practice. It is what will separate those who succeed or fail in their career in the long term. Dwelling on the negative of what happened will only drag us down and become a burden in our subconscious. The longer we dwell the harder it is to move pass it and grow from it. Life continues as long as we are breathing. We can always find something in our lives to be thankful for. I am thankful for my family, for my new baby (I am giving birth in 3 weeks), for good friends, for the ability to help others through this blog. I am not just saying this because it’s Thanksgiving. Thankfulness is something we can draw on all year around. It is what can inspire us to still see the good in our world in the face of unfairness and give us the energy to become even better people and professionals.
If you look at anyone you admire in your career, I bet you they can all tell you many stories of great adversity they have faced. At the end of day, it was their ability to be resilient that kept them achieving. You can do the same. Happy Thanksgiving. I am always in your corner.