Resilience Diagram

4 Ways to Build Resilience When Spinning in Career Chaos

In these times of layoffs and economic instability with many people experiencing grief and loss, whether of their job, loved ones, or both, advice of “just reinvent yourself” or “do something different” tends to ring hollow and be out of touch when it comes to what to do next. It’s a scary experience to lose your job, and in turn, your self-confidence and identity, to a large extent, along with it, even if in the long run it’s for the best in hindsight or it sets you free to make a change.

When I was laid off a few years ago it sent me into a spiral, and it wasn’t during a global pandemic or even the “great recession.” It was due to embezzlement of the small firm I was with by a colleague, of all things. I can only imagine how it must feel to many of those who are experiencing it these days when things seem so upside down. All I can do is offer positivity, hope, and empathy, and in this spirit, provide a bit of support when it comes to staying resilient as much as possible to get you through. In building our resilience, we can flex a lot of muscles with our skill set and characteristics that will serve us well over time whenever we need to call on it.

Here are a few components of resilience that can help you focus on forward movement and to have a sense of control in the situation you’re experiencing:

Self-Belief: Believing that you’ll eventually overcome your current circumstances, even if it takes longer than you’d like, is a good foundation to start with to build resilience. It’s easy to get down on ourselves for pretty much anything, and if your self-belief is low, focus on what you can do to raise it. This might include surrounding yourself with people who are positive, optimistic, and who believe in you and want to rally around you. It could also mean learning or teaching someone a new skill, exploring career paths that would be a good fit and excite you, doing some self-reflection exercises, or creating content. Whatever you think would boost your confidence and feels right to you works.

Willingness to Flex: More times than I can count I’ve heard people say that they can only continue to go in one direction, whether industry, type of role, or on a pre-determined path for their lives and box themselves in because it’s what they know. And while I completely get it and enjoy my comfort zone like anyone else, consider how you can adapt your skill set and experience in a different environment or different way that allows you more freedom in the types of opportunities available, even when they’re more limited. It could mean making a lateral move or taking less money, or moving to a step lower on the ladder in the short term, or even working part-time for a while, to be able to eventually get to where you want to be in the long term. It can be a temporary option that propels you forward.

Ability to Solve Problems: Related to adaptation, thinking creatively about how to tackle a problem gets us out of our comfort zone too and helps us focus on possibilities, leading to being more optimistic with increased self-belief. Bounce ideas around with people and ask what you’re not thinking of that could be a “third alternative” so you’re not boxed in to an “either-or” situation that limits your thinking. How can you take a step back from the detail and look at things with a broader view that’s strategic? Where are you putting up barriers to creativity that fence you in? If unsure, who can you ask to find out? Focusing on creative problem solving helps soothe raw nerves and get us out of our own head.

Emotional Awareness: Also a big part of Emotional Intelligence, being aware of our emotional responses and how those can work against us goes a long way toward being resilient in challenging times. We can easily fall into our habits and old patterns along with the usual running scripts in our heads when triggered, are in conflict with someone (or ourselves), or are in hardship. What tend to be your “go-to” reactions and how can you take more time to breathe and think before responding? We’re not robots and all have emotions as humans, so what can you do to recognize when yours are taking over and it’s doing more harm than good? This can also be where social support comes in to give you feedback and generate strategies for you to gain more self-awareness or curb unwanted reactions. Sometimes, a simple reminder note to breathe first works wonders.

Of course, a sense of humor helps a lot too. What’s that old saying? Something about if I didn’t laugh I’d cry, I think. Find something to laugh about every day, not only for the endorphins, but also to get the oxygen flowing and release stress. Laughter being great medicine is true, not just a cliché. Some days, it’s the best way to build resilience and flex those muscles above all else.