Resilience: The Job Search Edition

What is resilience? The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. Also; to adapt in the face of challenging circumstances. A colleague from my pharmaceuticals’ days had an expression: ‘Don’t wait for the rain to stop, learn to dance in the rain‘.

Three types of resilience we should mention: emotional resilience, career resilience (as in what can I do to adapt to any workplace or employment changes and still thrive) and if you run a business then workplace resilience (How can I ensure my organisation can withstand anything from marketplace changes, skills shortages or from now on, anything akin to a pandemic). Each type is worth exploring, but firstly lets focus on emotional resilience: here are 5 situations in your job search when resilience is going to see you through and some tips on how to develop yours.

When you’re Starting Out

Have you heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? Psychologist Abraham Maslow proposed this in his 1943 paper “A theory of Human Motivation” in the journal Psychological Review. It looks a bit like this:

Of course, when you are starting out, it is going to be harder to reach your potential if your safety needs such as employment are uncertain. And if employment is uncertain, then very quickly even your most fundamental physiological needs such as shelter, food, or warmth may or may not be securely met. This is stressful and to cope, you need resilience. How much harder must it be to grow your recognition, respect or connection when you don’t know if you’re going to afford your rent? This may explain partly why you hear the phrase ‘It’s easier to get THE job when you have A job’. So there is no shame in seeking employment elsewhere to meet your fundamental needs whilst you still search for the job you really want. It moves your focus from physiological & safety, to higher up the hierarchy. But don’t forget to keep momentum towards your career of choice.

When you Apply but don’t Hear Back

Think ghosting but more one sided with no initial reciprocal connection, well apart from the job vacancy asking for applicants. Create your CV, put in effort to research and apply for the job, sometimes repeat when uploading to a portal; it is no mean feat. Research. Craft. Personalise. Apply. Quality over quantity.
Balance this with an empathetic look at the other side of the process; potentially high volumes of applicants with probably one person to review against a tight deadline and very little opportunity to reply? I think the norm is now getting more automated and, although not always ideal for the job applicant, it’s possibly more accepted that you may not hear back at application stage unless successful.

This is not set in stone though, organisations are already seeing a more job seeker focused recruitment landscape. Recruiters are already thinking of other job vacancies you might be interested in. But as it currently stands, it means learning to be OK with the lack of closure and the unknown nature of applying and waiting. There is action you can take to move from reactive to proactive, such as following up, but ultimately: if it is outside of your control, learn not to worry about it and gain a modicum of freedom from tying up that loose end flapping in the wind of unknown outcome.

When you don’t get Selected for Interview

Whereas before you didn’t hear back, this situation is where you do and it’s not good news. Unfortunately, this too can be a numbers game and no reflection on your CV. I mean sometimes it is; I read that an employer will on average spend 8-9 seconds looking at each CV. But CY Partners recruiter, Helen, who exclusively recruits for a global bio-pharmaceutical organisation had this to say:

I can be putting forward great job applicants 2 or 3 times before they get selected and the rejection is not a judgement on their skills and experience, rather it’s quantity and process, so to keep showing up is a positive thing that pays off.

This is where I conflate resilience with perseverance. But you get the message: keep trying.

When you don’t Succeed at Interview

The stakes are higher if you made it to interview stage but didn’t get the job, but so is the opportunity for  growth. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you made a mistake or that the interviewers weren’t interested. Even if you did make a mistake, a well done for showing up and putting yourself out there. There is something to gain from the experience (as a minimum a development in your resilience right?). By all means feel disheartened (your feelings are a clue to what you really want), but then process those feelings with self compassion, reflect and turn the experience into something positive by identifying areas for change and how to try again. There is a gift in this situation so gain feedback and make it work for you.

When you Got the Job, but all is Not Well

Not often but occasionally the situation is: you start a new role with great enthusiasm but then get an off -vibe from the team or the company, and it doesn’t quite fit with your self-image or values. Resilience in this situation could be trying to understand and work with what you have, or it could be knowing when to move on. This is where temping can sometimes offer an advantage over a permanent position. Don’t be afraid to start the job search process again. Markets change, funding changes. Redundancies happen. I am venturing into career and workplace resilience territory here, but knowing you have the resilience to tackle any unforeseen challenges is at worse; reassuring, at best; empowering.

So, How do I Develop my Resilience?

I am no expert but I defer to them, so… The mental health charity, Mind, have some great starting points here. From Physical health actions such as get enough sleep, be active, eat healthily to more lifestyle focused action points such as finding a work/life balance, making time for friends, hobbies and activities.

From the job search perspective (what this article is about after all) you can talk to your recruiter, or the employer if applying direct. Get feedback on your CV, interviews and progress.

Giving yourself a break both in the literal sense of a change of scenery and in a compassionate sense by being kinder to yourself. Resolving conflict in a positive way can help in relationship building and self-forgiveness: no one is perfect and putting extra pressure on yourself isn’t helpful. Comparison is the thief of joy. It can also rob you of resilience.

When resilience is low, building a support network is essential: friends and family, your work if you are in work. This includes your line manager, HR, colleagues, does your work have an employer assistance scheme? Your GP, charities like Mind or websites like the Stress Management Society.

Author Lisa Chatterjee

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